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Summer Conference 2002

MAX NG’ANDWE, Colonel (retired), Immediate Past President, International Union of Local Authorities: President, Local Government Association of Zambia (bio)

Cities of the World Unite: Toward a League of Cities?

Synopsis by Luisa Veronis

The keynote speaker of the opening session of the 71st Annual Couchiching Summer Conference was Max Ng’andwe, Colonel (retired), Immediate Past President International Union of Local Authorities, President, Local Government Association of Zambia. Based on the session’s title "Cities of the World Unite: Toward a League of Cities", Ng’andwe’s objective was to trace the history and the development of a league of cities worldwide from the late 19th century to today. His major argument was that international associations of local authorities face many problems that prevent the effectiveness of their work. In his opinion, cities – large and small – and local authorities should become more active to unite in order to share and exchange ideas regarding their common interests.

Ng’andwe’s presentation was built on seven points. First, he discussed the genesis of a league of cities and the justification for cities working together. The International Union of Local Authorities, created in 1913 on the initiative of a Belgian mayor, today is still a forum where all nations can meet to discuss and solve municipal problems. The second point addressed the proliferation of international local government organizations worldwide. These organizations have not only proliferated, but they have also increased their functions and their membership. The consequence has been new problems of internal coordination of activities and of liaison with international institutions.

The third point referred to the creation of the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination whose function is to improve the liaison between organizations of cities and local governments. However, a new problem has arisen in that the members of these organizations are now less active. In his fourth point, Ng’andwe talked about the efforts toward the unification between two such organizations of local authorities, a concrete example of hopefully successful unification expected to emerge in Barcelona in 2004. Fifthly, the speaker spoke of the importance and the role of international associations of local authorities. He thinks that International associations can provide a platform for all local communities – large and small – to meet and discuss issues of governance.

The sixth point was about the benefits of international municipal cooperations. Their function is not only to transfer of ideas, information and technology, but also and principally to build capacity in developing and transitional countries. Furthermore, the speaker expressed the idea that this kind of cooperation can promote global and international peace. Finally, Ng’andwe mentioned some of the prerequisites and challenges that face the successful unity of cities. He said that we should accept the equal importance of both cities and national institutions because of their interdependence, and the need for more individual local authorities to join international cooperation.

In conclusion, Ng’andwe called for cities, especially ‘megacities’, to play a more active role in the development of local policies by international associations. He thinks that all local authorities should work together and in unity to offer one strong voice against the negative impact of global forces. Ng’andwe believes that the unity of secure local governments can allow for an international understanding of security and peace, thus lessening global conflicts, in addition to their capacity of providing adequate services to local populations.