Local government is the sphere of government closest to the people, providing vision and leadership for local communities and many of the basic services needed to improve their day-to-day lives and meet the Millennium Development Goals.
National and international issues such as poverty, health, HIV/AIDs and climate change have a huge impact on local communities and their future prosperity. Local governments must be able to work strategically to respond to these challenges to shape the future of their localities as well as effectively and efficiently delivering the basic services needed to improve people's day-to-day living.
Previous Commonwealth Local Government Forum conferences have shown that local government is strongest when it is working in partnership, as a community leader, consulting local people and bringing together all the stakeholders in its area that an make a difference to drive social and economic development and improve the well-being and prosperity of local people.
Representatives of local and national government from developing and developed countries gathered to the sixth Commonwealth Local Government Conference (CLGC) "Energising local economies: partnerships for prosperous communities", held in Cardiff, UK from 15 to 18 March 2011 to share experiences on how to use the leadership role and convening power of local government for economic.
In her intervention to CLGC, UNDP Administrator, Rt Hon Helen Clark, highlighted how 'the role of local government does go, and must increasingly go, beyond its traditional service delivery, and seek to provide the kind of strategic leadership which is needed to energise local economies and communities'. This comes to reinforce the idea that Local government is the sphere of government closest to the people, providing vision and leadership for local communities and many of the basic services needed to improve their day-to-day lives and meet the Millennium Development Goals. Helen Clark emphasized the close relationship between UNDP and UNCDF, stressing how both organizations share vision for maximizing the potential of local government, and how together can support local government in many ways to develop its full capacity.
The first Global Forum on Local Development, organized by UNCDF and UNDP in Kampala in October 2010, is only one example on how the two organizations jointly foster local development. The conclusion after three days of animated debate among over 600 participants from 81 countries are encapsulated in the Kampala Call to Action which calls on development stakeholders to work to "empower local governments and their associations to realize fully their potential as key agents of change and development".
Recalling the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York of September 2010, which explicitly recognized the importance of local institution, Miss Clark finally summarized the areas jointly supported by UNCDF and UNDP which have particular relevance to the role which local government can play in achieving the MDGs, such as inclusive economic growth; empowering and expanding the opportunities available to women and girls; and investing in basic services such as water and sanitation.
'Local government has a lot to offer in accelerating MDG progress and energising development overall' concluded Helen Clark, 'the MDGs can and should be localized, so that local government can be clear about the role it can play and the targets to be achieved.'
Local approaches have a big role to play in achieving development goals. UNDP and UNCDF are committed to helping local governments fulfill their potential as agents of change and development, including through energising local economies.