The Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA) has just secured EU funding from the 11th European Develop Fund (EDF) to support projects around infrastructure, local government capacity building and food security. As part of CLGF’s Framework Partnership Agreement with the EU, it receives a grant to work in different regions to localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); one part of this work is to help member organisations connect more effectively with their in-country EU delegation, to learn more about funding opportunities like the EDF.
EU relationship evolved over time
When ULGA’s Secretary-General Gertrude Gamwera was in London recently, we asked about her success in working with the EU delegation in Uganda. Modestly attributing this to luck, Gertrude explained that the relationship ULGA enjoys with the EU today is the result of hard work and has evolved and strengthened over time.
Having headed up the ULGA for six years, Gertrude is one of very few women to lead an LGA. A lawyer by profession, she joined the association in 1998 as a legal officer. With a job description that was a virtual blank canvass, Gertrude decided to focus the work on her passions: human rights, conflict mediation and providing advice. Having written a proposal about strengthening the legislative function of councils and the role of mediation, she set about using her contacts in government and ‘knocking on every door’ – including that of the EU - to promote this work. Her efforts were rewarded with a grant under the 7th EDF.
Building the relationship was not without its challenges: understanding how to prepare a grant proposal; using the right terminology; and understanding your donor’s aims and objectives - to name a few. And the EU was more used to dealing with civil society than local government. More success followed with later rounds of the EDF which helped with the institutional strengthening of ULGA through the support of annual general meetings and the secretariat.
Partner status as well as beneficiary
By the 10th EDF, the EU was looking at the whole system with many changes ahead, including a completely new set of desk officers. But by this time, Gertrude had been invited to Brussels to take part in the EU Development Agenda to look at future development support. This opened up many doors allowing Gertrude and ULGA to increase its networks with a variety of partners including civil society and the private sector. ULGA used this time of change to their advantage and by the 11th EDF, ULGA has become a partner to the EU, as well as a beneficiary. There are two streams of funding to both ULGA and individual councils supporting work on the SDGs, strengthening partnerships and networks and the advocacy and policy role of local government.
Partnerships yielding results
Gertrude-Rose has been relentless in her pursuit of development partners and forging diverse networks. As well as the success with the EU, ULGA has signed an MOU with the UN agency UNCDF. It has been a long journey, but Gertrude explained, “I enjoy a challenge, and the best thing about my job is being able to see results.” These results include:
• association growing from 12 to 21 staff;
• increased networks;
• partnership working with the Botswana Local Government Association (BALA) with five local councils twinned;
• peer to peer exchange and training of local government councillors with the Rwanda Association of Local Government Associations (RALGA);
• capacity building and institution strengthening with the Dutch national association VNG; and
• building stronger relationships with Uganda’s own national government.
We look forward to hearing more from Gertrude Gamwera as we take forward the work of the Commonwealth Women in Local Government network.
More information about the European Development Fund (EDF) can be found on the European Commission’s website.