Commonwealth Local Government Forum

CLGF representing the interests of local government in SIDs

04 June 2024

 

The 56 countries of the Commonwealth are diverse in many ways, such as size and nature, and include many SIDs – or Small Island Developing States. Located throughout the Commonwealth, SIDs have unique characteristics and very distinct needs. At the recent SIDS4 conference held in Antigua & Barbuda in May 2024, the interests of local government were represented by CLGF’s newly elected Chairperson and Mayor of Belize City, Bernard Wagner, and Ms Sandra Singh, CLGF’s Caribbean Regional Manager.

Unique demographic challenges

Mayor Wagner, keynote speaker on the demographic prospects of Small Island Developing States (SIDs) pointed out that SIDs face unique demographic challenges such as ageing populations, youth migration, and changing family structures that were reshaping communities. He called for collaboration between central governments and local authorities to create opportunities that encourage young people to remain and contribute to their home countries, whilst also providing community-based care programmes and facilities for ageing populations.

Belize experience

Sharing the Belize experience, as a small developing state, migration is another factor re-shaping the local landscape. Currently, Belize is attracting migrants, seeking better economic opportunities from Central America, Haiti, China, and Africa. These migrants are significantly bolstering the agriculture, construction, marine, eco-tourism, and aquaculture sectors, by filling labour shortages and driving economic growth in the country.

 

In revitalising SIDs’ economies for accelerated and sustainable growth, Mayor Wagner asserted that local and regional governments played a critical role in creating an enabling environment for economic development and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises, since local councils understand the local value chains. Additionally, local authorities can convene all actors in a community, including the private sector, to develop strategies for sustainable economic development.

Integrated solutions

As the sphere of government closest to the people, CLGF’s delegation spoke about localisation of the SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals for SIDS, advocating grassroot involvement to ensure policies reflect the actual needs and priorities of people and communities. Moreover, to achieve the SDGs, CLGF stressed that integrated local solutions were critical to providing climate-resilient community infrastructure, creating sustainable jobs and supporting local businesses. By aligning our local development goals with the broader SDGs, synergies are created to drive sustainable progress.

CLGF working with communities

In responding to the concerns of scalability raised by international agencies in efforts to support communities, CLGF noted that the institutional structure already existed for community representation and involvement through the local government system. The CLGF delegation emphasised that local government authorities are the conduit to communities. CLGF volunteered its support in networking local authorities and communities towards people-centered approaches, as an international umbrella organisation with its regional structure that includes local government associations, councils and ministries spread across the Caribbean and Pacific where the majority of SIDS are located.

Meeting the Ministry

The delegation also met with the Permanent Secretary responsible for Local Government in Antigua and Barbuda during the SIDS4 conference. Chairperson, Mayor Bernard Wagner offered CLGF’s support to the Ministry in strengthening the country’s system of local governance.

 

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