Decentralizing Governance

Decentralizing Governance: Emerging Concepts and Practices

G. Shabbir Cheema
Dennis A. Rondinelli
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  • Book Info
    Decentralizing Governance
    Book Description:

    The trend toward greater decentralization of governance activities, now accepted as commonplace in the West, has become a worldwide movement. This international development& #151;largely a product of globalization and democratization& #151;is clearly one of the key factors reshaping economic, political, and social conditions throughout the world. Rather than the top-down, centralized decisionmaking that characterized communist economies and Third World dictatorships in the twentieth century, today's world demands flexibility, adaptability, and the autonomy to bring those qualities to bear. In this thought-provoking book, the first in a new series on Innovations in Governance, experts in government and public management trace the evolution and performance of decentralization concepts, from the transfer of authority within government to the sharing of power, authority, and responsibilities among broader governance institutions. This movement is not limited to national government& #151;it also affects subnational governments, NGOs, private corporations, and even civil associations. The contributors assess the emerging concepts of decentralization (e.g., devolution, empowerment, capacity building, and democratic governance). They detail the factors driving the movement, including political changes such as the fall of the Iron Curtain and the ascendance of democracy; economic factors such as globalization and outsourcing; and technological advances (e.g. increased information technology and electronic commerce). Their analysis covers many different contexts and regions. For example, William Ascher of Claremont McKenna College chronicles how decentralization concepts are playing out in natural resources policy, while Kadmeil Wekwete (United Nations) outlines the specific challenges to decentralizing governance in sub-Saharan Africa. In each case, contributors explore the objectives of a decentralizing strategy as well as the benefits and difficulties that will likely result.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-1390-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Gowher Rizvi and Guido Bertucci

    Few issues have created as much controversy over the past half century as how governments and political systems should be structured and how public policies should be made and implemented. Centralists generally believe that national political leaders and administrators know best how to provide security, promote economic growth, and maintain political stability. Those who argue for decentralization generally tend to have a more populist view. They tend to believe that the best public policies come from wide participation in public affairs and from local knowledge about how best to solve problems and meet the needs of citizens.

    Globalization has brought...

  4. 1 From Government Decentralization to Decentralized Governance
    (pp. 1-20)

    Concepts of decentralization have changed rapidly over the past quarter of a century in tandem with the evolution in thinking about governance. Until the early 1980s government and the state were generally perceived of interchangeably. Government was seen as the institutional embodiment of state sovereignty and as the dominant source of political and legal decisionmaking. In developing countries, debates over the structure, roles, and functions of government focused on the effectiveness of central power and authority in promoting economic and social progress and on the potential advantages and disadvantages of decentralizing authority to subnational units of administration, local governments, or...

  5. 2 Parallel and Partnership Approaches to Decentralized Governance: Experience in Weak States
    (pp. 21-42)

    Globalization brings many developing countries the benefits of international trade and investment and broader access to jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, information, education, and services. At the same time, however, it also increases access across national borders to a wide array of goods and services, including arms and weapons that have made it easier for disaffected factions in countries around the world to foment violent insurgencies, civil wars, and external invasions of weak states. The International Crisis Group counted eighty-two countries engaged in or recovering from some type of internal conflict in 2006.¹ Rebuilding postconflict countries and governments in weak states has...

  6. 3 Decentralization and Electronic Governance
    (pp. 43-55)

    Global trends show a general decline of trust in government. Polls evidence a steady erosion of public trust in authorities and institutions. Despite a diffusion of democratic systems, citizens seem increasingly disenchanted by civic engagement. Such low confidence in government is likely related to the perception that civil society is unable to influence government activities. Furthermore, the general perception of public corruption, of a lack of public expertise in the face of complex issues, and of incompetent political structures contribute to the public’s alienation from government and public affairs.

    Governance is essential but not sufficient to guarantee political trust.¹ To...

