Document Text (Pages 71-80) Back to Document

Community Capacity and Governance – New Approaches to Development and Evaluation

by Banyai, Cindy Lyn, PhD

Page 71

Figure 4 illustrates the relationship between social norms, leadership, and community
capacity. It demonstrates that when social norms that are beneficial to organizational
development are introduced and implemented by a capable leader then the entire organization
can and will emulate such behaviors. The result of this shift in social norms, particularly when
they are norms that are conducive to development and productivity, is a strengthening of the
overall community capacity and the institutionalization of these norms. This concept is
explained visually here by Koichi Miyoshi (2006) and is consistent with Fukuyama’s (2007)
point on the necessity of positive social norm formulation to promote the effectiveness of
decentralized authority and community capacity. However, before the rigid institutionalization
of these norms, the sustainability of these norms is highly contingent on the integrity of the
leadership, as pointed out by Fukuyama (2004). This basic concept provides the support for
capacity building efforts in terms of leadership development.

Governance is important because it determines growth, development, and poverty alleviation
(Kaufmann et al., 2002, p. ii). Fukuyama (2004) agrees that governance, particularly problems
with governance, is the core issue with development (p. 3). Finding solutions to governance
issues leads to better development outcomes (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 3). This demonstrates the
important link between development and governance, with governance being the primary
mechanism through which development can occur and human conditions can be improved.
Well-functioning governance structures are necessary for successful policy (Cling,
Razafindrakoto, & Roubaud, 2002b, p. 156). Overall sustainability is nurtured, in part, by a
willingness of formal governance to open opportunities to connect with informal governance
(O’Riordan & Church, 2001, p. 22).

Building a capacity for governance within government, organizations, individuals, and
communities can lead to better and more effective policy and development. Capacity, both in
terms of administrative and community capacity, is important for effective governance
(McGuire, Rubin, Agranoff, & Richards, 1994, p. 426). Capacity building for good governance
can be seen as an outcome in itself (UNDP, 1997, pp. 9-10).


Page 72

While it may be important to build capacity for governance and development, there needs to
be a starting point for such capacity building endeavors. Understanding the causes and
consequences of governance requires an assessment of these changes, as well as an
understanding of the ways that the political process copes with conflicts and produces decisions
(Pierre & Peters, 2000, pp. 25, 31). This work seeks to support the progress of good governance
by offering a conceptual framework for policy, community capacity building, and an innovative
evaluation method that actively involves citizens in governance.

1.1. Democracy and participatory governance

Democracy has become the prominent form of governance around the world. From the early
2000s there are more democratic states than nondemocratic states (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007,
p. 8). Having a free and democratic state is a good option for governance because societies that
rely heavily on the use of force are less efficient, more costly, and more unpleasant than those
where trust is maintained by other means (Paxton, 1999, p. 104; Putnam, 1993, p. 165). The
denial of political and civil rights is a deprivation, and democracy, having a participatory and
open political system, is important to the pursuit of freedom and development (Sen, 1999, p. 35).
These points add to the pro-democracy argument and undermine the advocates of

Participation in governance has been growing in popularity and democracy is the most
widely known and practiced form of participatory governance. In fact, democratization is
participation on a macro-level and is increasingly a condition of national scale development
(Pieterse, 1998, p. 369). Democratic governance provides an institutional framework for citizen
participation in economic and political processes and promotes human rights (Cheema &
Rondinelli, 2007, p. 6). Democracy is defined as a political system in which the people share in
directing the activities of the state and can be expanded to describe a philosophy that insists on
the right and the capacity of a people, acting either directly or through representatives, to control
their institutions for their own purposes (NDI, 2009, p. 16).

Equal opportunities, contributing to the development of civil society and promoting social
justice are ensured through democracy (Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. xv; see also Cheema &
Rondinelli, 2007, p. 6). In fact, democracy is goal of development by itself (Kaufman, 1997, p.
5). Democratic countries tend to have a better respect for human rights and are less externally
aggressive (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 114). When it is fully operational, democracy is the most
powerful force a community has to meet its physical and social needs, making outcomes more
easily accomplished and promoting the cultivation of proactive community actors (Pavey et al.,
2007, p. 92).

