UNDP chief hails crucial role of local government in fight against poverty

May 16, 2013

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark delivers the keynote address at the 2013 Commonwealth Local Governance Conference in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo: Stephen Wandera/UNDP)

Kampala, Uganda – Maximising the power of local government will be crucial to realizing the ambitions of a post-2015 global development agenda which can lead to eradicating extreme poverty, tackling inequalities and putting the world on a sustainable path.

That was the message from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark during a keynote address at the 2013 Commonwealth Local Government Conference in Kampala today.

With the theme “Putting local government at the heart of development”, the major conference attracted political and business leaders, mayors, local government authorities, international agencies and civil society groups from among the 54 member nations of the Commonwealth.

A plenary session was dedicated to consultations for the future global development framework, adding to the work of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Leaders for Post 2015, and also covered the shaping of sustainable development goals.

“With less than 1,000 days remaining to achieve the MDGs before their 2015 target date, it’s important that local government, as a provider of services in a number of critical social sectors, is heavily engaged in shaping the renewed global development agenda,” Helen Clark said.

“The role of local authorities is critical to reaching those left behind, including women, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, youth, the disabled and other excluded groups.“

Wrapping up a four-day visit to Uganda, Helen Clark emphasised how limited capacity and authority to generate revenue made it difficult for many local governments to translate global and national goals into local action.

‘Localizing the MDGs’ by tailoring them to local conditions made them more relevant to local people and thereby increased ownership of them, she said.

Some global MDG-related campaigns have worked through systems of local government to expand immunization, healthcare and HIV-prevention.  An example is the work of the Alliance of mayors and municipal leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa through which 1,500 mayors in 13 countries have played a very important role in significantly reducing rates of HIV.

Despite significant MDG successes and high economic growth in a number of developing countries, many people and communities are yet to see the benefits, Helen Clark said.

A consensus is emerging on the need to have one global development agenda which can combine the unfinished MDG business with a transformational sustainable development as envisaged at the Rio +20 conference. 

“We need to see higher human development and maintaining ecosystem integrity as entirely compatible objectives,” the Administrator told delegates.

Other speakers at the four-day conference included the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, the Secretary-General of the East African Community Dr Richard Sezibera, and the Executive Director of UN Habitat Dr Joan Clos.

During her trip to Uganda, Helen Clark also visited an inspiring conservation project on the shores of Lake Victoria and met with government officials, civil society and development partners, to exchange views on issues ranging from natural resource management and democratic accountability to post-conflict recovery in Northern Uganda.

The Administrator will return to Africa later this month to attend the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

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