Practice Advice on Cities, Urban and Regional Development
Decentralization and Improving Urban Governance (UNDP)
Summary Advice: The UNDP has set out a number of lessons learned for improving good governance by effectively supporting decentralization and improving urban life.
Main Points: Below is a summary of UNDP’s lessons learned in improving good governance at the local level and decentralizing political authority.
- Successful decentralization entails a commitment on the part of the central government to strengthen local governments and encourage community participation, as well as the provision of financial support and access to technical assistance for local authorities.
- Local ownership of the decentralisation process at both the central and local levels is essential for the creation of a constituency of support and the stimulation of resource mobilisation efforts in support of the process.
- The building of the advocacy role of local authorities and organizations is essential to ensuring that they are not passed over in central planning processes.
- The development of inclusive local participatory processes is essential to challenging traditional power structures at the central government level, empowering civil society, addressing the concerns of local groups and minorities, strengthening the cohesiveness of the state at the national level, and strengthening democratic processes in general.
- The decentralization of responsibilities to local governments should be accompanied by the decentralization of power over financial resources and control.
- The success of decentralization initiatives depend heavily on the implementation of a multi-level approach that works with the legislature and judiciary at the same time as strengthening local agencies, thus developing the appropriate enabling environment for decentralisation to take place.
- The use of the media and public meetings to advocate concepts of decentralisation are important in creating a national consensus on reform.
- The decentralization process requires flexibility and sensitivity as it often involves changing power structures.
- National implementation arrangements need to be able to build a heightened sense of ownership for the decentralisation project among central bureaucrats and local leaders.
- Stronger cooperation with the international community is needed to prepare cities to deal with their new roles as social and economic actors and ensure that globalisation benefits the urban poor.
- The use of multi-stakeholder partnerships that promote shared responsibility among citizens, governments, NGO’s and the private sector are good alternatives to the traditional master planning approaches in ensuring more participatory urban development.
- Improving the self-reliance of urban administrators by working with the private sector and civil society is important in the successful implementation of urban governance.
Source: UNDP (1997). Management Development and Governance Division, "UNDP AND GOVERNANCE: Experiences and Lessons Learned" Lessons-Learned Series No. 1 at http://mirror.undp.org/magnet/docs/gov/Lessons1.htm#1.3 (accessed 01 November 2012).
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