Democracy has many virtues; however good governance should be promoted, not only
democracy (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 140). This is not to diminish the importance of democracy, but
rather reinforces the idea that good governance is not possible without democracy and public
participation, particularly to promote effective bureaucratic functions and reduce corruption
through transparency and public knowledge (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 141).

The quest for democracy and justice has often been politicized or used to cover for other
policy motives such as regime change (Carothers, 2006, pp. 55, 64). Modern democracy has also
been criticized because of its departure from the concepts of individual autonomy and a
culturally neutral state (Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 9). This came as a result of nation building that
focused on creating linguistically and culturally homogenous nations, thereby excluding and


Page 73

repressing minorities and dissent (Gaarder et al., 2003, p. 9). However, democracy as a concept
continues to be the preferred model of governance, despite its various corruptions around the

Neoconservatives, such as Francis Fukuyama, feel that the superiority of democratic states
leads to an imperative to shape non-democratic countries’ institutions (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 114),
sometimes leading to regime change. Any way that the democratic institutional shaping goes,
those who benefit from authoritarianism will decry the efforts of those pushing participation and
power redistribution. Often times, the political opposition to democracy is merely an excuse for
repression and retention of power (Carothers, 2006, p. 62). Furthermore, the participatory
process creates demands on democracy that developing countries and local authorities, as well as
the Bretton Woods Institutions, may not be able to handle (Cling et al., 2002b, p. 178; Dobbs &
Moore, 2002, p. 158). A practical inclusion of participatory practices in democracy is necessary.

Participation is defined as the “process through which stakeholders influence and share
control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations and access to public goods and
services (Cling et al., 2002b, p. 154).” NDI (2009) defines participation as “the act of sharing in
the activities of a civil society organization, political party, or political process; the condition of
sharing in common with others (p. 41).” NDI (2009) goes on to note that “participation is a right
and responsibility of citizens in a democracy, through issue-oriented civil society organizations
and/or political parties (p. 41).” Participatory governance requires a population of clients who
can articulate their demands effectively and a collection of organizations that are concerned with
delivering holistic services, it relies as well on the willingness of citizens to become active
participants in the political and administrative process (Peters, 2001, p. 188).

Those who had been previously excluded can develop voice and organizational capacity
through participation (Kaufman, 1997, p. 7). This means that inclusion and participation in
governance itself means a reduction of poverty in terms of a reduction in exclusion and
marginalization (Cling et al., 2002a, p. 13). Furthermore, participation really only has meaning
if it contributes to the development of democracy, especially through the promotion of
information dissemination and transparency (Cling et al., 2002a, p. 13).

Opening up participation to various stakeholders in society has an impact on the way national
affairs are conducted (Cling et al., 2002a, p. 13). Participation becomes an important part of the
formulation of effective policy because local people have the greatest wealth of knowledge of
their own experience and situation (Dobbs & Moore, 2002, p. 159). Participatory governance
lends itself to policy making and evaluation that respects the experience and opinions of local
people, such as collaborative inquiry (see Chapter Four).

However, participation by citizens is often conceived of in a passive way, relegating them to
mere information givers or consultants, rather than actively contributing to the decision making
process (Cling et al., 2002b, p. 173). Manipulative and tokenistic approaches to participation
should be rejected in lieu of a move toward partnership and empowerment (Dobbs & Moore,
2002, p. 158). Issues with participation may lead to those with power imposing their point of
view, limiting the involvement of other stakeholders, or the avoidance of socially divisive issues,
severely limiting the effectiveness of policy (Cling et al., 2002b, p. 173; Dobbs & Moore, 2002,
p. 162).

The participatory process in governance requires active involvement of sections of society in
the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of policy (Cling et al., 2002b, p. 154;
Dobbs & Moore, 2002, p. 159). Local participation can also be described as civic republicanism
where the collective and participatory engagement of citizens in the determination of the affairs


Page 74

of their community is depicted by their active involvement in political debate and decisionmaking
(Hickey & Mohan, 2005, p. 253).

