What is the State of Local Participatory Democracy?

 LPSI News posted by Administrator
 March 9, 2014

 Cover of Local Participary Democracy Report

One of the most important factors needed to achieve human development has been largely missing from the international agenda: democratic decentralization, and the establishment of local governance that is responsive, transparent, effective and participatory.

Some observers are hopeful that the local public sector will garner greater attention from the global development community as it shifts its focus to achieving inclusive and sustainable development beyond 2015. For instance, the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 agenda noted that "[l]ocal authorities form a vital bridge between national governments, communities and citizens and will have a critical role in a new global partnership... Local authorities have a critical role in setting priorities, executing plans, monitoring results and engaging with local firms and communities."

In spite of the Local Public Sector Initiative's ongoing research efforts, there is no consistent database that tracks the degree of decentralization in countries around the world, nor are there agreed-upon measures or benchmarks of participatory local governance. To remedy that situation, the UN Democracy Fund is supporting the Hunger Project to develop a multidimensional Participatory Local Democracy Index.

Following a series of consultations with experts in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, a five-dimensional index was developed. The five dimensions of Participatory Local Democracy being assessed include (1) Active Citizenry and the Empowerment of Women; (2) Political Mandate; (3) Administrative Decentralization; (4) Fiscal Decentralization; and (5) Multi-stakeholder Planning.

Surveys were conducted among practitioners worldwide to measure both the legal structure and perceptions of how well it is being implemented. The key findings from the analysis validate the instincts of many practitioners: (a) laws are in place in many countries to move government closer to the people, (b) implementation is widely perceived to be lagging, and (c) decentralization faces significant challenges that must be addressed for local governance to play its vital role as a vehicle for sustainable, people-centered development.

The authors of the report hope that this initiative will contribute to mainstreaming participatory local democracy in development policies and programs, ensuring that people's fundamental human right to participate in public affairs is assured.