Local Governments are increasingly positioning themselves to improve service delivery, ensuring that communities own the development of local services. The institutional frame- work for implementation of the SDGs in now in place at the national level, and Uganda has started to roll out the SDG process systematically at the subnational level. Many Local Government leaders have limited information on the agenda for localizing the SDGs. They are struggling to interpret and relate the Agenda to the day-to-day work under decentralization.
It is appreciated that the first step to securing the commitment of local leaders and the successful implementation of the Agenda has to be awareness raising about how they can contribute through their day-to-day work. A collaborative and multi-stakeholder approach has therefore been established to comprehensively roll-out the SDG Agenda at the Local Government level. The SDG Secretariat, Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA), Urban Authorities’ Association of Uganda (UAAU) and the Uganda National NGO Forum are jointly undertaking advo- cacy engagements to ensure participation of all actors at the Local Government level. SDG focal persons have also been appointed by all Local Governments to liaise with the SDG secretariat and SDG Technical Working Groups.
The National Planning Authority has also undertaken several capacity-building engagements for District Planners to enable them to effectively integrate the SDGs and apply a Human Rights Based Approach in the District Development Plans and budgets. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has organized trainings for district-level officials on gender and equity planning and budgeting, thus covering issues that are of particular importance for SDG 5 and SDG 10.
Much effort has been made at the subnational level to contex- tualize the SDGs and mobilize communities to own their development agenda with meagre resources. A civil society policy think tank, Advocates Coalition on Development and Environment (ACODE), has been implementing the Local Government Councils’ Scorecard. This scorecard is based on performance indicators aligned to the roles, responsibilities and functions of elected district leaders as articulated in the Local Government Act and the Government’s decentralization policy. The scorecard initiative implemented by ACODE in partnership with the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) stems from the desire to contribute to the deepening of democratic decentralization in Uganda, while addressing the problem of poor service delivery. The theory of change of the scorecard places emphasis on both the demand and supply sides of local governance. This annual assessment is key in monitoring the performance of Local Governments. It provides useful governance information that acts as a basis for activating citizen engagement and provides evidence for sustained advocacy at the national level.
For 2018/2019, the scorecard was conducted in 35 districts and indicated an improvement in the average perfor- mance of the assessed District Councils, up from 51 percent in FY2016/17 to 62 percent in FY2018/19. This improvement in average performance is also reflected in other parameters such as legislative function, account- ability to citizens, and monitoring service delivery, which went up from 15 to 16 points, 11 to 14 points and 10 to 17 points respectively. This positive change in functionality and performance of District Councils is partly attributed to the sustained capacity-building programme for elected district leaders.
Local Governments have continued to promote community-based local development based on the principles of dili- gence, self-help, and cooperation to better the lives of their people through small-scale, self-help projects. Emphasis on mindset change in some districts, such as Bunyangabu, Rubirizi and Kabarole, has resulted in communities undertaking several development projects without having to wait for Local Government financing to improve their lives. This has, for instance, resulted in the construction of several kilometres of community roads to facilitate the transportation of goods to market, children to school and access to health facilities. In Maracha district, parents provided the labour to build a community vocational school for their children to learn practical skills when they grad- uate from primary school. In Luuka district (Eastern Uganda), communities gave local names to each of the SDGs, based on what they meant to them – for example, how poverty manifests in their communities.