In order to have the capacity to participate a community must have the economic, cultural,
political and social ability to define what is desirable, what is good, as well as the nature of their
reality (Kaufman, 1997, p. 8). Sometimes democratic institutions need to be created and they are
difficult to establish (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 117; Uslaner & Dekker, 2001, p.177). This is because
high performing democratic institutions must be both responsive and effective: sensitive to the
demands of its constituents and effective in using limited resources to address those demands
(Putnam, 1993, p. 9).

Capacity building in terms of local technical and institutional capabilities, communication
structures, and skills in facilitating the participatory process are important to bring about
ownership, participation empowerment, accountability, and resource management (Cling,
Razafindrakoto, & Roubaud, 2002a, p. 14; Cling et al., 2002b, p. 175; Fellizar, Velo, &
Bernardo, 2002, p. 30). This work expands upon the concept of community capacity so that it
can be better used as an analytical framework to improve development policy and alleviate

Furthermore, building social capital, like through community capacity building, is important
for making democracy work (Paxton, 1999, p. 103; Putnam, 1993, p. 185; Uslaner & Dekker,
2001, p. 185). Using community building activities that also benefit policy making and
governance, such as participatory photo evaluation, can build social capital.

The cause for democracy promotion around the world is better served if there is a definite
change to emphasize capacity building such as local election capacity, backing for local NGOs,
training and equipment for local organizations, the development of local networks, and not
regime change (Carothers, 2006, p. 60). Even the experience with democracy promotion of the
United States in the 1970s showed that soft power was effective; supporting instruments such as
democratic pressure, funding to prodemocracy groups, public diplomacy, and training can
facilitate democratic transition (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 133).

It is hard to identify precisely the effect that participation has on policy decisions (Cling et
al., 2002a, p. 13; Dobbs & Moore, 2002, p. 158). Furthermore, there is not much discussion or
understanding of the mechanisms that can be used to promote the formation of democratic
institutions (Fukuyama, 2006, p. 117). However, what is known is that grassroots democracy is
based on context, formulated under the development of theme, such as a collective sense of
community or vision, and requires the empowerment of local people to participate accordingly
(Sastry & Srinivasan, 2007, p. 380). Although it may be difficult to establish or measure
participatory methods in democracy and policy making, developing a bottom-up, grassroots
democracy contributes to human development and poverty alleviation.

It has been established that participation is important in governance and policy-making and
that democracy is the most suitable political system to accommodate participation. Public
administration has a role in democracy in as such that its theories and methods are the practical
implementation of democratic systems. Furthermore, it should be noted that public
administration is oriented toward values, not facts, and is not neutral based on the claim of
technical expertise and power by administrators (Waldo, 1948, p. xix). This means that public
administration theories and methodologies need to be examined and refined to ensure that they
consistently support the principles of democracy and participatory governance in their real world


Page 75

1.2. Local governance

The aims of development and policy making should be to make our lives easier and more
fruitful, to make our spaces safer, and to provide for a sustainable future. As many international
donors and others involved with development have recognized, these goals must be achieved
through a focus on the local community (Friedmann, 1992, p. 2; Fukuda-Parr, Lopes, & Malik,
2002; Weisman, 1998) and the localization of actions and policy (High & Nemes, 2007, p. 105;
Stokely, 1995; Woodlard, 1992, p. 306; Robinson, 1997, p. 25). The ability of the community to
better perform their community functions is related to participatory governance and the ability of
the community to effectively participate. However, as governance and development aid have
been moving toward localization and involving local stakeholders, many failures and missteps
have been made, largely due to a lack of understanding of their own community capacity and the
ability to tailor their programs to it appropriately (Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007; Balassanian,
2006; Frederickson & London, 2000; Olowu, 1989, p. 201; Sachs, 2005 p. 73).

