People shaking hands and meeting on a sidewalk

by Nadine Nakhleh, communication coordinator, Association of Palestinian Local Authorities

Networking and knowledge-sharing with other local government leaders can be one of the most beneficial activities for city and county managers looking to learn how to tackle challenges in their communities. Nadine Nakhleh, the communication coordinator for the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA), an ICMA International Affiliate organization, explains why they established a network for knowledge exchange and the benefit it has had for their members.

The Association of Palestinian Local Authorities is considered a professional, independent organization based on the membership of Palestinian local government units (LGUs) and plays an important role in developing local authorities and building the capacities of the elected officials, as well as its staff. APLA is mandated to represent and lobby for the collective interests of LGUs, and serve as a vehicle for dialogue between the central government and LGUs.

APLA, as an association for municipalities, realizes that city managers are key players in local governance in Palestine. As the sole representative of LGUs, APLA established the Palestinian City Managers Network (PCMN) as a unit within the association to target the higher level administrators responsible for running the day-to-day operations of a municipality. It plays a role in facilitating exchange, mutual learning, and networking for local development in Palestine.

An important role of PCMN is to advocate more widely for the role of the city manager and generate interest in the position, recognizing that this role is vital for a city’s sustainability and general administration. According to Palestinian law, the council can hire or appoint a city manager, but the role is not mandatory. This has lead to an absence of the position in many municipalities, with less than 50 city managers for over 146 municipalities in Palestine. APLA believes that the success of this network can serve as a model for all LGUs, encouraging them to fill the city manager position.

PCMN supports the LGUs in defining clear roles and responsibilities for each department and ensuring smooth and effective performance at the local level. The city manager focuses on the implementation level while the municipality mayor works on strategic planning and general policies.

PCMN core objectives are to:

  1. Strengthen the development and reform processes in planning, financial aspects, accountability, and decision making of LGUs in Palestine.
  2. Support peer-to-peer learning on aspects of planning and finances and build capacity by making use of good practice and innovative approaches.
  3. Foster policy dialogue with relevant representatives of the Central Government.
  4. Foster exchange and consolidate relations with relevant national and international stakeholders for enhanced cooperation.

APLA provides eligible city managers with the technical support needed to improve the local budgeting processes, develop integrated financial systems, increase expenditure efficiency, improve financial planning, and enhance the decision-making process to be more transparent and objective.

The network also involves a long-term coaching and training approach as determined by the members. The capacity building efforts will enhance the municipality's ability capacity to deliver services, improve staff capacities in fiscal management, local economic development, and civic engagement, and to ensure the sustainability of the capacity-building interventions. The hope is that this will lead to the transfer of the knowledge and successful approaches to national institutions.

Through the association's network, city managers have the opportunity to improve and sustain collaborative relationships with international and local associations and their affiliates to support, align, and advance common goals. At the international level, the network members attend larger events and meetings to enhance the cooperation with stakeholders to ensure that local governments have institutional systems that align with the policies of the local government sector overall and the principles of good governance.

APLA hopes to give more reasons for citizens to be proud of their localities and choose to stay. The most important goal is to help local authorities become self-sustainable businesses, independent from the whims of foreign aid and donor investment, and to be resilient and responsive to shocks and stresses. In the same context, the Palestinian city managers are hopeful for their futures and will find ways to achieve their goals. In the meanwhile, they are sharing common goals of developing sustainable cities.

The Association of Palestinian Local Authorities was established in 1997 to work with and enable the Palestinian municipalities to provide better services to its citizens by representing, supporting, and defending the rights of local bodies. APLA became an affiliate of ICMA in September 2018 and is the first Arabic association to partner with ICMA. APLA has been actively involved through their participation in conversations with city managers during ICMA’s annual conference and the International Regional Conference, and is constantly looking for new ways to interact with city managers globally, including participating in ICMA’s International Management Exchange Program. ICMA members are welcomed and encouraged to apply to IMEP for the opportunity to learn more about the day-to-day work of Palestinian local government professionals. 

For more information on APLA, visit their website.

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