Faye, Ribot & Turner (2019). Climate change is not the cause, migration is not the problem: Local representation and precarious young farmers leaving Senegal

This project examines the role of local governments  in generating or reducing the current trend in which vulnerable people are migrating out of areas where climate variability is viewed as a driver of outmigration. The project seeks to identify means to make policy and practical responses to climate change supportive of local democracy – to make these responses emancipatory – and therefore a transformative force for equity, justice, and security.

The causes relate to the social, economic and livelihood conditions farmers are facing at home, combined with the aspirations young farmers have to fulfil their lives. The long-standing narrative that Sahelians are merely poor or that young men are fleeing the Sahel due to climate stress seems to be inadequate. These simplistic explanations occlude the multitude of causes of precarity that local farmers recount. Yes, climate affects farmers’ lives, but it is not even among the causes that they cite for their precarity. They cite low prices for their products, debt, discriminatory public policy, distorted markets, and social conditions hostile to farmers staying at home.

In response, local government authorities have many ideas about what should be done to prevent and reduce the damages resulting from illegal outmigration. However, local governments are rarely consulted during the conception of anti-migration projects, nor do they receive associated funds. While they are motivated to prevent illegal emigration along dangerous routes, they often lack the mandate and resources to do so. 

Zapata Campos, Barinaga, Kain, Oloko & Zapata (2019). Organising grassroots initiatives for a more inclusive governance: constructing the city from below

With ever increasing numbers of people moving to urban areas, the world is facing increasing pressure on both ecological and human environments. Most of this growth is occurring in unplanned and underserved settlements in low- and middle-income countries. As the authors say, the resources and approaches needed to incorporate people and citizen-led initiatives into a more inclusive governance are lacking. Yet, policy making often ignores how, in the absence of formal infrastructure and services, low-income citizens in informal settlements have developed assets, resources and valuable practices for the provision of social services such as housing, water, sanitation, energy, transportation, food or waste collection services.

The project examines how grassroots organizations and networks providing urban critical services in informal settlements contribute to improve the quality of life of urban dwellers and to more inclusive forms of urban governance, constructing the city from below. The project is informed by the study of Kisumu’s informal settlements’ Resident Associations, the Water Delegated Management Model, and the Kisumu Waste Actors Network. 

Ewald & Mhamba (2019). Recentralisation? Interrogating the state of local democracy, good governance and development in Tanzania

This report investigates the extent to which Tanzanian Local Government Reform Programme has brought about more democratic decision-making processes. The main findings point to several positive changes. Good governance reforms, aiming to restructure central and local governments, have been undertaken and implemented. Parliament and the councils have been strengthened, as well as civil society organisations and media, and they are better able to participate in policy formulation and decision-making. The local government now has well elaborated structures for governance and democratic participation from the sub-village level to the district level. 

However, the outcomes of the government reforms on democratic processes at the local level have been limited. This study examines the extent to which various actors at different levels can exercise horizontal and vertical accountability. The findings indicate that the reforms have not adequately changed existing power relations, the interests of the political elite, or the dominant ideology of political actors. Real power still lies in the hands of the ruling party elites at the national and district level and constrains power sharing at the local government authority level and at the ward, village, and sub-village level.

A key constraint to improved governance is the lack of awareness, knowledge, and capacity to process information by citizens and elected members of the political structures. The village and the sub-village structures have a huge and underestimated potential, both as entry points into the political system, and as effective mechanisms for democratic governance. However, the opportunity the local government reform programmes had to make a “local turn” – and that briefly did so – appears rather to have turned back to recentralisation. 

Björkdahl &Somun-Krupalija (2018). Global talk – Local walk, SDG#5 on Gender Equality

The aim of this study is to understand the processes of implementing Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality into policies and practices at the municipal level in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). Our research answers the following research questions:

1) What supportive policy frameworks exist at the federal, entity, canton and municipal level in BiH to support the translation of the SDG 5 into local practices at the municipal level? 

2) What are the actors involved in these processes at the municipal level? 

3) What are the tools available and used to engaging with SDG 5 at the municipal level?

Our research shows that the overarching obstacle to the implementation of SDG 5 on gender equality at level of local authorities in BIH is that the concept of SDGs has not been translated from state and entity levels to the level of local governance. A survey on the extent to which gender equity tools are utilised in the municipalities revealed that the most prominent tools are Local Gender Action Plans, disaggregating municipal data by gender, and establishment of Municipal Council Committees for Gender Equality. 

A research-based, policy relevant toolbox is developed, in which instruments and strategies for how to implement SDG 5 can be found. You can find it in the Policy brief: A toollbox for Local Governments to implement SDG#5 on Gender Equality

Kain, Oloko, Zapata, Zapata Campos (2017). Co-production of Services in Informal Settlements

In many informal settlements, a large number of informal sector waste pickers collect and separate household waste, providing an important service. However, waste pickers represent one of the most excluded, impoverished and disempowered segments of society.

