Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Americas \ Cities and urbanisation

In 2014, 54% of the global population was living in urban areas and this is predicted to rise to 66% by 2050. The characteristics of cities differ greatly across countries and regions of the Commonwealth and some issues facing large and megacities will differ from those faced by secondary cities and towns and across the Commonwealth, the degree of urbanisation varies significantly. Whilst 38.1% of the population of the Commonwealth lived in urban settlements in 2014, Commonwealth Europe is 82% urban and Commonwealth South-East Asia 78% with Commonwealth Africa 41%, Commonwealth South Asia 33% and the Commonwealth Pacific Islands 18% urban. Achievement of SDG 11 will require cities to actively address the key dimensions of sustainable development – the economy, the society and the environment and to be inclusive, and proactive to ensure safety of all citizens. Subthemes includes urbanisation and migration, urban planning, informal settlements, formal and informal urban economy, disaster risk reduction and emergency planning, safety and security in cities, and smart cities and ICT.


  • Urbanisation and migration
  • Urban planning
  • Informal settlements
  • Formal and informal urban economy
  • Disaster risk reduction and emergency planning
  • Safety and security in cities
  • Smart cities and ICT
  • Financing cities
  • New Urban Agenda


More Tax Sources for Canada’s Largest Cities: Why, What, and How?

Canadian cities have long called for access to more tax revenues. This paper argues that additional taxes are appropriate for major cities, describes the advantages and disadvantages of potential new taxes, and estimates the revenue from a city income tax, a city sales tax, and a city fuel tax for eight Canadian cities – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, and Halifax. The authors find that the property tax is a good tax, but cities would benefit from a mix of taxes. In particular, user fees are an important source of revenue and can alter economic behaviour. Taxes on income, sales, vehicle registration, fuel, and hotel stays are also an effective way to diversify local taxes. Of the available options, a personal income tax and a municipal sales tax are likely to generate the largest revenues. Although setting up their own tax systems would grant cities the greatest fiscal autonomy, doing so would be costly. It would be more cost-effective for cities to piggyback new taxes onto provincial taxes, with the province collecting the revenue and remitting it to cities. To promote local accountability, however, it is essential that local governments set their own tax rates. In this way, taxes levied would be linked to services consumed.

Author: Harry Kitchen and Enid Slack Publisher: University of Toronto Publication year: 2016

Telling city success stories - roundtable on SDGs and Urban innovation

This roundtable aimed at discussing and sparking new train of thoughts on how to strengthen the role of urban innovation among the city leaders, institutions and urban stakeholders, including private sector organisations. It further explored the strategic pathways for Urban Innovation Community (UIC) to provide new tools, expertise and knowledge on implementing and achieving the SDGs at the local level. 

Author: Metropolis Publisher: Metropolis Publication year: 2016

Canadian city uses the cloud to remove barriers, reduce costs, and improve citizen engagement

The City of Brampton, located in the Ontario province of Canada, has a highly mobile workforce that needs data at a moment’s notice to do their jobs. The city is using Microsoft cloud solutions to deliver highly secure IT services to its workforce when and where they’re needed. The city has created a collaborative culture where employees come together to address citizen needs, work more efficiently, and ultimately save taxpayers money.

Author: Microsoft CityNext Publisher: Microsoft CityNext Publication year: 2016

Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers in Developing Countries Case Studies from the Commonwealth

Despite growing fiscal devolution, efficient and effective intergovernmental transfers – the transfer of money from central to lower levels of government – remain a vital sub-national government financing in developing countries. This research study examines different approaches to intergovernmental transfers (ICTs) in developing countries in the Commonwealth, and assesses their relative strengths and weaknesses. It includes detailed case studies of India and Kenya, lessons learned from IGT systems in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Author: Munawwar Alam Publisher: Commonwealth Secretariat Publication year: 2014

Financing Local Government

Decentralisation is now taking place in the public administrations of most countries of the world. A critical determinant of the effective performance of local governments is finance – their ability to both mobilise financial resources and to use those resources effectively and efficiently.

This book explores the variety of methods used to ensure that fiscal decentralisation takes place alongside administrative decentralisation. It considers the range of revenue sources available, the design systems of intergovernmental transfers between central and local government, and the kinds of rules and procedures necessary to ensure that local governments use their financial resources appropriately.

The experiences described in this book will help local government managers, and national policymakers charged with local government finance issues, to ensure that they follow good practice in their own programmes of local government reform.

Author: Nick Devas with Munawwar Alam, Simon Delay, Pritha Venkatachalam and Roger Oppong Koranteng Publisher: Commonwealth Secretariat Publication year: 2008

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