For instance, in the Philippines, some community development programs for rural areas
suffered from poor planning, poor implementation, overly complex design, inflexibility in
adapting to local conditions, and lack of participation by beneficiaries (Quibria 1993, p. 62).
Many of these problems could be overcome through an increase in community capacity at the
local level, as well as utilizing participatory governance. This reflects the call for participation in
poverty alleviation policy-making where local stakeholders can share control, which is a concept
supported by many international development organizations, including the WB (Cling et al.,
2002b, p. 154; Rietbergen-McCracken & Narayan, 1998, p. 4; Salmen & Kane, 2006; WB,

Local governance emphasizes locality, accountability to local people, and the provision of
regulatory economic and social services (Olowu, 1989, p. 205). The participation of local
people, in terms of direction and control of community affairs, is pivotal in local governance
(Olowu, 1989, p. 205). Local governance contributes to democracy by building political and
organizational capacity and developing local leaders, as well as directly providing a check on
higher administrative levels to ensure transparency and accountability (Olowu, 1989, p. 205).

Local governments are dependent on their local tax and business base, and local people are
dependent on their local economy and identity (Cox & Mair, 1988, pp. 331, 312). Although the
interests of local people, government, and business may run counter to one another (Cox & Mair,
1988, p. 314), it can be seen that there is a necessity to take these local interests into
consideration. Reflexiveness to locality is integral to policy implementation (Gittel & Vidal,
1998, p. 173).

Local governance reform must be successfully linked to an approach to development that
addresses the needs of the community, particularly structural inequalities (Hickey & Mohan,
2005, p. 244). Furthermore, participation of local people in development is important for
economic reasons, mobilizing resources, and ensuring sustainability of an initiative after its
introduction (Olowu, 1989, pp. 201-202).

While it is necessary to include local stakeholders in a proactive way to ensure the success of
development and the prudence of policy, this does not mean that their involvement occurs
without the assistance of the government. Without the involvement of the governing body,
particularly the local government, improvements in the lives of the poor cannot be successfully
undertaken (Friedmann, 1992, p. 7). Local empowerment requires a strong state that is
responsive and accountable to its citizens (Friedmann, 1992, p. 35).


Page 76

Interest in the development of local institutions came after the development failures of the
1970s and 1980s (Olowu, 1989, p. 201). Capacity building at the local level is important for
effective local governance. This is particularly true for the development of a comprehensive
local policy structure, rather than simply addressing problems as they come along in a disjointed
fashion (Grogan, 1981, p. 650). Public-private partnerships have become a popular way to
enhance the capacity of political institutions at the local level (Pierre & Peters, 2000, p. 90).

Local administrative capacity is determined by capability in policy management, resource
management, and program management (Gorgan, 1981, p. 650). Policy management requires
community assessment, goal setting, evaluation of management functions, the establishment of
priorities and the mobilization and allocation of resources appropriately, and proper planning and
implementation of a policy structure (Grogan, 1981, p. 650). Resource management is the
creation and support of administrative tools to utilize an organization’s basic capabilities and
includes personnel administration, property management, information management, and
financial management (Grogan, 1981, p. 650). Program management is specifically related to
the execution of components of a policy structure (policies, programs, and projects) and provides
leadership for the agencies that provide public services (Gorgan, 1981, p. 650). In order to
achieve capacity building for local governance, a different approach to training public officials
must be taken with an emphasis on the importance of individual and collective choice, multiorganizational
arrangements, and the limitations of hierarchy (Olowu, 1989, pp. 225-226).

Although there are many positive aspects of local governance, one of the drawbacks is that it
may put more power in the hands of local elites (Pierre & Peters, 2000, p. 89), rather than the
community. This is a critique that is also apparent in the discussion on decentralization, which
has been called the “decentralization of corruption.” These criticisms can be avoided with a true
and consorted effort to combine participatory governance with local governance.

Local governance is discussed here because of the critical role it plays in successful
development and poverty alleviation. Poor local governance typically precludes participatory
measures and involves corruption, which have been shown to lead to ineffective policy
formulation, inhibited development, and exacerbated poverty. This work focuses on the
promotion of local participatory governance as the main mode through which community
capacity is built and sustained; thus reducing the effects of poverty and facilitating development.

