The importance of local governments as building blocks and foundations for all governance structures cannot be overemphasized. On a global level, local governments are viewed as governmental spheres, either second or third created to ensure that government is brought closer to the local populace, and furthermore that local communities are involved in the political processes influencing their daily existence. Local democracy signifies a governmental system wherein a local electorate, representative of a distinctive locality are active participants in not only determining who governs them, but also more significantly, in defining the policy output of the local authority. The role and significance of good local governance has been advocated internationally as an important vehicle to achieve stability in governments.
Having due regard to the role played by local governments internationally, IASIA officially established the Working Group on Local Government Management and Development in 1997, following the interest generated in the earlier breakaway sessions of conferences held in 1994, 1995 and 1996. The objective of the Group is to focus on key trends and developments in the local government sphere in both developed and developing countries. However, in 2015, the name and focus of the Working Group was changed to Sub-National Governance and Development incorporating the provincial/state/regional sphere of government. Presently, the Working Group focuses on key trends and developments in provincial and local governance internationally. Research presented on these issues include local case studies, theoretical appraisals or comparative studies highlighting best practices and the notion of good provincial/local governance. The Working Group has published four books to date since inception.
Decentralization: A key policy for good governance
Strong subnational governments are essential for the implementation of the sustainable development goals, as well as for ensuring good governance. The adoption of the principles of subsidiarity, within a comprehensive legal framework for decentralization is important to build a structural arrangement facilitating the shared exercise of power, and active involvement of the local populace in policymaking impacting on their development.
Strengthening Local Government & Participatory Governance:
Effective governance requires strong subnational levels of government able to provide public services effectively and efficiently, protect the rights of minorities and the most vulnerable, generate economic opportunities, respond effectively to the challenges posed by climate change, combat poverty and inequality, and achieve local economic development, while incorporating all stakeholders including the vulnerable, marginalized and disenfranchised groups in the development process.
Ethics/Integrity and Good Governance:
Unethical conduct/corruption at the local sphere has increased globally and is a phenomenon in both developed/developing countries. A significant number of countries have ushered in legislative/policy frameworks and codes of conduct for enhancing ethical conduct and fighting corruption.
Building Trust in Local Government:
An integral part of good governance necessitates building trust in government among local communities dissatisfied with, or feeling excluded from participation in governmental processes. Local participation should be facilitated in such a way that it tends to build trust in local government thereby reflecting the wellbeing and tenets of all role-players and stakeholders.
Regional/Local Economic Development (RLED):
Economic development is a challenge for many local and regional governments globally, where legal frameworks are weak and/or where institutional capacity is insufficient. Socio-economic challenges has ushered in developmental subnational government. Informality prevails and the difficulties for local and regional governments to implement LED policies and strategies is a challenge. Consequently, there is a need for SMMEs and co – operatives to enhance RLED. It is imperative to take cognizance of the key governance challenges and best practices that can be replicated internationally.
Capacity Development for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
The SDGs have shaped global and national priorities and developed a broad vision and overarching framework for international development. Consequently, the capacities and capabilities of subnational governments to localize and achieve the SDGs should be accorded a high priority.
In addition, on an annual basis, the Working Group has also focused on the general conference theme in a local context.