n Journal of Public Administration - Transformative role of local government to achieve the UN Millenium Development Goals




The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are an integrated framework of specific targets and commitments to halve global poverty by 2015 as agreed to by all UN member nations and leading development institutions. Global demographic trends demonstrate that ever-increasing urbanisation translates into key development challenges at the local sphere. Therefore it is necessary to disseminate MDG efforts from the national level to sub-national and local levels to ensure the poor are being met at their place of need. This reallocation of developmental authority will require significant capacity building to equip local officials with tried and tested models for strategic planning, implementation, and monitoring.

Developing the ability of executive leadership and elected officials to cope with these urgent problems requires a flexible yet structured approach to knowledge sharing. Best practice sharing amongst peers is a valuable tool in garnering the practical knowledge necessary for such capacity building. However a frequent criticism is that these practices are often prescribed and untested by those who have little experience and hence do not reflect the realities faced by local governments. To address this concern, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) developed a unique public-private partnership with key cities to establish training centres with a local emphasis (CIFAL centers). Rather than imposing best practices, these centres utilise a flexible mechanism adopted by the UN to identify and extract good practices from amongst the experiences of the training participants through a guided process of sharing, discussion, and negotiation. The participants themselves then formulate and personally commit to action plans for implementation and follow up.
The article proposes an ongoing framework for executive level local government capacity building in South Africa that is easy to administer, of low cost and as effective, if not more so, than traditional capacity building measures.


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