1.3. Decentralization and localization

Changes in local governance by the mid 2000s were characterized by more competitive
elections, opportunities for leadership, the introduction of new technologies, and broader citizen
engagement brought about by democratization and decentralization (Grindle, 2007, p. 69).
Decentralization is a mainstay in public administration reform and is now being practiced to
varying degrees in many countries around the world (Olowu, 1989, p. 201; Peters, 2001, p. 193;
Pierre & Peters, 2000, p. 87). The recent trend in globalization and the increasing importance of
governments’ accountability, transparency, and responsibility has promoted decentralization of
political power and economic authority (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 2). By the early 1990s,
84% of countries with a population more than five million had undertaken some form of
decentralization (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 8).

Calls for decentralization increased as governments and aid agencies moved away from
theories of central economic planning and trickle-down economics toward human and
participatory development, (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 3), as well as from minority groups


Page 77

and citizens who had a growing lack of confidence in the ability of central authorities to serve
them (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 4). Decentralization makes government more accountable
to the people and increases the quality of democracy (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 70). This is due in
part because the centralization of power and authority makes the identification of interests harder
to assess and decision making less effective (Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. 7). Centralized
authority also supports and maintains power elite whose interests are likely to diverge from the
public (Figueira-McDonough, 2001, p. 7).

Globalization is also increasing the need and desire for decentralization. Globalization is
deconcentrating economic activity; requiring local authorities have the ability to regulate and
make decisions on economic matters, as well as to facilitate the participation of individuals and
enterprises in the global market and benefit from such participation (Cheema & Rondinelli,
2007, p. 5).

Decentralization is the transfer of authority, responsibility, and resources - through
deconcentration, delegation, or devolution - from the center to lower levels of administration
(Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 1). The concept and practice of decentralization broadened
through the 1980s to include political power sharing, democratization, market liberalization, and
an expansion of the scope for private sector decision making, and later in the 1990s grew into a
way to open governance to the participation of civil society (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, pp. 2-

There are three primary forms of decentralization: 1) deconcentration – transfer of some
administrative authority and administrative to regional and local field offices and staff; 2)
devolution – granting local governments authority, responsibility, and resources to provide
services, infrastructure, public health and safety, and formulate and implement local policies; and
3) delegation – shifting management authority to semiautonomous organizations, regional
planning and area development agencies, and multi- or single public authorities (Cheema &
Rondinelli, 2007, p. 3).

Decentralization can be categorized further into four types:
1. administrative decentralization - deconcentration of central government
structures and bureaucracies, delegation of central government authority
and responsibility to semiautonomous agents of the state, and
decentralized cooperation of government agencies performing similar
functions through twinning arrangements across national borders;
2. political decentralization - includes organization and procedures for
increasing citizen participation in selecting political representatives and in
making public policy, changes in the structure of the government through
devolution of powers to authority to local units of government, power
sharing institutions within the state through federalism, constitutional
federations, or autonomous regions; and institutions and procedures
allowing freedom of association and participation of civil society
organization in public decision making, in providing socially beneficial
services, and in mobilizing social and financial resources to influence
political decision making;
3. fiscal decentralization - means and mechanisms for fiscal cooperation in
sharing public revenues among all levels of government, fiscal delegation
in public revenue raising and expenditure allocation, fiscal autonomy for
state, regional, or local governments; and


Page 78

4. economic decentralization - market liberalization, deregulations,
privatization of state enterprises, and public-private partnerships (Cheema
& Rondinelli, 2007, p. 7).

In any given national context, there can be any configuration or combination of these four
types of decentralization at any level of governance. Decentralization is not only the transfer of
power, authority, and responsibility within government, but also the sharing of authority and
resources for shaping policy with the community and society at large (Cheema & Rondinelli,
2007, p. 6). Decentralization is a key component of participatory governance and requires the
institutionalization of participation in terms of election, hearings, and budgeting (Hickey &
Mohan, 2005, p. 242; see also Alfonso, 1997).

