The 4th World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) took place in Rabat, Morocco, from October 1 to 4, 2013 under the theme: “Imagine Society, Build Democracy.” Delegates from over 100 states around the world attended the Summit, which brought together leaders of local and regional governments, public and private sectors, international organisations, civil society and financial institutions. Was it worth the trouble bringing all these actors together?
This summit coincided with the one hundredth anniversary of the international municipal movement. It was a unique opportunity for sharing and exchange between Africa and the rest of the world. The World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders was a special event in that it was the first UCLG Summit to be held in Africa, with Rabat as the host city. It was indeed an opportunity to highlight the potential of the continent of Africa, to learn first-hand of the major democratic and local governance reforms that have been carried out in Morocco in recent years and to pay tribute to this international city with important cultural heritage and legacy.
The 2013 World Summit was structured around two main concepts: (1) The contribution of local and regional authorities to the well-being of communities and the role in the Post 2015 development agenda; (2) The identification of the new challenges and models needed to answer the demand of an increasingly urban population as we work towards Habitat III in 2016.
In other to elucidate on these two main concepts, several side events were organised. It was an honour to be invited to three of these side events organised by Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Governor and Director of Training of Administrative Cadres at the Ministry of Interior, who also happens to be the Chair of Experts on Public Administration at the United Nations. It was equally an opportunity for me to make a presentation during the side event on human capital development entitled “Professionalisation and human capital development of regional and local government in Africa: A promising paradigm for the continent’s renaissance.”
A lot was said about the central government’s responsibility in ensuring that regional and local governments in Africa are autonomous. Several panelists including my humble self agreed that in ensuring adequate autonomy, the central governments of Africa in collaboration with universities, think tanks, international orgainisations like the UN and the World Bank, needed to continuously hone the skills of these regional and local government actors. A lot was also said about ensuring that adequate finances were allocated to these tiers of government to ensure that they play an effective role in Africa’s renaissance. Equally the role of women in regional and local government affairs was not left out.
Judging from the intentions of such an event, one would say UCLG is dedicated to ensuring that regional and local government especially in Africa take part as partners and not as second or third ranking actors in development as they have been considered in the past. In this regard, central governments in Africa need to give regional and local government actors the role they deserve in governance and development issues. It is equally vital for central governments to ensure that there is a high degree of professionalisation and human capital development especially with a gender focus, so as to ensure maximum output at local and regional government levels. If recommendations arrived at during this summit cannot be materialised especially in Africa, it was not worth the trouble bringing together leaders of local and regional governments, international organisations, public and private sectors, financial institutions and civil society.