Remarks by Dr Coumba Mar Gadio UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Joint 64th LGAZ Annual Conference and 17th AMICAALL General Assembly

I am honoured to have been invited to speak at this opening ceremony of the Joint 64th LGAZ Annual Conference and 17th AMICAALL General Assembly

Your Excellency the Republican President of the Republic of Zambia Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu  

Honourable Minister of Local Government and Housing, Dr. Charles Banda, MP

The President of the Local Government Association of Zambia, Mayor Christopher Kan’gombe  

Your Worship the Chairperson of the Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV and AIDS in Zambia, Councillor Thabiso Tshiri Mizinga

Your Worship the Mayor of Lusaka City, Councillor Miles Bwalya Sampa

Your Worships the Mayors and Council Chairpersons present from various cities and Towns,

Executive Secretary of the Local Government Association of Zambia and

AMICAALL Country Director, Mr. Maurice Mbolela

Permanent Secretaries and Senior Government Officials

Town Clerks and Council Secretaries

Local Government Practitioners

Colleagues from the UN Family

Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen

I am honoured to have been invited to speak at this opening ceremony of the Joint 64th LGAZ Annual Conference and 17th AMICAALL General Assembly being held under the theme Territorial Approach to Local Development: Promoting Decentralisation, Innovative Local Governance and Local Development.

I am also pleased that we are gathered in Lusaka – a city that is enjoying 60 years of city status, and although it has been the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic, the city is demonstrating that local authorities can rise to the occasion and provide leadership when faced with challenging epidemics. I also note that Lusaka recently launched the Fast Track Cities HIV and AIDS Action Plan.

I am informed that this is a city where councillors are being encouraged to take up the challenge of HIV and AIDS as part of a comprehensive nation-wide effort. Lessons learnt in the HIV response will be handy in the COVID-19 response. 

During the United Nations summit for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders committed themselves towards more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive development. Decentralised systems of governance, ensure inclusivity, and inclusivity enables broadened creative thinking or innovation, and innovation or putting good ideas into practice, ensures local development.

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen

As government structures that closest to the people, it is important to ask to what extent local authorities are involved in localising and mainstreaming the SDGs and ensuring that citizens, local communities, and stakeholders are meaningfully involved in local sustainable development initiatives and plans.

I am happy to note that Zambia has shown commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by endorsing the 2030 Agenda and mainstreaming the SDGs into its national development frameworks. The Government has also enhanced SDG awareness campaigns through expanding fora for information dissemination to include parliamentarians, communities, and civil society.

Let me take this opportunity to commend the Government for effectively mainstreaming and sustaining SDG number 3, particularly on HIV and AIDS and SDG 5 on gender, within the structures and operational arrangements of the Local Government Association. Since 2004 you have ensured that during the joint Local Government Association of Zambia Annual Conference and AMICAALL General Assemblies, issues of HIV and AIDS and Gender are integral agenda items in your local development and governance discourse.

Before the onset of COVID 19, the HIV and AIDS crisis was the global health issue affecting all sectors and threatening the future of our nations. HIV and AIDS destabilised family structures and led to increased numbers of orphans and children living in the streets. Too many women and men in their most productive years were falling ill and dying. Businesses were left without workers, schools without teachers, hospitals without health workers and even fields without farmers. I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Zambia being one of 7 countries which have reached UNAIDS 90-90-90 Fast Track Targets by 2020.

Your Excellency

I am pleased that you and other leaders at central government, political and municipal levels have not simply stood by but have been actively engaged in the HIV and AIDS response. There has been a strong political will in Zambia to respond to the impacts of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This is evidenced by the many policy, legal, institutional and response directives such as the creation of the innovative multi-sectoral National AIDS Council in 2002, development of policies, strategic frameworks, guidelines and directives which have culminated into housing HIV and AIDS Coordination functions in local authorities.

As Republican President, you have established the National Prevention Coalition co-chaired by the Ministers of Health and Finance and whose Matron is the First Lady Madam Esther Lungu. Further, you have continued to impress upon the entire nation on the importance of taking new measures to put the nation on a strong footing against the HIV and AIDS epidemic. However, despite all these efforts, HIV prevalence in our society is still high and new infections are declining at a very slow pace. There is need to relook issues of coordination and ensuring an effective bottom-up approach.

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen

SDG targets can be met in all countries, even in the poorest ones, if bold actions are taken immediately. In the case of local development and decentralisation in Zambia, bold actions certainly include today’s theme, Territorial Approach to Local Development: Promoting Decentralisation, Innovative Local Governance and Local Development. We must act now and deliver more at the local level. A nation must have the ability to translate plans into practices and services that meet local needs and realities.

It is the district authorities and municipalities which are the most appropriate level of planning, coordination, and support for the implementation of local development owned by the Communities. And it is in the wards and villages where services are needed by Zambians and residents.

I would like to commend the Government of Zambia for the decentralization policy and introduction of National Development Planning. We all know that policies alone are not enough. The Central Government must ensure that there is capacity at the local government level and that there are resources. When these are in place, local government leaders can effectively take up their responsibilities in local development and in the fight against different epidemics such as Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV and AIDS and other emerging epidemics such as COVID-19.

I am happy to note that most local authorities in Zambia have been strengthening Ward Development Committees and decentralizing their budgets to the ward level.

Some have also developed HIV and AIDS programmes and the AMICAALL programme has been working very closely with the National AIDS Council with UN support to achieve these targets.

The UN Family has been working closely with different local authorities for better implementation of Zambia COVID 19 Contingency Plan and will continue to support the efforts of the Zambian Government to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Mr. President,

The United Nations system in Zambia is a committed partner of the decentralisation process as well as the multisectoral response to different epidemics such COVID 19 and HIV and AIDS.  We have created a close partnership with Government and ensured that local government is a key partner in local development initiatives.  

Through AMICAALL, we are working towards bridging the gap between district administration and local authorities. I can assure you that we are proud to be part of this solidarity network of local authorities to learn and share experiences. I am confident that in the near future all the cities, municipalities and towns in Zambia will become shining examples of good governance, Local development and have the capacity to respond more effectively to the health and social challenges of COVID-19, HIV and AIDS, poverty and unemployment.

Cities, municipalities and town councils in Zambia will have better and more responsive services that meet the social, education and health needs of their citizens to accelerate the Development of Zambian Communities and mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 of prevention and behaviour change, care and support, especially for those most vulnerable in our societies.

I wish you all a fruitful meeting and pledge UN’s continued partnership and support to Zambia’s efforts on governance, local development and the fight against COVID-19 and HIV and AIDS.

Thank you.

Speech by
Author
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNAIDS
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
UNDP
United Nations Development Programme