  7. 4 Local Governments That Perform Well: Four Explanations
    (pp. 56-74)

    Throughout the world, decentralization has created new responsibilities and expectations for local governments. And while the process of decentralization has brought significant new resources and power to local decisionmakers, it has also brought new pressures and concerns. Long bereft of authority and resources by highly centralized political systems, municipalities throughout the world are now grappling with how to carry out routine administration, provide good quality public services, and plan for the economic development of their localities. Institutions for local decisionmaking, in some cases atrophied from decades of centralization, are now being revived to take on complex problems. Service-providing organizations are...

  8. 5 Political Decentralization in Africa: Experiences of Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa
    (pp. 75-91)

    Historically, African countries have experienced fused, personalized, and at best highly centralized governance systems and practices. In precolonial times kings or traditional leaders represented basically all authority. During the colonial and immediate postcolonial periods governance was structured and practiced in a highly centralized manner. During military dictatorships, which in many countries replaced the immediate postcolonial governments, governance was practically personalized. The search for inclusive, involving, and participatory governance has taken the path of decentralization. Political and administrative reforms that have been going on in many countries in Africa, especially since the 1990s, have sought to break with the past through...

  9. 6 Devolution toward Democracy: Lessons for Theory and Practice from the Philippines
    (pp. 92-114)

    President Ferdinand E. Marcos justified putting the Philippines under martial law in 1972 by citing the primacy of bread over freedom.¹ In this he was echoing orthodox modernization theory, which states that development is the harbinger of all good things, including democracy. Fourteen years later, the still impoverished Filipinos ousted his dictatorship through the ultimate democratic weapon, “people power.” One of the main accomplishments of the post-Marcos redemocratization period was enactment of the Local Government Code. The code stood orthodox theory on its head. Its principal sponsor called it “the key to development,” and state policy declared democratizing local governance...

  10. 7 Decentralization, Deconcentration, and Poverty Reduction in the Asia Pacific
    (pp. 115-130)

    In the last twenty years or so political decentralization has become an integral component of the ruling paradigm of democratic governance reform in developing countries. In some countries domestic pressures for democratization and regional autonomy have constituted an imperative for central governments to promote political decentralization. In others the desire to emulate the devolutionary policies of neighbors and friends has also provided impetus for decentralization. But whatever the reason for decentralization, it appears that in all cases reformist governments have received strong support from Western donor countries and international financial institutions.

    Prominent among the reasons for this support appear to...

  11. 8 Fiscal Decentralization and Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations: Navigating a Viable Path to Reform
    (pp. 131-155)

    The ongoing wave of decentralization in developing countries invariably includes fiscal reforms—the assignment of expenditure and revenue responsibilities to subnational governments.¹ Many efforts, however, even those that closely follow key reform principles, are usually at best modestly successful. In this chapter I consider why this has been a difficult area of reform and argue that analysts need to think about it differently.

    The concept of fiscal decentralization is somewhat artificial in the sense that it cannot be isolated from broader reforms. Subnational governments with weak political accountability and institutional capacity are unlikely to use resources well. The reverse, however,...

  12. 9 Government Decentralization and Decentralized Governance in Latin America: The Silent Revolution of the Local Level?
    (pp. 156-169)

    During much of the twentieth century, Latin American governments maintained strong tendencies toward centralization. This was partly due to the need to take actions to control violent or revolutionary processes earlier in the century and to the need, later, for strong policies to overcome regional inequality and heterogeneity. In addition, a centralized political and administrative system had been strongly rooted in Latin American culture since pre-Hispanic times.

    However, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the Latin American centralized model began to be seen as an obstacle to development. The world economy began to transform itself at an accelerated...

  13. 10 Devolution with Accountability: Learning from Good Practices
    (pp. 170-188)

    The devolution of powers and resources to local governments is essential to promote sustainable decentralization in developing countries. Local governments with decisionmaking powers and ability to raise resources through their own mechanisms are able to play a catalytic role in the development process. Furthermore, citizens are more likely to actively participate in the local political process where local government is perceived to be sufficiently autonomous in making political decisions affecting them. This improves the quality of the local democratic process.

