Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Building capacity of councillors

11 December 2018


Dr Greg Munro, the CLGF Secretary-General, addressed a packed audience at the Malaysian Local Authority Convention on the crucial topic of building capacity of local councils and creating local leaders. 


Democratic elections within three years


Hosted by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and taking place over two days in December in Putrajaya, the event follows the Ministry’s intention to hold democratic local government elections in Malaysia within three years. The first day included a presentation by the Hon Madam Zuraida binti Kamaruddin, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and CLGF Board member, on the issues and challenges of empowering local authorities in Malaysia.  


In his talk on the second day, Dr Munro explained that building the capacity of local councillors in terms of skills, knowledge, behaviour and attitude was crucial because of the important role that councillors have to play in decentralisation, strengthening democracy and strengthening local government as a whole. 


Role of a councillor


He went on to describe how this role includes:

• Legislation: local government legislation, tiers of government, council processes and the duties and responsibilities of local councillors; 

• Participatory democracy: the span of representation, upwards and downwards accountability, local participation, improving accountability and inclusivity; 

• Local government functions: service delivery, social and economic development, urban development and planning and development local government and the role of local government in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); 

• Budgeting and finance: understanding financial management and financial regulatory frameworks; sources of revenue, financial reporting and monitoring and control;

• Civic leadership: corruption, integrity, ethics, respect, multi-party democracy. 


Training is ongoing


Dr Munro told the audience that the training process starts with preparations to become a councilor and campaigning, but also extends after the elections and is ongoing. It also needs to be inclusive throughout in terms of age, gender and disabilities. It is not a once off, he said, some countries have dedicated training institutes and for others, it is a function of the local government association.


When describing CLGF’s expertise in this area, he talked about the organisation’s unique function as a network of ministries throughout the Commonwealth, offering different approaches, methods and exposure to best practice. He also mentioned CLGF’s experience in designing and implementing training programmes


Global relevance: regional responses


Dr Munro concluded by saying that CLGF’s work is based on the principles of identifying local solutions for local problems; placing communities at the centre of its work; and establishing creative partnerships and new operating models, ensuring global relevance through key partnerships and regionally tailored responses.


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