Human and administrative capacity

A strong and capable local government is considered a key lever to ensure inclusive and sustainable urban development, facilitating governance systems that are accountable and promote balanced multi-stakeholder involvement (Sorensen & Okata, 2011). However, while many cities have undergone substantial social, economic and physical transformation, the human and administrative capacities of municipal governments have failed to keep pace (UNESCAP, 2015).

UN-Habitat (2016) comment that urban governance requires greater capacity at all levels of government and for all involved in the process. They note that capacity building for urban governance must take into account institutional capacities, the technical and professional skills of individuals, and local leadership skills. Building capacity in urban planning, budgeting, public asset management, digital-era governance, data gathering and engaging with other stakeholders are highlighted as particularly important (UN-Habitat, 2016). This requires structural, organisational and procedural provisions, and overall governance arrangements that ensure performance accountability, transparent decision-making and the inclusion of relevant stakeholders in key processes. Impediments to building human and administrative capacity and examples of low capacity include:

  • complex and unclear organisational structures;
  • unclear delegation of tasks between managing authorities and intermediate bodies;
  • insufficient capacity and power within coordinating bodies to fulfil their role;
  • weak governance arrangements for holding managers accountable for performance, controlling corruption and avoiding undue political influence over project selection and staff appointments;
  • high staff turnover rates and lack of appropriately qualified and experienced staff – often as a result of patronage systems;
  • poor administrative capacity of municipal governments, especially smaller local authorities;
  • lack of expertise leading to issues of compliance with complex national and international regulations e.g. public procurement, aid and environmental legislation;
  • limited analytical and programming capacity, including insufficient capacity (and political backing) to deliver result-oriented strategies.

Understanding a particular context’s political economy dynamics is likely to be crucial to effective reform, with patronage systems often a particularly important challenge (Grindle, 2010).To resolve these issues UN-Habitat (2016) call for a systemic approach that mobilises different types of education and training – high and middle-level education, technical courses, peer-to-peer learning and technical support. This includes local government and civil society exchanging information and knowledge. The involvement of civil society requires capacity building to improve the ability of community leaders and public institutions to engage in dialogue to support a collaborative approach. In addition, UN-Habitat (2016) call for stronger learning links between local governments and the business sector to foster collaboration between public officers and local stakeholders.