Strengthening the Learning Agenda with Asian Local Authorities under the umbrella of the SDGs

The learning agenda is reaching out to the Asian region. UCLG-ASPAC requested support in organizing a session which would identify needs and actions in order to align capacity building with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With this in mind, UCLG-ASPAC together with UCLG, the ILO and the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities (FSLGA) organized a Workshop in Negombo, Sri Lanka from 9 to 12 December 2015 to begin addressing the SDG’s at a local level, with a specific focus on SDG 8 around Local Economic Development (LED).

The meeting gathered South West Asian members and partners with relevant experience on economic development and wage policies.  Particular attention was given to plausible roles, responsibilities and challenges for local governments when facing the implementation of the SDGs.

 A strategy to communicate on issues related to the SDG’s at local level was discussed and experiences in Local Economic Development (LED) were shared. Experts from the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain and South Africa were also invited to present their views on these topics with a focus on knowledge sharing.

The result, a first action plan for the learning agenda around SDG’s for Local Governments of participating cities and Local Government Associations, as well as a report on Local Economic Development and local Authorities in Asia.   All outcomes of the event are based on local knowledge, practices and identified needs, as the participants were political and technical representatives of Local Authorities, Local Government Associations and Training Centres for Local Governments from several Asian countries (Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Japan  Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippine and South Korea).

On the first day, the speakers introduced the targets and the strategy towards implementing    the SDGs at a local level. According to Cities Alliance study, almost 2/3 of the 169 targets only can be implemented by involving local stakeholders, with SDG 8 on sustainable economic growth specifically.

The day was also an opportunity to implement an innovative methodology, which encouraged active participation, through role playing (, simulating decision making in local councils. The activity created a sense of trust between the participants who shared their challenges, difficulties and new ideas very openly.

The second day of the workshop focused on local experiences of Decent Work and Economic Growth.  Members highlighted opportunities, for example Eco tourism which, in comparison to international tour operators maintains up to 90% of the income produced at a local level. A field visit to Negombo’s Fish Market, illustrated the kind of support the municipality and national government can bring to enhance local business.

The visit inspired a round table in which mayors and high level representatives of municipalities and Local Government Associations of the region presented good practices, challenges and needs regarding LED implementation at city level. The main outcomes of the session were that cities need to seek opportunities with a sectorial approach and support and make use of economic activities through local policies (licensing, land use, tax and revenue).

The debate went international on day three with Training Centers from South Africa (SALGA, MILE), Netherlands (VNG), South Korea (IUTC) and Japan (CLAIR) as well as the UCLG LED approach and the International Labour organization presenting their methodologies, content and a panel of trainings and learning..

 Cities and LGAs participated actively in the sessions to assess their needs.  They chose five priorities for the implementation and improvement of the LED at local level as well as identifying concrete needs they have at capacity level to run LED policies. It became clear that Local Government Associations value soft skills– advocacy, facilitation, communication , while cities request tools, and mechanisms to apply knowledge related to specific services- business licensing, access to good practice, councilor training.

All the information gathered by UCLG-ASPAC and UCLG during the meeting, has formed the basis for an extensive exchange between the cities and LGA’s in order to define how they can include such concepts in their local plans, and how awareness can be raised among city representatives and citizens. The training centers also met with UCLG to define how the learning agenda should be articulated.

The main findings of this learning will allow UCLG and UCLG ASPAC to communicate and respond more efficiently to the needs of Local Governments and Local Government Associatons, in order to propose a set of tools or a training program. The first concrete proposals in this regard include the Maldives Local Authority board to take part in a peer learning event on Strategic Planning organized by MILE and the UCLG planning committee in March 2016 and the Sri Lanka Association are also eagar for training of councilors with SALGA after the local election early 2016.

More information:

  • Read manager of MILE, Sogen Moodley's report