Additionally, decentralization has made the role of the local administrator more important,
especially in relation to the involvement of the community and participatory practices.
“Government organizations are now being placed under increasing pressure to accommodate the
interests of low-level employees, as well as those of their clients (community members), into the
decision making process (Peters, 2001, p. 8).” The government partnership activities that
accompany participatory governance and decentralized authority rely heavily on the ability of the
community to respond to these activities.

The benefits of decentralization, if crafted appropriately depending on the context and
implemented properly, include: a) economic development; b) political accountability; c)
enhanced public participation; d) the facilitation of administrative functions; e) a reduction in
bureaucratic red tape; f) the ability for decisions to be made and implemented quickly; g) an
increase in resources for local governments; h) an increased flexibility and responsiveness of
governance; i) an increased amount of cooperation between government, private sector, and civil
society to meet the needs of society; j) balanced regional development; k) community
empowerment; l) public-private partnerships for development; m) increased institutional and
organizational capacity; and n) local ownership of development initiatives (Cheema &
Rondinelli, 2007, p. 7).

Additionally, the increased amount of information technology and decreased technology
costs makes decentralization more cost efficient than centralization (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 69).
This allows nations to better balance their budgets and curb public expenditure, especially at the
central government level (Pierre & Peters, 2000, p. 88). With these positive points on
decentralization in mind, it becomes clear that decentralization is a benefit to citizens in their
daily lives and to the efficient functioning of all levels of administration.

The localization of policy structure and evaluation is a mechanism of decentralization
because they both function on the concept of delegated discretion, i.e. enabling people with
immediate access to information to make decisions (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 44). Bureaucracies,
particularly in developing countries, lose productivity without delegated discretion (Grindle,
1990, p. 221), further reinforcing the importance of decentralization and localization.

Localization does not necessarily accompany decentralization, although it should.
Devolution of power and resources to local authorities is the foundation for sustainable
decentralization (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 9). However, some centralized authorities see
decentralization as a way to extend their power into various localities, causing some skepticism
(Olowu, 1989, p. 202). Local self-governance must be considered an important twin concept to
decentralization. Devolution of authority to local levels offers communities the opportunity to
better plan and achieve desired outcomes by allowing them to tailor regulations and programs to
fit local circumstances (Pavey et al., 2007, p. 91). Localization is more akin to contextualization


Page 79

and empowerment of local authorities to control policy and fiscal decisions, whereas there are
varying degrees of decentralized authority.

Varying interpretations and implementations of decentralization, as well as a general
reluctance to devolve power, particularly from senior level bureaucrats, has lead to many
disappointments and failures in decentralization (Olowu, 1989, pp. 202, 219). This could be due
in part to the continued need for differentiated and pluralistic societies with fragmented
institutional systems to have collective steering, planning and consensus building (Hesse 1991 as
cited in Rhodes, 1997, p. 195). While decentralization is better suited for strategic public
management, central authorities will continue to staunchly preserve their roles and capabilities
(Rhodes, 1997, p. 195).

Developing countries in particular fail to deliver in practice what decentralization promises in
theory (Blunt & Turner, 2007, p. 115; Olowu, 1989, p. 202). Decentralization has failed to live
up to expectations in its ability to overcome socio-economic disparities and elude systems of
patronage, the likelihood of elite capture, and its tendency to be undermined by socio-cultural
norms (Hickey & Mohan, 2005, p. 243; see also Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 8).
Administrative decentralization (deconcentration) has been criticized as not focusing enough on
local self governance, even when decentralization policy is outlined to include local governance
(devolution) (Olowu, 1989, p. 218).

Dele Olowu (1989) outlines two basic reasons for the failure of decentralization programs in
Africa: 1) too many demands for coordination and development activity on administrative
systems that lack capacity; and 2) a failure to address the social and political issues that
decentralization raises, for instance how to create incentives for local resource mobilization and
investment and active participation of local actors (p. 219).

