CLGF Conference 2011: News from Friday 18 March
  • January 09, 2012

On the final day of the conference, delegates made their recommendations and sent a message of support to New Zealand and Japan. 

Partnerships to promote economic development

Technology can help develop countries, Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman of Microsoft Europe, told the conference. "It won't change what we do, but how we do it," he said.Citing the example of how mobile phones had helped African farmers cut out the middle man, he demonstrated how technology can enable developing countries to leap frog into the future. Technology also enabled global competition for jobs and services.Cloud computing was the way forward for local authorities, Mr Muehlfeit said. It enabled ICT resources to be delivered through the Internet, saving money, buildings and energy and thereby reducing council costs.Dr Bishnu Ragoonath of the University of the West Indies chaired a panel discussion in which Jerry Ekandjo, Namibia's Minister of Regional and Local Government described how his country had set up a Local Economic Development Agency and was working with the private sector.Malaysia's Minister of Housing and Local Government  Hon Chor Chee Heung explained how his country had set a target of becoming an advanced nation by 2020. This needed growth of 6 per cent a year to succeed. Malaysia's National Council for Economic Development had created three programmes for growth and had set targets to reduce crime, fight corruption, improve the integrity of government, improve housing provision, develop rural infrastructure and sustainable urban planning and improve transportation.Trinidad and Tobago's local authorities had been forced to find solutions to problems with little or no finance, Orlando Nagessar, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Local Government Authorities, said. As a result, every municipality now had an economic plan. He gave several examples of partnership in action, including a scheme to reduce graffiti, in which secondary school pupils adopt a wall and paint their own murals.The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) provides tools for local government to analyse their local economy and the role of partners, David Morrison, UNCDF's Executive Secretary, told the conference. He explained that local government provided a vital role as facilitator, broker and engagement in the funding process. One example was how it had facilitated a network in Uganda to improve maize production and distribution. This involved a multinational company, local government, farmers, the ministry of agriculture and a UN agency.Mark Robinson of the UK Department for International Development (DfID) reiterated the coalition government's support for the Commonwealth and explained that wealth creation and the role of the private sector were aspects of local economic development that DfID wanted to support.

Forward to the future

"Democracy does not exist without dynamic communication and participation," Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer at the National Assembly of Wales told delegates in his closing remarks. Describing Wales as a "new and emerging democracy", Lord Elis-Thomas described the nation's progress since devolution. Economic development and cultural change are key to democracy, he said, and "you can't stop remaking democracy".

Implementation and outcomes

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba emphasised the "power" of CLGF in her closing comments. Describing it as a large representative body, with an emphasis on public service, citizens and communities, she said its achievements had included CHOGM's endorsement of the Aberdeen Agenda. It was, she said, a body that complemented the Commonwealth Secretariat.However, "Policy proclamations do not implement themselves," she said. The challenge was to move beyond communiqués and policies to concrete implementation and demonstrated outcomes. Indeed, this point had been emphasised to her by the Commonwealth Local Government Young Professionals Forum, who had told her they wanted more action, not words.The Deputy Secretary General also called on CLGF members to ensure inclusive development in their policy and programmes, so that women and young people could become properly engaged at both local and international level.

Commonweatlh inspiration

Finally, Commonwealth Affairs Minister Lord Howell of Guildford congratulated CLGF on adopting a conference theme that chimed with the UK government's vision for the Commonwealth. Equally, he said, the Commonwealth network provided stability in a changing and uncertain world, he said.He particularly singled out CLGF's work in repairing and restoring democratic structures in Zimbabwe and said this was an important part of preparing for its return to the Commonwealth. "The Commonwealth is an instrument and inspiration for millions of people," he concluded.