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Delivering Development through Leadership

Media Statement
For Immediate Release

27 March 2007

Delivering Development through Leadership

Democracy and strong leadership in local government and local administrations are vital foundations for developing strong local communities, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said today.

Speaking today in his home-town of Auckland New Zealand, where he was addressing the fourth Commonwealth Local Government Conference, Mr McKinnon emphasised the key role of local democracy in all Commonwealth countries as a means of “transforming societies”.

Mr McKinnon said democracy and development went hand-in-hand in local government: "Local democracy must ensure that delivery reflects the priorities of the community and that it reduces poverty and promotes economic development.”

“With 800 million people in the Commonwealth living on less than a dollar a day; with two-thirds of the world’s HIV/AIDS sufferers in our midst; with 30 million children who will never see the inside of a primary school and a further 40 million who will never experience secondary education, ‘the disadvantaged’ are very much our Commonwealth concern,” Mr McKinnon said.

The Auckland conference follows highly successful events in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2005 and Tshwane, South Africa in 2003. The outcomes of these conferences have been endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Governments and are helping central governments and local governments to strengthen their democratic processes and to deliver better services.

“The ongoing test is to ensure that local government has the tools, the people and the support to do the job.

“For most people in the Commonwealth, local government is their first and perhaps only contact with the authorities in their country. In some country, local government matters even more than national or regional governments.”

The Secretary-General referred to the good relationship between the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the Commonwealth Secretariat and to their collaborative work in observing elections and providing technical experts to strengthen local democracy in several member countries.

He also drew attention to the leadership role that local government plays in promoting civil society.

“Civil society is the intermediary between a government and its people. It’s the guarantor that citizens assume their responsibilities in society. It is central to everything that we believe in the Commonwealth – that same Commonwealth which is, of course, an alliance of governments and of peoples,” Mr McKinnon said.

The Conference is taking place on 26 – 29 March 2007, and has brought together local government leaders, ministers and senior officials from countries across the Commonwealth, to discuss 'Delivering Development through Leadership”. The Conference is organised by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and hosted by Auckland City Council in partnership with New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs

Note to Editors:

Mr McKinnon is in New Zealand for the week to 30 March. He took up the position of Secretary-General in 2000 following a long and distinguished political career in New Zealand where he was the longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1990 – 1999). He also served as New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister (1990 to 1996) and Leader of the House of Representatives (1992-1996).


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