Caribbean local government conference opens today
Stabroek News
June 25, 2002

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Issues pertaining to local government, including trends and challenges of decentralization in the Caribbean are some of the subjects slated for discussion when approximately 100 delegates from the Caribbean meet at the Ocean View Convention Centre, starting today.

The four-day meeting titled "Caribbean Conference on Decentralization and Local Government in the Commonwealth Caribbean" will see delegates from ten Caribbean Community (CARICOM) territories gathering. The conference is being sponsored by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in collaboration with the universities of the West Indies and Guyana and the Guyana Association of Local Authorities (GALA).

At a press conference yesterday to update the media on arrangements, NDI Country Director, Michael Murphy, while expressing pleasure at the organization’s participation said he saw its role as aiding with technical expertise in drafting legislation and other related matters. He noted NDI’s long history of democracy building throughout the world.

President of GALA, Llewellyn John, highlighted the country’s long tradition of local government administration. He said that among the issues to be focused on were the development of local government as an effective training ground for future leaders of central government and establishment of clear distinctions between issues to be dealt with at the central and local government levels.

He said he hoped to advocate for similar legislation as that which allows for the role of women to be enhanced in the process of governance to be mirrored in the sphere of local government.

President of the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA), Larel Thomas, stressed the need for peoples of the region to be involved in local government development, which he said was critical to the development of these countries.

Thomas saw the conference as helping to promote leadership in the local government arena through the exchange of ideas and plans aimed at further developing the scheme. He said there was need for local government to move away from depending on central government for handouts. Thomas said the conference would provide the opportunity to learn from the local experience.

Apart from the main agenda of the conference, there would be working groups, panel discussions, workshops and two public forums to be held at City Hall tomorrow and on Thursday. The first one, covering advantages and disadvantages of local government decentralization will see Jamaica’s Keith Miller along with UG’s lecturer, Khemraj Rai making presentations. The other public forum on Local Government Decentralization and Citizen Participation would see panelists including UG’s Deputy Registrar and Local Government Expert, Vincent Alexander; UG lecturer, Paulette Henry; and Fr Malcolm Rodrigues.

Among the items on the conference’s agenda are presentations on issues such as building blocks of a viable local government decentralisation system and what is local government.