India, Afghan to cooperate in local governance

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New Delhi, July 29 (UNI) India and Afghanistan today agreed to cooperate with each other in the field of local self governance.

The Indo-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on cooperation in the field of local governance, headed by Afghanistan Deputy Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) Asif Rahimi had a meeting with the Minister of Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar.

In the meeting, both sides agreed on the fundamental guiding principle that all activities and programmes under an MoU signed between the two Governments in Kabul on May 17 should be contextual to the needs of the Governments of Afghanistan and India and should aim at adopting a coordinated approach to the development of coherent local governance in the two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Aiyar said the first meeting of the joint Working Group, set up as per the MOU between the two countries in Kabul on May 17, agreed on a 15-point programme of collaboration.

In fact, pursuant to the May 17 MOU, a delegation from Aghanistan led by the Director General in the country's Independent Directorate of Local governance (IDLG) and Afghan Minister Jelani Popal visited India on an exposure visit on local self Governance between July 21-27.

During their visit, the eight-member Afghan delegation held meetings with the Panchayati Raj Minister and visited institions like Indian Institute of Public Administration, Participatory Reasearch in Asia (PRIA), the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) and undertook many field visits to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in Faridabad and Hyderabad.

Last week, the Afghan delagation signed MOUs with IIPA, ISS, PRIA and NIRD.

At the meeting of the JWG, also co-chaired by Secretary in the Union Panchayati Raj Ministry A N P Sinha, it was agreed to operationalise the MoUs at the earliest possible. It was also agreed to hold a workshop in Afghanistan in September 2008 and a meeting of the Joint Forum on Local Governance to be co-chaired by Minister of Panchayati Raj, Government of India and Minister for rural Rehabilitation and Development and DG&Minister, IDLG, Government of Afghanistan.

It was broadly agreed by the two sides that the institutions identified by the JWG will work on training need analysis, framework for capacity building, design of training courses, training of those conducting the training courses, development of resource centre, exposure visits of elected local representatives including women and other functionaries, networking of institutions, support to policy formulation and drafting of legislation for sub national governance etc.

At the initial stage, the joint working group will meet frequently as per dates mutually agreed by the two sides.

Talking to the mediapersons later, Mr Asif Rahimi said the meeting has been very productive and the cooperation between India and Afghanistan in the field of local governance is coming at a time when Afghanistan is going through a very special phase.

''This will help in establishing structure of local governance in Afghanistan for decades to come. He said he was thankful to India for agreeing to do independent assessment for local governance in Afghanistan. This assessment would be crucial for Government of Afghanistan to decide how to proceed in matters of local governance,'' he said.

The President of Afghanistan is likely to visit India in the first week of August wherein discussions in the area of local governance are also expected.

During its stay in india, the Afghanistan delegation visited Faridabad, Haryana on July 24 and interacted directly with the elected members and official of PRIs and District Administration.

UNI AR RR CS1840

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