Monday, June 23, 2008

Decentralized Governance and a Human Rights-based Approach to Development Series of Note # 1

Paul Lundberg had a lot of discussions over the concepts of Human Rights-based Approach to Development in a number of articles. Since Paul was involved in Nepal in developing the concept of bringing government closer to people in the form of several decentralization projects, we thought these concepts are very timely and relevant for developing the New Nepal Development Framework for any one. These articles are simpe and fun to read.

Concept of decentralized local governance was introduced in Nepal actually after the restoration of democracy in 1990 by "Jana Andolan I". The first project was Strengthening Decentralized Planning, which got drastic face change in its second incarnation "Decentralization Support Project". This project was transformed into a "Participatory District Development Programme" in 1995. It was during the Decentralization Support Project (1992-1995) that an innovative GIS was also developed that first time demonstrated the utility of GIS for local governance and national planning in Nepal.

We will continue to put together all these materials by Paul in one place in this blog in the forms of links and copies.

Here is an article by Paul Lundberg, that was published in Sudan Vision. Enjoy!

Decentralized Governance and a Human Rights-based Approach to Development
Date: Tuesday, September 11 @ 00:15:00 BST
Topic: Main News

By Paul Lundberg
Independent Consultant
The issue of human rights has not figured prominently in the ongoing discussion on decentralization. In part, this is because human rights advocates have focused their attention on getting central governments to accept the basic HR principles.

Human rights advocates have only recently begun to consider the effects of decentralizing decision-making power to lower levels of government. As they begin to focus on this growing political phenomenon, they are increasingly recognizing that such process creates new opportunities to promote HR as well as threats to protection. Indeed, issues of justice, accountability, poverty reduction, employment/livelihood, environment, women and children are fundamental concerns of local development.
Nepal: Participative District Development Programme
The passage of the Nepal Local Self-Governance Act in 1999 gave a major boost to the promotion of decentralized governance in Nepal. The Act delegated substantial new authority and responsibilities to locally elected authorities (District, Municipality and Village councils) relating both to revenue generation as well as to development activities formerly carried out by line ministries.
Many features of the Act were patterned after the systems and processes developed under the two UNDP-supported projects, the Participative District Development Programme (PDDP) and the Local Governance Programme (LGP.) These two projects continue to introduce participative planning, social mobilization, and district-led development in many districts of the country. Unfortunately, the local government system of Nepal was disbanded by the Prime Minister in July 2002. Subsequently, the entire Parliament was disbanded by the King in the following October. Presently the King heads an unelected government at the center and bureaucrat administrators manage the affairs of local government units. Although there is no prognosis as to when democracy will return to Nepal, UNDP is continuing its assistance at the grassroots level and is currently forging a unification of the two major projects into one.
UNDP assistance to decentralized governance goes back at least 20 years in Nepal. In 1982 quiet support was given to government experts who designed the first royal decentralization act. Although this act did not result in significant changes in the manner of governance nor in the quality or equity of public service delivery, it did establish a precedent. This precedent was taken up by the revolutionary democratic government that came to power in April 1990. The government requested UNDP assistance in designing and supporting a new system of democratic decentralized governance.
Over the next five years, the UNDP Decentralization Support Project worked at both national and local levels to identify critical aspects of local governance that could be supported with external assistance. At the same time, a parallel intervention from the UNDP South Asian Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP) established itself in one of the DSP districts, Syangja. This programme was based upon principles of community organization and self-reliance that had their origins in the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme of the Northern Areas in Pakistan and, earlier, in the Comilla project of, the then, East Pakistan.
In 1995, UNDP/Nepal undertook a Mid-Term Review of its Country Program. During the MTR process it became clear that the philosophical orientation of the Decentralization Support Project and SAPAP and the success they had shown in working with local institutions had greatly influenced the thinking of the UNDP management and staff. When the UNDP office was asked by its regional bureau to name a flagship project that typified its approach to Sustainable Human Development, the office chose the Decentralization Support Project. The UNDP management continually referred to this project as the 'backbone' of its entire country program. Several new projects were started that indicated a sharp change from the previously centralized and sectoral approach. For example, the Parks and People project was initiated with the Ministry of Forestry, but bordering districts and villages were heavily involved in both the planning and implementation of the project. Likewise, the UNDP AIDS project and Labor-based Roads Project were designed to be run through the districts rather than the central ministries.
In December 1995 the DSP was replaced by the Participatory District Development Project (PDDP). The PDDP was designed to consolidate and improve on the results obtained and lessons learned from the previous project. At the local level, it aimed to institutionalize participative development by enhancing the capacities and capabilities of the Districts and Villages as well as helping them establish linkages between various local level organizations like the private sector, women's groups. community organizations, NGOs and line agencies.
To achieve these goals, the PDDP divided its task into seven major sectors:
1. Institutionalizing a participative program and planning process based on transparency of decision making and coordination between political bodies, technical agencies, NGOs and the community.
2. Developing "trickle up" information systems where data collected at individual settlements was aggregated to higher levels at the village and district. The comprehensive database and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) maps were designed to improve the flow of information. Eventually, HDI maps of individual districts and villages were produced, sparking a major shift in information use at both the local and national levels.
3. Providing management support to improve the organizational capacity of the Districts through account management packages and restructuring of Districts.
4. Encouraging social mobilization by providing catalytic seed grants selectively for improving infrastructure, increasing productivity and supporting capital generating activities like savings/credit schemes.
5. Promoting partnership building among Districts, Villages, CBOs, and private organizations to promote local industrial and commercial development.
6. Human resource development of professionals, program staff, DDC, Villages, government agencies, political parties and private sector associations through training packages on Sustainable and Participative Development.
7. Supporting action oriented research on sustainable human development on issues such as poverty alleviation, women's development, and environmental management and employment generation.
Community mobilization

