[ International Development Cooperation ]
Decentralization and Local Self-Government
"Decentralizing governance is one of the best
means of promoting participation and efficiency".
For far too long, the idea has persisted that development
can be imposed from the top and that it is the responsibility of the state.
The collapse of state socialism, the failure of authoritarian "developing
states" and the weakness and lack of genuine penetration of economic
liberalization made many realize that democracy must be built "from
below". Development is not possible without the direct participation
of the population.
Against the background of German experience with local self-government,
FES began, as early as in the Seventies, to support building democratic
structures and economic self-help at levels below that of the central government.
In many countries, efforts towards democrati-zation and economic reform
have made this cooperation one of the main focuses of our work.
But FES has neither become an organization specializing in
local government organization, nor does it consider the policy of decentralization
as a technical instrument with the sole purpose of increasing the efficiency
of the state. What is important is democratization by the division of political
power, the learning and practising of democratic concepts locally and the
transfer and acceptance of competence and responsibility.
The private sector economy as well as the organizations of
civil society (non-governmental organizations, self-help groups, associations,
professional bodies as well as women's and youth organizations) need a
"partner" at the democratically structured "lower"
levels of the national state as they also need room for manoeuvre from
the omnipotence of the state.
In practical project work, FES does not put "models"
into practice. Together with partners, the Foundation
looks for adapted solutions which meet the needs of the development and
the political situation of the individual countries.
Thus it is possible to combine in entirely different ways the three targets
of democratization (for example, advice on constitutional policy,
local council work, local government agencies), decentralization
(e.g. advice on structural, organizational and financial matters) and special
advisory services in various sectors of local government policy (e.g.
local economic promotion, local services, environmental policy, local media
If it is of interest to the partners and helps in the practical
project work FES also supports cooperation with local government associations
at international and regional levels (for example International Union of
Local Government Authorities/IULA, towns & development).
After the first direct election of local councils in May
1992, FES made an important contribution to the foundation of the Chilean
Association of Local Authorities (ACHM).
As early as 1994, a joint conference of ACHM and the International
Union of Local Authorities (IULA) in the South Chilean town of Temuco got
Foundation support, at which it was decided among others to form a network
of Latin American local authorities. In a joint "Declaration of Temuco"
mayors and chairmen of local authorities from 14 Latin American countries
as well as officials from 5 US and European local authorities organizations
laid down that they would hold regular meetings to exchange concrete experiences
in local authority policy, and to analyze progress and problems in decentralization.
The presence of a short-term expert of the German Association of Municipalities
made it possible at this conference to present the experiences of the German
In cooperation with a selected partner authority in Chile
examples of possible solutions (waste water treatment, inner city traffic
planning etc.) and the use of modern methods for local planning are being
developed and made available via the ACHM to other interested local authorities.
And lastly FES in Chile produced a comprehensive manual for
politicians in regional and local authorities and their administrations
to improve management in regional policy (Manual para la gestión
The policy line "decentralization/local authorities policy" continues to be pursued intensively in Chile and in several other countries of the region in the medium term.
©Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition mv&ola | August 1997