Strengthening Local Self-Governance through Community Unions - Advantages and Limitations

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  • Provides a forum for individual local self-governments to jointly discuss common problems and solutions
  • By uniting as a group the union can counteract a strongly centralised public administration
  • Is an additional method for fostering greater transparency, efficiency and accountability of local self-governance
  • By requiring local self-self governments to prepare development plans using participatory procedures, CU’s in conjunction with development funds aim to re-orient mayors to pay less attention to their political “clients” and more to broader community needs.
  • By openly including communities in the project cycle, they have helped rebuild some community faith in public institutions to provide essential services, and communities appreciate their own role and responsibilities in these activities
  • By using transparent and objective criteria to fund projects, development funds foster accountability by reducing discretion and establishing clear rules of the game that can be enforced.
  • By demonstrating the benefits of the CU’s and development fund methodology, this has encouraged greater responsiveness amongst many local governments
  • Democratises the approach for allocating scarce resources.
  • Provides the means by which funds can be delivered rapidly and efficiently to the intended beneficiaries.
  • Establishes greater inter-community coordination, prioritisation and implementation of developmental needs.
  • Allows for a multi-stakeholder dialogue on development related issues, which in turn is the first step towards some form of strategic regional development.
  • Reduces the overall costs of projects through community contributions and competition between communities.
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  • The union’s reliance on “external” funds is difficult to change, especially with the poor tax bases available to them.
  • There is a risk that the union’s see themselves more in the role of being a “donor” rather than being a service provider.
  • Conflicts related to the allocation of limited resources may escalate tensions, such as ethno-political tensions) unless the process of competing for limited resources is not properly managed.
  • Not always possible or effective to balance needs of larger towns with small communities.
  • Need for strong checks and balances to ensure council mayors do not use the union to promote their own personal interests.
  • Central government may gain the impression that the union is in pursuit of regional autonomy.
  • Central government and the treasury are often unwilling to channel their development resources through the unions
  • Provincial and district administrations continue to want to “control” the unions.

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