Blog » The Future of Community and Local Development: Insights from Governments in Asia and Pacific
Community and local development (CLD) is not a special discipline, but development done properly, said Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR in his opening remarks for the 5th East Asia and Pacific Conference. During the three-day conference held in Vientiane in December, participants representing thirteen country programs showed how their governments are using CLD models to ensure access to basic services and to stimulate local development even in remote locations and in challenging contexts.
The Bank currently finances 373 CLD projects in 93 countries across the world, representing 9 percent of the Bank’s lending portfolio. The EAP region has a strong tradition in community-driven development being home to some of the pioneering CLD programs in the world. Over the last decade, with support from the Government of Australia, the World Bank has held five regional East Asia and Pacific conferences in Indonesia (2013), Philippines (2015), Vietnam (2016), Sri Lanka (2018), and Lao PDR (2022) to exchange experience and discuss the latest trends in community-based local development programs.
Being the first regional event post the COVID-19 pandemic and following several recent natural disasters in the region in the past decade, participants were keen to share how their respective programs have helped citizens adapt and respond to crises. After the destructive typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Philippines’ National Community Driven Development Program (NCDDP) (P127741) adopted a new and simplified disaster response modality to allow quick disbursement of funds to affected communities. The Project continues to apply this approach in response to shocks and disasters to provide fast relief to affected communities. The Indonesia Mangroves for Coastal Resilience Project (P178009) invested and engaged farmers in behavioral change awareness and education to support incremental adaptation of coastline ecosystems to address the effects of climate change while maintaining income-generating activities for local families.
The learning event also highlighted that across the region, digital tools are increasingly providing a boost for citizen engagement and the inclusiveness of community participation. The Kyrgyz Community Development and Investment Agency (ARIS) piloted an online platform allowing citizens to access information, provide feedback, and vote for priority projects virtually. During the COVID-19 lockdown, this platform became the only mechanism to hold community consultations and allow the program to continue to operate even in the most remote mountain villages. After giving citizens the opportunity to engage online, the Kyrgyz Republic Third Village Investment Program (P146970) saw increased participation of women and youth in community consultation processes.
A clear trend in all the countries represented at the learning event is that CLD programs that began as smaller projects have become nationwide platforms for local development anchored in national policy and budgets. For example, Timor Leste’s program for Village Development (PNDS) and the Mongolia Local Development Fund are primarily funded by governments. In Mongolia World Bank funds are used to incentivize improved performance of local governments and to strengthen technical capacity for implementation and results monitoring. The Solomon Islands has recently secured World Bank support for an integrated program on economic development, climate resilience, and community infrastructure to support a national policy with the same objectives (Solomon Islands Integrated Economic Development and Community Resilience Project, P173688).
Participants shared that as governments are looking to create and improve models for local development and ensure responsible and transparent devolution of funds to the local level, they look to the experiences of the well-established CLD programs. Countries such as Uzbekistan and Samoa who are in the initial stages of setting up decentralized mechanisms for funding local development have much to learn from countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos. An important part of the experience sharing at the workshop was how to measure performance to help ensure accountability and transparency of local institutions who receive and manage funds. Moreover, countries were interested in learning how to integrate measures of social inclusion and resilience to ensure that local programs help address —rather than perpetuate – entrenched inequalities and lead to more sustainable development results.
The learning event provided multiple opportunities for teams to share their work through lightening talks, project booths, and small group discussions.
Going forward, community engagement and local finance mechanisms will be essential to supporting climate adaptation as well as mitigation and just transition initiatives that are responsive to and owned by those most affected. The development of successful models of working with citizens and communities on national climate action goals and local climate responses is set to be a critical priority for community and local development platforms.