National Conference 2021
Democracy: Moving Forward
The Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), together with the Local Councils Association of Punjab (LCAP), held a two-day national conference titled “Local Democracy: Moving Forward” in Islamabad, Pakistan on 28-29 September 2021. The conference was organized by the European Union (EU) funded “Strengthening of Associations of Local Authorities and their Members for Enhanced Governance and Effective Development Outcomes in Pakistan” Project which supports the institutionalization and operationalization of local councils’ associations in Pakistan. The conference provided a platform to bring together local, provincial and federal government stakeholders, civil society and the media to identify ways in which sustainable local governments can be ensured and their associations can play a more proactive and effective role in the national development. The conference provided an opportunity to all stakeholders to develop consensus by discussing the current and ongoing reforms in local governance across four provinces, lessons learned from the past experience, emerging commitments and expectations, and the potential role of local governments and their associations in creating a more enabling environment for inclusive and sustainable development in the country.
The conference was opened by Mr. Shafqat Mehmood, Federal Minister for Education acknowledging that local governments are an integral part of the overall governance structure and their establishment and continuity is critical to sustained development at the local level. The current government is keen to hold local government elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces as early as possible. His views were later endorsed by Mr. Fawad Chaudry, Federal Information Minister who declared his support to the associations.
The opening session was followed by four working sessions in which federal and provincial ministers, local government secretaries, representatives of mainstream political parties and members of the local government associations, civil society and media deliberated on the current challenges and constraints to sustained local government in the country. It was unanimously agreed to introduce a constitutional amendment in the light of the Supreme Court of Pakistan decision to declare local government as third tier of the state and insert a separate chapter in the constitution highlighting the structure and functions of local governments without compromising provincial autonomy under the 18th Amendment.
The closing session was chaired by the President of Pakistan and also attended by the Sindh Minister of Local Government and European Union Delegation's Head of Development and Cooperation Section Mr. Ovidiu Mic who highlighted the role of local government in achieving Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. The President of Association for Development of Local Governance Mr. Rajan Sultan Pirzada summed up the conference outcomes and requested state support for establishing sustained local governments in the country. The Chief Guest drew parallel between the local governance and service delivery and cited examples from history about local government role in ancient civilizations especially those in the region. He also endorsed and supported the role of local government role in the socioeconomic development of the country and promised to do everything in his office to establish local governments at the earliest. He thanked the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and Local Councils Association of Punjab for organizing such an important and timely event.