A Norwegian delegation, led by Liv Signe Navarsete, the Minister for Local Government and Regional Development of the Royal Kingdom of Norway, is on a three-day official visit to India, to study the functioning of the country's decentralized governance.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Norwegian delegation, which participated in a briefing session on Jan. 10 at New Delhi, will visit the State Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad on Jan. 12. The delegation will then visit the State Election Commission, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, to understand the election process and the role of a constitutional authority in the process.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Mutual Cooperation on Local Governance was held at Oslo on September 15, 2010. This was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Republic of India and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Royal Kingdom of Norway, said the statement.

The statement added that this MoU included comprehensive dialogue and deliberations in the area of local governance, in order to facilitate transfer of competence between the two countries for strengthening local self-governance, including capacity building of institutions, focusing areas relating to achievement of Millennium Development goals, e-Governance, solution sharing and mobilization of resources.

Referring to the previous visit of an Indian delegation to Norway, the statement stated "the visit gave the Indian officials an insight into the structure and functioning of local governance - especially the Municipalities and the ombudsmen and the strategies to improve women's political leadership".

With a view to give shape to the Indo-Norway research agenda on decentralized governance, the Government of India (GoI) will sign a MoU with UN Women and bring out a grassroots orientation to the GOI-UN Women Programme on Promoting Women's Political Leadership, said the statement.

According to the statement, "under this programme a major thrust would be given to use the platform of the Gram Sabha in select districts in 5 states (Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka), so that the local governance can focus on issues like livelihood, security and entitlements from schemes which have an enduring impact on women's empowerment and gender equality".

The Norwegian Minister will meet V. Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs on Jan. 13.

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