UNDP Country Director Ms. Almaz Gebru speech at the Africa Day of Decentralization and Local Development

10 Aug 2014

Acknowledgements

Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda
Your Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda
The Rt. Hon Speaker of Parliament
Your Lordship the Chief Justice of Uganda
The Rt. Hon Deputy Speaker of Parliament
The Rt. Hon Prime Minister
Royal Highnesses, the Traditional Leaders
Hon. Minister of Local Government
Hon. Cabinet Ministers Present
Hon. Justices of Supreme and Court of Appeal
Hon. Judges of High Court
Heads of Diplomatic Missions
Hon. Members of Parliament present
Religious Leaders
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen


Introduction

On behalf of the development partners, I am delighted to be here to celebrate with you, and the rest of Africa, the Africa Day of Decentralization and Local Development.

This day, which was first celebrated in 2012, was set aside by the African Union (AU) to remind us of the important contribution that local governments make to the economic prosperity of this continent, and the progress of its people.

Decentralisation, which we know as the sharing of power and responsibilities among different levels of government to improve citizens’ access to public services and increase their participation in governance, has been instrumental in making governments more responsive to the needs of citizens.

These dividends have come in form of peace and stability, and sustained development through the provision of basic services and vital social and economic infrastructures at the local levels.

Allow me your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, to reflect on the progress and prospects of Decentralization in Uganda, and more generally on Local Development.

Background to decentralisation

Since the early 1990s, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), DANIDA, Irish Aid, DFID, DANIDA and the World Bank have proudly partnered with the Government of Uganda to support the development and implementation of decentralization. Specifically:

DANIDA –supported the foundational legislative framework that led to the enactment of the Local Governments Act (1997). UNDP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) provided support under the District Development Project 1 that piloted the testing and refining of the Planning, Allocation, Investment and Management Procedures in line with the Local Government Act, in five districts.

The World Bank and other bilateral donors under the Local Government Development Programme (LGDP) scaled up the pilot to cover the entire country. Irish Aid, DFID, DANIDA and the World Bank funded Public Service Reforms up until 2010 through a basket funding arrangement, while Austria, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands also provided additional support to the sub-sector until 2009.

Key Achievements

The adoption of decentralisation has had enormous impact on the political, economic and social landscape of this country.

As we speak today, Uganda has a Decentralisation Policy Strategic Framework and a Local Government Sector Strategic Plan to guide investment, implementation, and planning of the local government sector.

A number of important aspects of key sectors such as health (e.g. Primary Health Care), education, (e.g. Primary Education), Roads (e.g. Periodic and routine maintenance) and agriculture (e.g. extension and advisory services) that were previously under the central government have been devolved to the Local Governments.

Ugandans are participating more actively in planning, and decision making in local governance, while a majority of local governments are now meeting the minimum conditions and performance measures that have been set by the Ministry of Local Government as central aspects in professionalizing delivery of government programme through the decentralized approach.

Despite these positive developments, a number of constraints persist, and I would like to highlight four of the most critical ones.

(1) Inadequate financing of decentralized services: Although 70% of services have been transferred to Local Governments, not all of them are well resourced. The majority of Local Governments have limited sources of local revenue and therefore highly dependent on grants from the central government.

(2) Human resource gaps: Many local governments are still having difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified staff. Currently, districts have 56% level of staffing while Municipalities have 57%. The situation is worse in the remote and hard to reach districts. Getting and retaining the right staff with the right skills to deliver services and transform lives and communities in these areas is still a challenges.

(3) Delayed local council elections: Elections for Local Council 1 and 2 have not been held for the last 2/5 years. This remains a big concern and is affecting delivery of services at these levels. It also undermines the people’s democratic right to representation.

(4) Inadequate infrastructure: A number of Local Governments lack office space to carry out their administrative duties, while others have poor access roads. This has stifled their ability to attract business opportunities, and services to their areas.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen

In spite of these challenges, the importance of decentralization, Local Governance and the role of Local Governments in development cannot be under-estimated. The cooperation and complementarity between national and local governments is critical in fighting poverty, and advancing sustainable and equitable human development.

We have observed from our global experiences, that Local Governments that take their mandates seriously and have sufficient financial and human resources, have great potential to improve the quality of life for citizens in form of greater access to basic social services, and to create opportunities to address income and gender inequalities.

As this year’s UN Global Human Development Report 2014, shows, the countries that rank highly in human progress, are those that have deliberately put people at the centre of development; countries that are transforming the lives of not just individuals but whole communities.

As UN member states negotiate the new Post-2015 Development Agenda, and as Uganda embarks on developing its second National Development Plan, let us ensure we involve more citizens in decision-making, and include local-level indicators in development frameworks, especially those that promote inclusiveness and equity. Discussions at the global level have increasingly focused on implementation issues including the localization of the post 2015 agenda once agreed - to ensure proper domestication at the national level, and with clear actions for the Local levels.

Policies that focus on individuals and communities rather than on geographical areas need to be prioritized, and more emphasis laid on accountability and transparency to make sure development is sustainable and responsive to the needs of people.

Conclusion

As I conclude, I would like to thank your Excellency, the President of Uganda, for providing committed leadership for the implementation of decentralization in Uganda.

I would like also to thank the Ministry of Local Government for the technical oversight and leadership of decentralization and for organizing this commemorative event.

On behalf of Development Partners, I wish to pledge our continued support to the efforts of government of Uganda and the citizens of this country in their journey to achieve a transformed and prosperous society.

I thank you for your attention.

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