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Forum on effective participation of youths in local governance and decentralization underway

Feb 8, 2012, 1:52 PM | Article By: Yusuf Ceesay

The Ministry of Youth and Sports, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, 7 February 2012, commenced three-day deliberations on the effective participation of youths in local governance and decentralization in the country to enhance national development.

The forum, held at the Paradise Suites Hotel, was funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat and brought together local authorities, youth representatives, ward development committees, village development committees as well as members of the selected youth organizations.

The forum aims to build the capacity of participants and raise awareness on the need for young people to be involved in local governance, among others.

Declaring the forum open, Hon. Ousman Sonko, Minister of Interior, embraced the idea of collaborating resources and material between institutions and departments as a smart and fresh way of conjuring up maximal impact for programs and activities with minimal effort.

“The phenomenon of decentralization as propagated by the Government of The Gambia is to encourage a bottom-up approach to development,” he said.

He noted that the youth constitute over 60% of the country’s population and naturally become a needed constituency in order to cement any progressive development initiative.

Hon. Sonko tasked the youth to become wiling partners who are prepared to make the ultimate but honorable choices to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge that can enable them partake effective in the discourse of local governance and development.

Minister Sonko urged participants to take the workshop proceedings very seriously and participate effectively as well as to share experiences of the best practices.

He further assured the Commonwealth Secretariat team of the government’s continuous commitment in this regard.

“It is important that all emerging recommendations at the end of the workshop are translated into workable and tangible programmatic goals that will have trickledown effects,” he noted.

Speaking on the forum, Munawwar Alam, Adviser, Commonwealth Secretariat, said the Commonwealth has many values and ethos, noting that governance is one of many Commonwealth strengths.

He underscored that decentralization is also another essential element of the commonwealth secretariat’s public sector development programme.

“Over the past few years, the secretariat has provided assistance to The Gambia in areas such as public sector development, judiciary, dept management, tourism, local government among others,” said Alam.

Decentralization, he said, is now taken place in most countries of the world including the Commonwealth member states.

“Over the past few decades, about 80% of developing countries have introduced some form of decentralization,” he noted, adding that as a result, public sector reforms have led to numerous challenges in developing countries including increased responsibilities on local governments for the delivery of public services and the achievements of the MDGs.

However, Mr Alam emphasizes that the government of the Gambia has made decentralization a priority in its development strategy in pursuance of constitution of The Gambia and in line with international trend.

“It is time tested thesis that for governance to be more effective, it should be brought closer to the population,” he stated.

Other speakers on the occasion included Saihou Sanyange, permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government and Lands, and Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, Deputy Minister of local government and rural development in Ghana who both described the forum as timely and relevant.