It is a great pleasure and an honour to represent the European Union at the 63rd Annual Conference of the Local Government Association of Zambia (LGAZ). With representation from all of the local authorities in Zambia, this week's conference provides an excellent possibility to explore the opportunities and challenges facing the local authorities.
As the structure that is closest to the citizens, local authorities are uniquely placed to enhance citizens' participation and citizens' voice in decision making, while promoting good governance and sustainable development at local level, thus effectively participating to the development trajectory of the country.
One of the overarching principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), to which Zambia has aligned its Seventh National Development Plan, is that:
Given the fast pace of urbanisation in Zambia, human development challenges, and the threat of climate change and environmental degradation, sustainable development approaches are no longer an option but a necessity.
The European Union (EU) and Zambia have a solid and wide partnership covering political, economic, trade, development and sector relations. We are keen to be side by side to our Zambian friends, including with a bilateral development program of 460 million Euro (approx. 6.5 billion Kwacha) made of grants primarily invested in energy, agriculture and good governance sectors.
And in addition to this sizeable development bilateral program we are always keen to mobilise additional grant resources wherever this is relevant. It is for this reason that we decided to support local authorities in their efforts to stimulate an inclusive social and economic development by providing additional resources through the Enhancing Local Government Capacity for Development Project, led by the Local Government Association of Zambia and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government.
This project aims at strengthening the competences of ten local Authorities in the Copperbelt, Northern and Lusaka provinces to plan in an effective and participatory manner through the use of the Integrated Development Planning approach.
The project also seeks to stimulate local economic development as well as support the Local Government Association of Zambia to effectively represent and assist its members in the delivery of the Seventh National Development Plan and the Decentralisation Policy.
The Enhancing Local Government Capacity for Development Project is fully in line with the European Union's stated position on empowering local authorities globally for enhanced governance and more effective socio-economic development outcomes. Around the world, the European Union is supporting local authorities for stronger governance and citizen engagement at the local level, as well as inclusive service delivery and sustainable growth.
The theme of this year's annual conference, "Embracing e-government for improved local service delivery", demonstrates a clear appreciation of technological advancements that can be harnessed to better serve the citizens of Zambia. The conference will be an opportunity for local authorities to explore information, communication and technology (ICT) based solutions to address some of the challenges hindering effective municipal service delivery.
Recognising the importance of ICT in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local service delivery, the EU is supporting capacity strengthening of local authorities in the use of appropriate technology to enhance financial management, spatial planning and citizen engagement. Through the project, the ten targeted local authorities will acquire the necessary ICT equipment, such as Geographic Information System (GIS) based technology and software, centred on their specific needs.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the excellent work of the Local Government Association of Zambia, an organisation that has been promoting the shared interests of local authorities since its inception in 1947, through a truly bottom-up approach. I congratulate you in your efforts, and wish you a successful and productive 63rd Annual Conference.