The Government of Palau and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a milestone agreement today, in order to strengthen the capacity of local legislators and governance systems at local state levels in Palau. [restrict]

The signed Government Co-Financing Agreement will see the Government of Palau invest US$450,000 toward financing the Palau Local Governance Strengthening Project. The Project has an implementation timeframe of three years and UNDP is contributing a further US$100,000 towards this initiative.

Palau’s Minister of Finance, Mr. Elbuchel Sadang said, “We are pleased to work with UNDP on this important project to support state governments’ in their efforts to operate effective, accountable and transparent state administrations. This project will help strengthen the management of public funds in these states and ensure these states effectively deliver services to their communities.”

The project is a result of a local governance scoping study that was conducted in February 2016, following a request from the Government of Palau for UNDP assistance in mapping local governance challenges. The study underlined the series of existing challenges that hamper the effective and efficient local government service delivery in the country. Some of the challenges noted included a lack of inter-agency coordination; weak legal, policy and institutional frameworks; limited local basis revenue sources; limited capacity to create enabling environment to boost the local economy; limited citizen participation in decision making; weak budget practice and accountability; and limited human resource capacity and high turn-over.

Governor of Ngermelengui State, one of the states to be supported under the Project, Mary Frances Ilolang Remengesau-Voght said, “This capacity building is needed to teach skills necessary for planning and reporting and for overall good management of state governments.”

“It is a necessary first step to institutionalize our state constitutions that wisely lay the foundation of true leadership shared between the Rubak, Olbiil, and the Governor. To meet today’s challenge, we must bridge the fragmented roles of elected and traditional leadership meng mo cherrungel el derreder ra beluu, el di ua orrekim el dechor ra bital ianged el mora bital ianged,” she added.

The Palau Local Governance Strengthening Project will work through state level interventions with activities around orientation training based on public financial management principles, including classroom training and on-the job coaching on municipal finance, procurement and use of the national accounting software. It will include support to the central government level capacity for empowering the local governments by improved inter-agency coordination, structural, legal and corporate mandate reviews, which is all in support of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 for peace, justice and strong institutions.

UNDP Resident Representative, Osnat Lubrani said, “UNDP stands ready to provide the needed technical expertise to the Government of Palau to provide meaningful solutions to strengthen governance systems and capacities at State Government and national levels.”

“UNDP will ensure global, regional and local knowledge and best practices are provided in this process and that there is consistent recognition of and usage of the best of both modern and traditional systems in achieving excellence in local governance administration.”

The Project will also include activities to raise citizens’ awareness of their rights and responsibilities, on the role of their central and local administrations and councils, as well as support civil society organizations, youth and women groups strengthen demand side for downward accountability.  [/restrict]