Strengthening Local Self-Governance through Community Unions - Brief Description


Governments are beginning to decentralise some political, fiscal and/or administrative responsibilities to lower level governments and to the private sector. The process is particularly widespread in developing countries, often for different reasons:

  • In Africa due to the advent of multiparty political systems
  • In South America due to the deepening of democratization
  • In Eastern Europe, based on the transition from a command to a market economy
  • In East Asia the need to improve delivery of local services to large population in the centralized countries
  • In South Asia and Caucasus the challenge of ethnic and geographic diversity, ethnic tensions and the attempt to keep centrifugal forces at bay by forging asymmetrical federations
  • In other countries the simple reality is that central governments have failed to provide effective public services.

Decentralisation is a crosscutting reform and it touches upon: the relation between fiscal and financial development, macroeconomic stability, poverty alleviation and the social safety net, institutional capacity, corruption, and governance, investment in infrastructure and the provision of social services.

Local self-government is one form in which decentralisation can be undertaken. As directly elected representatives of the people, the local self-government is expected to resolve the problems of community importance. The shift of authority from the upper levels to the lower makes possible the citizens’ wider participation in decision-making.

Central governments are not always willing to delegate sufficient authority and power to the local self-governance. While decision-making authority is often devolved, financial and fiscal authority remains in the ambit of central government. This weakens local self-governments making it easier for the central government administration to “divide and rule”, mostly simply through the ad hoc allocation of resources. This can be negated if the local self-governments actively cooperate amongst each other and when they are treated as equal partners in the development process by the central government.

The methods of federating local self-governments into community associations, unions or councils has proved a successful approach for further strengthening the process of democratisation, good governance, accountability, transparency and public participation