Improved local governance is critical to better service delivery and greater responsiveness to poor people's priority problems. To improve local governance, local governments with authority and resources need to empower local communities through mechanisms that increase citizen access to information, enable inclusion and participation, increase accountability of governments to citizens, and invest in local organizational capacity. Decentralization and local government reform have so far focused primarily on the supply side of formal systems and not on strengthening the demand side through actions that enable citizens to effectively utilize the space created by new rules and regulations. Experiences in Uganda, the Philippines, Bolivia, and India demonstrate that when space is created by new rules but there is a lack of investment in information dissemination and local organizational capacity of civil society and poor people's organizations, poor people cannot participate effectively in local governance. There has been insufficient attention to the relationship between citizens and local governments.
Focus on the demand side of improved local governance is just beginning. Although still few, there are some important examples of efforts to increase access to information, design mechanisms for inclusion and participation, and build in mechanisms of accountability to citizens. On the other hand, in the context of local government reform, there do not appear to be any strong cases of investment in strengthening poor people's organizations or other local civil society intermediaries so they can effectively play the new roles assigned to them.
Improving the Demand Side of Local Governance —
Examples Classified by Major Empowerment Element
Rights to information laws, India
Participatory planning and budgeting, Porto Alegre, Brazil
People's Voice Program, Ukraine
Citizen report cards in Bangalore, India
Citizen involvement in municipal tax decisions and rule making, Argentina and Venezuela
Law on popular participation and decentralization, Bolivia
Municipal websites with performance information, Argentina
Women's inclusion in Panchayat Raj institutions, India
Citizen referendum to recall elected mayors, Madhya Pradesh, India
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