New Delhi, Nov 5: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the Fourth International Conference on Federalism here today, during which India will take and give suggestions on the issue to the participating countries. President Pratibha Devisingh Patil will deliver the valedictory address on Wednesday. The three-day conference is being organised in partnership between the Government of India and the Forum of Federations, a Canada-based international forum of federal countries. The earlier conferences were held in Canada 1999, Switzerland 2002 and Belgium 2005.
About 1000 delegates are likely to attend the conference, including Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Switzerland President Micheline Calmy-Rey and Nigeria Vice President Jonathan Goodluck.
Nearly 40 cabinet level Ministers and Provincial heads are expected to lead the delegations of their countries. International invitees include Cabinet level Ministers, Provincial Heads, State level Ministers, Diplomats, Administrators, members of Judiciary, former Ministers, Civil Servants and representatives of International Organizations among others.
National Invitees include Vice President, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Central Cabinet Ministers, Secretaries to the Government of India, Governors, Chief Ministers, Leaders of national political parties, Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretaries of Departments concerned in the States and others.
Inter-State Council Secretary Amitabh Pandey said that the Conference would be unique in several respects. The principal actors will be practitioners of federal democracy at all levels, including those heading Federal Governments to those heading constituent units and also those representing federal practice at the grassroots. There will also be scholars, experts, administrators and social activists dedicated to federalism.
Rosa Ambrose, Canadian Minister for Inter-Governmental Affairs, said the participating countries could learn a lot from India.
"India has been in the federation for many years and there are a lot of things that other countries can learn from India. There are some young countries that have recently become federation, from Africa, that are here and they are learning from other countries. Whether it's how you manage your finances between state and federal governments, education, immigration and number of different issues. So we can teach and we can also learn from each other," said Ambrose.
All participants will collectively engage in the process of sharing ideas, experiences and drawing inspiration from one another. They will all be treated equal and provided an environment conducive to a free and frank dialogue, he said.
There will be no occasions for 'official' statements of government positions. The conference will be practice-oriented. It will provide a forum for the sharing of federalism best practices that ultimately contribute to better governance.
The title of the Conference is Unity in Diversity - learning from each other.
The conference is based on four broad themes and twelve sub-themes. The topics for Theme Sessions include Building on and Accommodating Diversities, Emerging Issues in Fiscal Federalism, Interaction in a Federal system and Local Government and Federal Systems. For the first time, local government will be the topic of a theme session.
An Outreach Event is being held alongside the conference from November 4 to 8 in conjunction with the Conference to showcase grassroots federalism at work in India and a showcase the country's plurality and diversity to the common man.
The Event will highlight that federalism for India is a phenomenon that touches all aspects of lives, showcasing its impact on people, economics and livelihoods, through dialogues, workshops, art exhibitions, live performance, cuisines and merchandise.
It will be held in partnership with the Ministries of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Tribal Affairs and North-Eastern Region.
The conference has previously been held in Canada in 1999, Switzerland in 2002 and Belgium in 2005.