The most significant shift from the DSP orientation lay in the approach to community mobilization. PDDP took a significant step in broadening the range of beneficiary groups that benefit directly from the project. Community mobilization activities are the dominant aspect of the project's activities in all districts. The way this was added to the project repertoire is an interesting case of programmatic cross-fertilization.
Syangja District was one of the six original districts covered by the Decentralization Support Project. During the early days of DSP, Syangja District was a leader in experimenting with ways to build more productive relations between local government and NGOs, especially women's' groups. Thus, when UNDP's regional bureau proposed to include Nepal in its South Asian Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP), the National Planning Commission decided that the field activities should be located in Syangja in order to take advantage of the social capital that had already been created.
Interestingly, the SAPAP Senior Advisor initially opposed this selection because he did not like working with local governments.
The Nepal Poverty Alleviation Project operated in Syangja from 1995 to 2002 and considerable knowledge was generated from its efforts. The project focused its attention on understanding the appropriate steps required to enable rural villagers to believe in their own ability to change their future, with UNDP acting as the catalyst for social and financial mobilization. The project assisted in the formation of savings groups, helped these groups to establish procedures for lending among themselves, and guided the groups in their efforts to plan the rational use of the pooled resources.
This basic social mobilization approach has been linked, by PDDP, with the concepts of self-governance and self-organization of farmer organizations and local government units. In order to accomplish this, the management of SAPAP, PDDP and its sister project in eastern Nepal, the Local Governance Project; the UNDP, the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Local Development collaborated closely over the past eight years. This inter-project relationship enabled SAPAP to remain small to focus on knowledge creation, and to benefit from the lessons learned through the PDDP/LGP the national expansion without having to split its own efforts between process development and expansion. SAPAP has now closed, PDDP and LGP are in the process of a merger, the status of decentralized governance units remains in question but UNDP is convinced that continued effort to support the development of self-reliance at the community level is a vital aspect of SHD through, as this paper would argue, a human rights-based approach to development.

This article comes from Sudan Vision Daily News Paper Official Website

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