    One of the challenges in promoting devolution in developing countries, however, is that frequently the local elite captures services and...

  14. 11 Decentralization and Participatory Local Governance: A Decision Space Analysis and Application to Peru
    (pp. 189-211)

    Analyses of decentralization take a variety of perspectives on the concept. From an initial concentration on decentralization as a state-centered enterprise by which central government allocates resources and authorities to lower levels to improve administrative and service delivery effectiveness, this focus has expanded to look beyond the state to government’s relationship with citizens. Democratic decentralization involves citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens’ needs and preferences as important components of state-society restructuring to enact democratic governance throughout a society.

    So in addition to expected improvements in efficient and effective public service delivery, decentralizers seek improved democratic governance outcomes through the enhanced...

  15. 12 Challenges to Decentralized Governance in Weak States
    (pp. 212-228)

    Within the international development community the Scandinavian countries are among the most ardent advocates of decentralization. They have their own long history of how decentralization has helped foster democracy. To this day, local governments in those countries raise and retain more public tax revenue than elsewhere. A great number of core government functions are controlled and managed by local authorities.

    To understand the challenges that exist in trying to foster decentralized forms of governance in weak states, it is instructive to look at the factors that explain the success of the Scandinavian countries. Decentralized governance was not concocted and imposed...

  16. 13 Decentralization and Legal Empowerment of the Poor
    (pp. 229-241)

    The past twenty-five years have seen significant shifts in geopolitics, the global environment, globalization, security, poverty, and economic inequality. These shifts create both new challenges and new opportunities for action. The 1980s, for example, witnessed a new wave in environmental consciousness, culminating in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—the Rio Summit—in 1992. In 1989, the end of the cold war ushered in a new era of geopolitics that brought the rethinking of development cooperation.Governanceentered the development cooperation lexicon as a means of examining and better understanding how politics and power affect development opportunities and...

  17. 14 Decentralization to Promote Effective and Efficient Pro-Poor Infrastructure and Service Delivery in the Least-Developed Countries
    (pp. 242-265)

    What does it take to have decentralization programs that promote effective and efficient infrastructure and services? What does it take to have decentralization that is pro-poor and that addresses the needs of the excluded and marginalized citizens? What systems need to be put in place at local levels to ensure long-term sustainability of local programs? The answers to all these critical questions are very complex and require careful understanding of the historical, social, administrative, and political systems prevailing in countries that seek to promote decentralization. This chapter examines some of the practical consequences of decentralization and highlights some examples of...

  18. 15 Designing Decentralized Coastal Management Programs
    (pp. 266-291)

    One of the most sobering realities about contemporary natural resource management and environmental protection is how difficult it is to translate environmental goals into effective action. The result is what might be called an “implementation gap.” This implementation gap refers to inconsistencies between policy goals conceived at one level or branch of government and the translation of those goals into specific resource management activities at another level or by other agencies.¹ It also refers to the gap between management actions at all levels of government and actual improvement in environmental conditions.

    These implementation gaps are not a new concern, but...

  19. 16 Issues and Best Practices in the Decentralization of Natural Resource Control in Developing Countries
    (pp. 292-306)

    Many national governments wrested control over natural resources away from former resource exploiters at various times during the twentieth century, but are now in the process of considering or implementing the devolution of control to private individuals, community groups, or subnational governments.¹ The outcomes of these initiatives are often crucial not only because of the wealth generated from the resources but also to the well-being of the local populations, the health of the ecosystems, and even the levels of armed conflict within these countries. This chapter reviews the issues and best practices regarding the decentralization of natural resource control, covering...

  20. Contributors
    (pp. 307-312)
  21. Index
    (pp. 313-326)