The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 marked an important turning point in Kenya’s history by installing devolution as the new governance. Devolution was ushered in against the backdrop of inter alia, delivering government services closer to the people, spurring socio-economic development, sharing resources equitably and promoting better governance. Devolution promised a new Kenya. It goes without saying that devolution was a bold venture, but one that would deliver massive gains if implemented accordingly. The essence of devolution is that it seeks to bring government closer to the people, with county governments at the centre of dispersing political power and economic resources to Kenyans at the grassroots. The drafters of the constitution envisioned a three-year transition period in which the National Government through the Transition Authority (the organ created to mid-wife the process) would devolve functions to county governments. Substantively, the constitution devolves functions and stipulates that county governments shall receive not less than 15% of revenue raised nationally to finance these functions.
Since the year 2013, The Council of Governors together with the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in collaboration with other stakeholders has organized the devolution conference on an annual basis. The First Annual Devolution Conference was held in Kwale County in April 2014, the Second Annual Devolution Conference held in Kisumu in April 2015 and the Third Annual Devolution Conference is set to take place in Meru County in April 2016. The annual devolution conference has become a critical event in the annual devolution calendar, bringing together all stakeholders in this process on one platform to discuss governance matters in regard to the implementation of devolved government. Some of the conference’s participants include representatives from both levels of government, independent commissions, academia, policy practitioners, civil society and media amongst others to deliberate on the successes as well as challenges and discuss emerging opportunities on devolution.
This year’s conference intends to assess the three-year transition period. It further seeks to document the achievements made by each level of government given the expectations set out on each level of government. The National Government was required by the Constitution to undertake certain functions to facilitate devolution as provided for under the sixth schedule. Clause 15 of the same states that the National Government will inter alia assist country governments build their capacity to govern effectively and provide the services for which they are responsible. Similarly, the legislature was tasked with making law for the phased transfer of functions over a period of three years from the date of the first election of county assemblies. On their part, County Governments were expected to provide services to citizens, put in place systems of governance for the smooth functioning of government, to enact laws and align their policies and frameworks to the National Government.
To enhance the understanding and appreciation of the transition period and what it has achieved so far the conference will be guided by the following objectives:
1. To examine the constitution and laws governing the transition period to identify what has not been done and what is pending and suggest the way forward;
2. To identify what was done well by both the National and County Governments during the transition period and document these lessons;
3. To interrogate challenges relating to functions and intergovernmental relations that emerged in the transition period and suggest the best way to address them by both levels of government;
4. Examine approaches that were used to empower citizens – taking into consideration both men and women plus marginalized groups by both levels of government to shape their individual satisfaction for the devolution promise;
5. Share experiences, challenges and solutions from countries that have a similar or near similar model of devolution including those that may be considering one and have important experiences with other types of devolution, decentralization, or federations;
6. To identify opportunities for technical cooperation in strengthening institutional capacity for devolution to achieve the critical goal of empowerment through shared intergovernmental systems.
The 3rd Annual Devolution conference will continue to provide a platform to share experiences and expand on solutions to address common challenges related to devolution emerging from the transition period.
The conference will adopt the form of a dialogue with panelists discussing thematic areas. Each topic will be discussed separately and in sequence by all the participants. Discussion papers will be commissioned to sector practitioners /experts as input for the dialogue. Sector presentations will pose questions to the participants to start a dialogue. The papers will identify sub-themes for further discussions in smaller groups within a topic. The authors of the papers will be invited as key note speakers.
The Conference will adopt the dialogue approach because in a dialogue we are seeking to collectively arrive to answers to the questions. It is not the same as a debate in which the participants are trying to prove the validity of their propositions. Participants will then be invited to share their experience during the transition period in addressing the challenges under analysis. Professional facilitators will be hired to orient the dialogues towards identifying answers to the questions.
The conference will have space for open exchange of experiences in the way of exhibitions, fireside private sector engagements and market place sessions therefore opening opportunities for direct interaction in addition to the more structured dialogues. The Intergovernmental Organizing Committee will in limited cases issue a call for abstracts with all the details required for presentation and participation. The abstracts will be shared in advance and will constitute a critical input for the final publication.
The conference will facilitate the direct exchange of experiences by participants through side events prior to the conference dates and or direct matching exercises between various sectoral groups based on demand and space available. It will work with a specific methodology to facilitate such exchanges based on the experience of past conferences.
The expected output of the conference will be a joint communiqué. Thereafter, a publication that captures the resolutions in the communique and discussions at the conference shall be launched. This publication will be based on the abstracts prepared in advance of the conference and on the transcript of the dialogues and exchanges of experiences that will take place during the conference. There will be an explicit request to reference all the practices and experiences shared in the conference.
The Council of Governors Secretariat and the Conference organizing committee will put additional efforts to develop a structure for following up on bilateral and trilateral exchange of experiences to ensure implementation of agreed action points by various actors in the way of cooperation programmes. For that, the conference will follow methodologies that foster engagement of different participants in dialogues aimed at promoting mutual collaboration and leading to intergovernmental, inter-county and south –south cooperation.