Blunt and Turner (2007) have identified seven obstacles to the implementation of
decentralization. These obstacles are:
1. parochialism, which encourages disunity;
2. the shedding of functions by governments unwilling or unable to take
fiscal responsibility for services;
3. central authorities maintaining control through regulations;
4. elite capture;
5. the unpopularity of decentralization among citizens or civil servants;
6. limited local capacity; and
7. the exclusion of the poor and marginalized through manipulation or
passive participation (Blunt & Turner, 2007, p. 117).

The obstacles described by Blunt and Turner share some of the issued outlined by Hickey
and Mohan, such as elite capture, but are more specific in terms of the roots of the limitations of
decentralization (see also Fukuyama, 2004, p. 71). Cheema and Rondinelli (2007) and Olowu
(1989) also concur that limited local capacity for administration in government systems and civil
society also causes problems with decentralization. Olowu (1989) also adds that the structure of
politics and the political economy of underdevelopment contribute to failures in decentralization
(p. 202).

Participatory activities in decentralization are not continually implemented as planned and
vary widely from country to country (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 8). Furthermore, a mere
expansion of civil society organizations does not unanimously facilitate true empowerment
(Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 9). Full engagement of civil society in policy making and


Page 80

decentralization leads to support and legitimacy for government initiatives, preservations of the
interests of local people, and better access to basic services (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 15).

Blunt and Turner (2007) argue that if poverty reduction was the main focus of public
administration reforms, instead of participatory governance and democracy, then decentralization
would be more effective (p. 116). This may be a logical retort to the critique that democracy
pushes have been over politicized and used as a guise for regime change by some western

Furthermore, in terms of poverty reduction, administrative deconcentration, which can also
be described as localization, is proffered as having more potential effectiveness than political
decentralization because it is accompanied by decision making authority and fiscal resources, as
well as increased popular active participation (Blunt & Turner, 2007, p. 119). However,
deconcentration can incur problems as well such as: a) the dysfunctions of the central
bureaucracy being replicated at the local level; b) public officials who are disinterested in
participatory methods; c) low local administrative capacity; d) unmotivated public officials
because of low salary or poor terms of employment; and e) low expectations in regards to results,
reforms, or service delivery by the community (Blunt & Turner, 2007, p. 120).

Although proponents of decentralization claim that it will lower public expenditure, it should
be noted that decentralization does not decrease the overall size of the administration, rather it
changes the division of labor within the bureaucracy, as well as the patterns of financial and
other responsibilities for administration and delivery of public services (Pierre & Peters, 2000, p.

Again, Blunt and Turner (2007) suggest seven requirements to make decentralization more
effective in poverty reduction:

1. accessibility of public officials and administrators;
2. mobilization of local resources;
3. rapid response to local needs;
4. orientation toward specific local needs;
5. training of field personnel to reflect reorientation towards the locality;
6. interoffice coordination through various administrative levels; and
7. focus of central agencies on improving quality of policy (P. 119).
These seven requirements place the emphasis on the locality, as well as delegate authority to
ensure that appropriate policy is crafted to meet the needs of local people. According to these
suggestions, the role of the central government is to direct policy and play a coordinating role
between various agencies and administrative levels, not the micro-management of local affairs.
Decentralization should be built upon the principle of subsidarity – no decision should be made
at a level higher than it needs to be performed (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 68).

Administrative capacity building is also required for successful decentralization (Pavey et al.,
2007, p. 91). In fact, decentralization itself may provide the incentive to build local government
capacity that could improve service delivery to the poor (WB, 2003, p. 18).

Furthermore, decentralization cannot be successful without staunch, committed, and willing
political leadership from all levels of governance, as well as an acceptance of sharing and
participation in policy making and management by entities outside of direct central government
control (Cheema & Rondinelli, 2007, p. 9). Additionally, decentralization only addresses issues
with administrative volume, but does not necessarily organize people to more effectively
articulate or address their needs and desires (Fukuyama, 2004, p. 60). Organizing civil society
will increase the effectiveness of people in conveying their needs and desires, making policy


© 2009 All Rights Reserved.