Local governance in the Commonwealth: existing practices and emerging trends

Thursday 22nd January 2015

You can also download the slides used in the presentation (PDF, 2.89 MB)

Hosted by University of Birmingham International Development Department (IDD) and LenCD

The Commonwealth is synonymous with diversity. Made up of 53 countries, this voluntary association is spread over every continent and ocean in the world, and is home to nearly 2 billion people, representing around 30% of the world’s population.With thirty-two small states (including island states), and the second largest country in the world on the other extreme, the Commonwealth reflects diversity at its bloom. Similarly, its political and governance systems are also varied on a bigger canvas. While in the past few decades, generally countries are embracing governance and decentralisation reforms, the Commonwealth countries are not immune from the rising trends, albeit at varying pace.

Due to re-defining of the role of the state, and in order to achieve Millennium Development Goals, there has been an increasing focus on local governance in the development arena. In the Commonwealth, decentralisation has affected grass-roots level traditional structures (abundantly found in Commonwealth Africa and Pacific) as well as mega-federations alike. Decentralised local governments face new challenges that are more complex and sometimes politically sensitive, for instance to integrate Traditional Chiefs with elected structures and issues of devolution and sub-national federalism. Apart from country-specific structural and managerial issues, there are peculiar regional challenges and trends. Overall, there are several lessons to be learnt from the Commonwealth experience of decentralisation, including involvement of critical actors of political economy (e.g. bureaucracy), and capacity development and their linkage with the outcome of local government reforms.

Speaker: Dr Munawwar Alam

Dr Munawwar Alam is an international civil servant from Pakistan by background turned development practitioner by choice. An alumnus of the International Development Department, University of Birmingham, he has 22 years of experience in public service and international development. Currently, he is working as Adviser at the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. From 2004 – 2013, he was Adviser Local Government at the Commonwealth Secretariat. During his journey from conventional to international technical bureaucracy he has worked in several developing countries and small states in areas like public sector reforms, governance and decentralisation. He has a number of publications to his credit, and is on the Board of international peer reviewed journals, and on Board of the Association for Middle Eastern Public Policy and Administration; thereby supporting the scholarly movement dedicated to policy reforms in the Middle-East. He is also Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham.