Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Commonwealth Local Government Conference 2023 – why the theme of building resilience?

11 August 2023



The theme of the 2023 Commonwealth Local Government Conference – CLGC2023 – is: Building resilience in local government to build back better. We explain why this subject is crucial as we go forward and why you should be in Kigali for CLGC2023. As institutions grapple with the multiple challenges facing communities, the term resilience has emerged as a concept that offers the promise of coherence. It has the capacity to help policy makers from all sectors make sense of a seemingly ever more dynamic context.


Local government is responsible for providing a number of services - many of them basic requirements for daily life. As a democratically elected entity, local government also has a mandate to play a strategic role in guiding communities to reach their potential and to be safe, fair, sustainable and inclusive. A tough role as it stands, but all of this has to be done by councils, while they are on the front-line of facing up to challenges, such as: eradicating extreme poverty, reducing disaster risk, combating the causes of climate change, and fostering community peace and security.

Local government providing solutions

In the midst of the COVID pandemic it has been local government that communities are turning to. Local government is responding to global and macro level issues outside its control. These manifest locally in increased demand for services and support. These challenges also call for strategic responses and shifts in policy for example to adapt to structural economic shifts or demographic change. 


Resilience has particular salience for developmental local government, which responds to failures of centralised and top-down approaches and recognises local agency. Resilience offers a holistic framework that can help local government understand the interconnected challenges it is facing. It can help develop joined up responses that make the best use of local assets and resources, which are strengthened as they are mobilised.

A framework for planning 

Planning for inclusion is a key characteristic of developmental local government. Resilience provides a framework for planning because it embraces a systems approach. This acknowledges that local government operates in an open system, with diverse and distinct inputs and influences. In this context resilience posits shocks and spikes as part of the system rather than one-off events. Resilience can be seen as the process of continuously strengthening local capacities to deliver inclusive development within an open system.

Resilience to climate, financial, health emergencies

The term resilience gained credence once more during the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a policy response to growing global levels of insecurity and complexity. In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and a prevailing economic slowdown, insecure working and living conditions due to poverty and large-scale unemployment were stubborn challenges taking hold across the Commonwealth. In addition, at that time, during the lead up to the Paris climate talks in 2015 there was widespread concern at the lack of progress or ambition in relation to climate change targets while ever more violent manifestations of the phenomenon wrought havoc through storms, floods and wildfires. Added to this, rapid urbanisation was established as a policy priority following the crossing of the symbolic threshold in 2007 when for the first time more people were living in urban settlements than in rural areas globally. In the 2020s policy makers have once more reached for resilience as they look to frame coherent responses to these issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.


CLGF has a track record of championing local government as an agent of resilience through its national and regional programme work. The theme of our conference responds to the need from its stakeholders for progressive narratives that can bring policy coherence to development planning – not least in the context of COVID-19 and ultimately post pandemic recovery.

Join us at CLGC2023 in Kigali

Join us in kigali in November. We look forward to stimulating sessions on this crucial subject - both in the form of keynote speeches and plenary sessions; and also more intimate working groups, study visits to see examples of local government innovation, and informal network and social events. Join us and be part of the audience of senior politicians, council leaders and decision-makers, practitioners, experts and academics, the public, private sectors and civil society. The problems are old, but the use of resilience in turning them on their head is an important solution we can to find together.


Go to the Conference Website to find out more about the event, including practical information, and how to register to save your place!






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