By Amadou Jallow
Program & Communication
A three-day inception workshop on the Voluntary Local Review (VLR) is currently underway at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center. The exercise is supported by the United Nations.
Three Local Government Authorities; Kanifing Municipal, Brikama and Kuntaur Area councils will be piloting the project which will include assessing the progress of implementing Sustainable Development Goals in their Local Government Areas.
The VLR is an initiative that has proven useful for cities and regions to foster the localization of SDGs and demonstrate their capacity and commitments towards the 2030 agenda.
To steer the exercise, an inter-institutional committee was formed, with The Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities (GALGA) serving as the secretariat. Its activities will include reviewing the piloted LGAs’ progress in undertaking the VLR and preparing them for improved service delivery to their residents.
Landing B Sanneh, President of The Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities (GAlGA), encouraged the three piloting councils to demonstrate strong commitment throughout the exercise to ensure its sustainability, from which the rest of the local councils can benefit, in his statement at the workshop’s opening ceremony.
Dr Desta Tiruneh, WHO representative in The Gambia said the VLR is an important exercise that will allow the review of the activities of the three piloting local councils in relation to the SDGs. He said the exercise is a process that will promote and accelerate efforts towards the attainment of the SDGs.
Considering the current local development challenges, particularly with the advent of Covid 19, conducting a VLR will provide valuable information and potentials for increased productivity of the LGAs and reposition them to meet the demands of the time.
Amson Sibanda, Chief, national strategies and capacity building branch, division for SDGs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said the VLR process can facilitate for new innovative means in addressing challenges to SDGs in countries undertaking VLRs.
Mr Sibanda said most African countries started conducting their VLR exercises in 2020 of which UNDESA has been supporting. “We are committed to supporting the VLR of the pilot councils in The Gambia and we have reserved resources for supporting local partners in this process.”
Director of planning and development at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Alhagie Fadera said The Gambia will be submitting its VNR for the second time, using it as an opportunity towards achieving the SGDs.
“We are pleased that together we will be able to produce tangible VLRs as SDGs are concerned and once we are able to successfully deliver on this, we are hopeful that this can be extended to other Councils.
Mr Fadera assured that The Gambia government will provide all the support and the conducive environment for the implementation of this activity.
Since the commencement of the VLR, some local and regional governments have shared their progresses in localizing the SDGs by producing VLRs, which complement the information and data on SDG implementation provided by national governments in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).
Presenting on the benefits of VLR and VNR, Aji Sainabou Jallow of the Directorate of Development Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs said the reviews aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 agenda.
She observed that the three councils that will be participating in the VLR will help in the successful implementation of the VNR which enables dialogue between different stakeholders, local agencies and levels of government.