Regional Local Government Lessons

Local Government Lessons from the Asia Pacific Region

Local governance institutions represent the first frontier of interaction between people and their government. This experience can create lasting impressions among people on the value of democratic governance and as such decentralization and local governance represent a fundamental building block for a broader and improved democratic governance framework to improve public policy, the decision-making process, accountability and human development. Local governance involves empowering actors and institutions at the sub-national levels to provide basic services in a transparent and accountable manner.

Lessons from International Experience

The implementation of MDGs hinges on close and meaningful involvement of effective local governments. Local governments not only enable data collection that helps to identify areas that are lagging behind, but also enable local level innovation and actions to focus on these areas.

In the aftermath of a conflict or a disaster, service delivery to the people in a timely and transparent manner is a critical element of building trust in state institutions, bringing together adversaries, and empowering the marginalized, including women. Local level institutions help foster participation in development management and decision-making and lead to empowerment of people and grassroots institutions to perform key development functions on a sustainable basis with transparency and accountability. Local governments can also identify, plan and implement productive, income generating schemes to generate economic growth that is inclusive of women and marginalised groups, with due regard to environmental and sustainability aspects.

Local government laws that include quotas for women in the local bodies play an important role in increasing women's role in democratic processes and decision-making. Experience from India and Afghanistan, which have allocated quotas for women's participation, has shown higher levels of women's participation -25-35 percent-than in Sri Lanka, which does not have women's quotas and has low women's participation-i.e. only 1.8 percent in local government

Although fiscal decentralization remains a challenge in many countries, increasing amounts of national and international funding to local level institutions increases the transparency and accountability of development funds. By being closer to the grassroots communities, local government plans, activities and spending can have greater public visibility and oversight, thereby reducing the proportion of waste and pilferage of public resources.

While climate change action requires global commitment and strategy, the implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures requires effective local governments, including municipalities and cities. Many cities and local governments have been pro-active in addressing climate change, including through targeted subsidies, awareness raising and mobilisation because they see it as essential for their survival and the sustainability of their natural resources.

Finally, benchmarking, knowledge management and experience sharing are critical for creating healthy competition among various local governments and promoting democratic values and results orientation.

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