The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka recently unveiled the “Draft International Guidelines on Decentralization”.
Addressing the African Ministerial Conference on Decentralization and Local Development at the United Nations Headquarters at Nairobi on 21 September, Mrs. Tibaijuka hailed the document as the first ever international legal framework in promotion of decentralization and the empowerment of local authorities.
The African Ministerial Conference held within the ambit of the Africities Summit in Nairobi was attended by ministers and other local government representatives. Mrs Tibaijuka said the draft document was a result of a decade’s worth of work.
“These Guidelines, developed by the prominent members of the Advisory Group of Experts on Decentralisation (AGRED) established by UN-HABITAT on the basis of resolution 19/12, will be tabled at the next session of our Governing Council in April 2007 for consideration and eventual adoption by Member States,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka.
She thanked the Municipal Development Partnership (PDM) on their efforts to support the municipal movement and the decentralization process in Africa.
Mrs. Tibaijuka reminded delegates that the Yaoundé Declaration of 29 October 2005 urged African Governments to “undertake concerted and coordinated action to place decentralization and local development at the centre of governance and development policies of our countries”. It also called for the strengthening of legal and institutional frameworks with regard to decentralization and participatory governance, and to make decentralization a lever for strengthening the democratic process.
“But in a rapidly urbanising world, decentralisation takes on a new dimension. What we are witnessing today is that the competitiveness of nations depends on the competitiveness of their cities. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa where we have yet to realise that half of our people will soon be living in urban areas. Making our people, industries and agriculture more productive and competitive will require that we empower our local authorities to engage in local economic development, urban and regional planning, infrastructure and investment programming,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka.
The ED said that UN-HABITAT is the focal point for local authorities within the United Nations system. She urged delegates to take advantage of the new Rules of Procedure of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT. Rule 64 in particular, under section XI entitled: “participation of non-members of the Governing Council” allows non-members of the Governing Council to participate as observers at public meetings, in the deliberations of the Governing Council and its subsidiary organs.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said, “This rule represents a breakthrough as it allows local authorities to take part in sessions of a policy-making organ of the United Nations. I am glad that our friends and partners from the local authority’s community have made use of this rule and have participated actively in the deliberations of the Governing Council, which is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”