Memories of Local Governments’ Path To Unity and Inclusiveness
By Peter Woods - Emeritus Mayor OAM; Ambassador UCLG ASPAC: Honorary Member UCLG and UCLG ASPAC.
In 1992 I became Executive Vice President of the International Union of Local Authorities Asia Pacific, 1996-2004 President of IULA ASPAC and Vice President of IULA and spent 10 years on the Board of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum until 2004. These were exciting years and I recall many battles including our sponsorship of China into IULA as a full member in 1998. Conservative forces tried to prevent this with cries that China was not a democratic country and the like. Looking underneath the surface, many so-called "democracies" display very un-democratic practices and from Asia Pacific's point of view we have experiences of dealing with many systems but believe the true path for a World organisation requires tolerance and inclusiveness if we are to move along the path of progress and change. If we were to isolate all but those who have the ideal-type democracy there wouldn't be many members of our organisation. Who in this day and age would prevent China being part of a World Local Government organisation or any World organisation?
Then came the big AMALGAMATION debate. IULA, UTO, METROPOLIS. I was very pleased to have been part of this process but as a resident of Australia couldn't understand the sharp divisions within Europe between “Francos” and “Anglos”. In fact when the vote was taken within IULA it was adopted by one vote on the united strength from IULA ASPAC. We then had to work with other like-minded people like Joan Clos, Norbert Burger, Alan Lloyd, Mercedes Bresso, Jeremy Smith, Pierre Schapiro and many others to bring the three organisations together and form United Cities and Local Governments and blend the cultural differences.
Selahatin Yildrim from MEWA, I single out as he was my closest co-worker in achieving many of the reforms and having to battle the diminishing forces of reaction. Alan Lloyd from Wales played a decisive political role in the whole scenario and his contribution should never be underestimated. His country should have honoured him. If they don't, we should continue to do so.
So as we look to the future of UCLG let us build on our achievements: unity, intercultural sensitivities, inclusiveness and the search for common elements that unite us rather than the issues that divide us. Let us continue to build an organisation that engages in participatory democracy and diminish the structural inefficiencies of centrist political and bureaucratic controls. Let us enhance the role of women in leadership positions and shame National Governments into reform by exposing their rhetoric through clear examples at Local Government level and through our UCLG World and Regional Sections.
UCLG ASPAC will continue to have Taipei and Beijing, South Korea and North Korea and India and Pakistan sitting at the same table. We will demonstrate to the World that there is a better way of engagement with people-to-people and Local Government-to-Local Government. I hope that other Regions will do likewise and that the World Organization of UCLG will support this and show that in the negative elements in the flawed political structures there is a very real way forward.
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