JIS News

The central task of effective local governance is to ensure that there is strong community participation in the governance process, as well as to ensure a strong economic base, said Chairman of the Social Development Commission, Robert Bryan.
According to Mr. Bryan, the process requires an active local government authority, as well as the establishment of appropriate community structures to give expression to community initiative and effective community representation.
Mr. Bryan was making a presentation at the High-level Inter-American Network of Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation Sub Regional Mandate and Activities conference, held on August 24 in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The development of effective structures and processes to facilitate collaboration and joint actions are of central importance. There is also a need to enhance the capacity of all members of local communities, including local expertise, to engage collectively, the processes of local governance if they wish to do so,” he stated.
In this regard, Mr. Bryan said, the idea of community councils or equivalent body, comprised of citizens organized to collectively participate, was an integral part of the local governance process.
“This approach is already a core feature of the local government reform process in Jamaica,” he noted, adding that various forms of such bodies existed across the region with some legal recognition.
“These structures have a key role to play in the new paradigm of effective local governance, which defends democracy, empower communities, facilitate their effective participation and ultimately produce sustained development in its broadest sense,” the SDC Chairman told the workshop.
He said these structures could perform specific roles and functions in advancing local government reform and the new model of participatory local governance and include, among other things, providing a mechanism and framework, which encouraged and facilitated the illusion of all stakeholders in the decision-making process.
It also includes: promoting and facilitating unity, consensus and the forging of a common purpose and sense of mutual interdependence among citizens from all strata of the society; and the empowerment of citizens and communities by providing a channel through which civil society could become active partners in the governance of their parish.
“These structures, working in close partnership with their respective local authorities, have a pivotal role to play in leading the reform process. In this way, communities can be empowered both to be involved in managing their own affairs, as well as having a voice in wider governance issues, community development, planning and working with various agencies to implement critical programmes,” Mr. Bryan said further.
Defining governance as “the processes by which all the actors within a community interact to manage the community’s affairs,” he pointed out that the process determined how power was exercised, how decisions were taken and how citizens could have their say.
“It must be seen as the exercise of economic political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences,” he said.
Mr. Bryan emphasized that the best way to achieve this participation and establish new governance frameworks was through community development. “That is, producing development in the environment that ultimately expands the choices of people to pursue what they think is important, while ensuring that there is continuity and enough left for generations to come,” he stated.