Forum interns reflect on six months in South Africa

Forum interns Omo Atkintan, Margaret Flynn and Meghan McDermott recently spoke to a gathering of Forum staff on their recent assignments in South Africa. Their work in South Africa, from September 2006 until March 2007, is part of the Forum’s International Youth Internship program.

The presentations from the interns on June 7, 2007 at the Forum of Federations offices, were also attended by representatives from Infrastructure Canada, the International Development Research Centre, the Privy Council Office and the Embassy of Iraq.

Ms. Flynn worked as a policy analyst with the Centre for Land-related, Regional and Development Policy in Pretoria under the supervision of Prof. Nic Ollivier. Her work focused on research on local government in deep rural areas of South Africa. She also worked on Research on land reform and was involved with a white paper onLocal Government process in the state of KwaZulu-Natal. Ms Flynn observed that the role of local government in deep rural areas can be optimized by paying special attention to legislation, by monitoring evaluating procedures, enhancing intergovernmental relations, providing training, and maintaining a continued focus on developmental needs of the nation.

Ms Akintan was a legal assistant and policy analyst at the Community Law Centre under the direction of Prof. Nico Steytler at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town. Her responsibilities included research on key policy issues such as the role of gender in municipal governance, intergovernmental relations between provincial and local government, and the role of local government in the New Partnership for African Development, best known by the acronym of NEPAD. Ms Akintan observed that South Africa’s decentralised system of government is dominated by a single party, the African National Congress, making for a centralised system of governance.

Ms McDermott worked with the Community Law Centre as a research intern on intergovernmental relations and local government. Her work included preparing for the Forum’s country and international roundtables held in early 2007; assisting in the completion of research reports for the Intergovernmental relations Conflict and Governance Facility (CAGE) Project; organising the CAGE Conference on Intergovernmental Relations in November of 2006; and preparing a research report on environmental planning. She observed that challenges for democratic local governance include a relatively limited space of democratic decision-making, political elites dominating local authorities and the relative weakness of civil society.
The Forum’s International Youth Internship Program provides young Canadian university graduates the opportunity to work abroad for six months within the Forum’s international partner organizations. The program is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

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