The Unchartered Potential Of Subnational Government

Learning and Visioning symposium by The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian Government brought together eminent government leaders and practitioners of governance and social-justice, to a two-day symposium aimed at scoping the possibilities within Sri Lanka’s subnational governments to respond to rapid urbanization, population growth and movement and rising demands for quality services. The symposium under the banner of ‘Strengthening Subnational Governance in Sri Lanka – Learnings, Challenges and Pathways’ facilitated colloquia among elected leaders, practitioners and bureaucrats along three thematic topics of importance to subnational governments. The thematic panels debated the importance of collaboration between Sri Lanka’s deconcentrated and devolved structures to respond effectively to the growing development and service demands of a rapidly expanding urban population; and investigated the role of subnational governments in assuring inclusive infrastructure and services, to reduce disparities and vulnerabilities experienced by marginalized communities; and explored the level of financial decision making autonomy required at provincial and local governments to respond to regional socio-economic issues in a timely manner. The forum also housed innovative technologies and tools designed and piloted by the SNG Program in response to many functional insights and efficiency challenges in the subnational governance space observed over the years. Thus, an opportunity was created for participants to be exposed to futuristic technology that could be adopted to better streamline key aspects such as asset management, revenue generation and financial management, citizen responsive services and timely redress processes.

Some key take-aways from the symposium are:

While collaborative governance models are desired to overcome the disconnect between the deconcentrated and devolved structures of government, it was requested that a pilot initiative must be tested with guidance from SNGP to determine an effective model.

And that collaborative governance processes should be intertwined with enabling legal and policy frameworks, and hence the capacity of bylaws formulation and adoption must be strengthened in LAs. In this respect the forum highlighted the necessity to strengthen legal infrastructure and acumen among subnational actors as a continuing requirement.

The stakeholder also referenced the importance of Local Governance Resource Centres (LGRCs) conceptualized and introduced by the program, to become conduits for mentoring and facilitating collaborative governance initiatives. And the potential of LGRCs to be the repository and overseer of technological tools and knowledge products (including training resource persons) developed by the program. And to be a key player in building human resource capacities and innovative processes in subnational governance.

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