Commonwealth Local Government Forum

CLGF's agenda for 2016

CLGF Secretary-General Dr Carl Wright
January 2016

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but not so easy to keep. CLGF should therefore be selective about its own resolutions for 2016, but this does not mean it should not be ambitious. A core objective for 2016 must be to maintain and expand further CLGF’s own structures and local government network, including its active presence and programmes in support of its members in all regions of the Commonwealth. This means sustaining the current regional programmes offices in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and, as planned, starting a new programme and office in the Caribbean. If this is to be done, CLGF will need to successfully conclude funding agreements with key partners, both existing and new.

It means taking forward CLGF’s new Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Network, CSCN, and addressing issues around inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities in line with SDG 11 of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, in cooperation with Cities Alliance and other partners. It means working closely through the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments to ensure an effective input to the expected formulation of a New Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito in October.

Realising the role of cities –and indeed local government in general- in generating local economic development and in implementing SDG 8 on sustainable economic growth, is an area where CLGF is well positioned on account of its pioneering work in this area and its growing cooperation with corporate partners like Microsoft and Barclays. It is moreover an area which lends itself to cooperation with like-minded organisations like the Prince of Wales charitable trusts, with which CLGF initiated valuable contact last year.  

CLGF will need to build on the outcomes of its 2015 Botswana Conference and of the 2015 CHOGM and ensure that it is able to respond to the core issues identified by Heads of Government in Malta. These include tackling extremism and working with the new Commonwealth unit being established for this purpose. Cities are a prime target for extremists and therefore have a direct interest in combatting them, as show by the terrorist attacks on Abuja, Nairobi, Mumbai, Karachi and London, among others, as well as the tragic recent events in Paris. Cities therefore need to share best practices in combatting extremism and promoting social cohesion among their citizens, including growing numbers of refugees: this is something CLGF can actively facilitate through the CSCN.

In 2016 CLGF will want to help ensure that the mandate given to local government to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change is realised and building on the outcome of the earlier Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This can be done by CLGF working through the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance and with the proposed new Mauritius-based Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub to help its members access resources, taking into account also on the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda and its pledged support for sub-national finances.

In its work on climate change and adaptation, as well as related areas of disaster management, CLGF will need to undertake programmes to support, in particular, its members in small island developing states, for example in the Pacific, which are most vulnerable. CLGF will in this context need to engage with the new Commonwealth Small States Centre of Excellence in Malta.

As in the past, CLGF will wish to assist and advise its members in the promotion and consolidation of local democracy and good governance, building on some of the successes achieved in 2015 such as the holding of country-wide local elections in Pakistan.  In doing this, and in alerting Commonwealth Governments and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group of potential abuses of local democracy, CLGF will be contributing the upholding of core Commonwealth values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including the Commonwealth Aberdeen Principles. This work will moreover involve CLGF undertaking practical programmes to strengthen local government institutions and systems, engaging with its local government and ministry members and partner organisations like DFID, the EU and UNDP.

During 2016, CLGF will further need to build on the success it has achieved, together with other governmental Commonwealth Associated Organisations, in getting CHOGM to recognise the importance of having greater collaboration between these organisations and the intergovernmental Commonwealth, notably the Commonwealth Secretariat. If this is done, there could potentially be significant advantages in obtaining more practical support and, potentially, resources, from Commonwealth member states.  To be successful in this regard, CLGF will need to establish a close working relationship with the new Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, who takes office in April, and build on its good relation with the Commonwealth Chairperson, Prime Minister Muscat of Malta.  It will also want to work closely with its members in Malta in preparing for the 2017 CLGF Conference in Valetta.

Finally, 2016 will see the appointment of a new CLGF Secretary-General and the assumption of office by a new Chairperson, Rev Mpho Moruakgomo of Botswana, at the CLGF Board meeting in London in July. It is clearly important that this transition is smooth and I am pleased that both Lawrence Yule and I will be able to continue to support CLGF in our respective new roles as Immediate Past Chairperson and Secretary-General Emeritus as ex officio Board members. After 20 years at the helm of CLGF, I felt it was time for a new start, but I will always remain totally committed to the cause of local democracy, to international cooperation and to the Commonwealth in particular.

Clearly CLGF is faced with many challenges as well as opportunities in 2016. If there is one single New Year’s resolution, which it had to chose, it should be to continue to ‘punch above its weight’, addressing relevant political and economic issues and remaining strongly results and outcome focussed in all its work.  

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