This study explores the challenges and potential solutions for the co-production of participatory waste management services in informal settlements, using the case of informal settlements in Kisumu, Kenya. Researchers conducted interviews, focus group discussions, participatory workshops and action on ground as part of extensive fieldwork between 2014 and 2015.

This report illustrates the challenges and opportunities to improve waste management in informal settlements through community participation and the inclusion of waste pickers. The results of the project are presented in three sections based on different academic articles where the result of the project first was published.

The first article “Bridging Weak Links of Solid Waste Management in Informal Settlements” presents a number of opportunities that can be used to improve waste management systems in informal settlements.

The second article “Socio-environmental entrepreneurship and the provision of critical services in informal settlements” examines the role of waste entrepreneurs in informal settlements as environmental stewards. Although seeing the contribution of waste entrepreneurs as very positive, however this article still questions the privatization of important services, such as waste collection. There is a risk of developing clientelistic relationships, of eroding collective solutions for the servicing of neighbourhoods and cities, and of abandoning the least affluent but majority of residents and settlements.

The final article is titled “Translating policies into informal settlements’ critical services: reframing, anchoring and muddling through”. It discusses the Kisumu Integrated Sustainable Waste Management Plan (KISWAMP) that succeeded to dignify, or reframe, waste picking as a critical community service and as a decent profession. Waste management also gained internal status as a legitimate area of policy making within the municipality and was turned it into an important service worth paying for. Yet it did not sufficiently anchor some of the new practices in the informal settlements, such as the partnership arrangements with waste entrepreneurs or the maintenance of waste transfer points.

The report outlines challenges and opportunities at the same time, and ends with some policy recommendation for integrating waste pickers in the provision of services at the municipal level.

Read the full report here.

Kumar, Singh & Kumar (2017). Financing Small and Medium Towns

This research project studied the emerging challenges of small and medium towns in India to improve their finances and provide good services to their inhabitants. The study assesses the ability of various local actors, institutions and processes for decentralised planning and governance. Moreover, the researchers used action research to build the capacities of these local actors with regard to decentralised participatory planning for collaborative impact.

The case study for action research was the municipality of Bemetara Nagar Palika Parishad, a small town in India’s Chhattisgarh state. The methodology of the study was participatory in nature and included three phases. The first phase was a mapping of the current status of the city administration using questionnaires. In the second phase, Samarthan, the NGO where the researchers are based, collaborated with the local urban administration to carry out participatory planning in two wards. The third phase of research was based on capturing the processes and outcomes during the implementation of the participatory ward plans.

The study exposed the importance of the powers devolved to the urban local bodies, a cooperative environment between administration and political leadership. Finally, this study recommends improving central transfers to small towns beyond the population ratio, allowing for more flexibility to use those funds according to the needs of their people and strengthening planning committees for a more participatory rural-urban planning process.

Read the full report

Chatiza & Makanza (2017). Impacting Local Democracy: Capacity Building of Local Governments in Zimbabwe

Local governments are key democratic institutions. In Zimbabwe, they have received considerable capacity development since independence through programmes using different approaches. One of the actors providing capacity building for local governments in Zimbabwe is Sweden, through the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD).

Since the turn of the century, capacity building for local governments has proceeded within a context of:

  • rising poverty
  • rapid urbanization
  • stressed governance performance
  • contested political reforms. 

Having run four international training programmes reaching 83 alumni since 2011, ICLD commissioned a study to consolidate the emerging impact of this training. The study was conducted between December 2016 and May 2017 and is based on insights gained from 70 alumni of these training programmes. They responded to a questionnaire and 11 of them took part in face-to-face interviews. Our analysis highlights the relevance of the ITPs regarding closing leadership gaps, building networks, and enhancing participatory leadership. All these are critical to local development needs.

Drawing on some alumni’s suggestions, this paper consolidates ideas for future initiatives by ICLD and other actors interested in fostering local democracy. There is scope to improve the design and delivery of ITPs by:

  • introducing local platforms to sustain change and increase their reach
  • adapting relevant ITP aspects when designing local councillor inductions
  • exposing key national institutions such as the Portfolio Committee responsible for local government and thus expanding the spaces within which alumni apply their local democracy skills
  • developing a framework for councils together with ITP participants to identify and support change projects and strategic issues
  • strengthening the selection of trainees, their preparation and support (during and after training).

Additional research is needed to further ground some of the suggested
improvements both in Zimbabwe and in other (comparable) countries where relevant ITPs have been implemented.

Read the full report here.

Siddle (2016). The 2016 local government elections: The point where South Africa changed course?

In August 2016, local government elections were held in South Africa, something that is of direct relevance to many of ICLD’s partners. Dr Andrew Siddle has analyzed the elections on behalf of the ICLD. The elections have been described as “the point at which South Africa changed course,” but it remains to be seen just how significant the change is.

The recent local government elections in South Africa have been described as the most important elections to be held at any level since the first democratic elections for the national and provincial governments in 1994. The elections came at a time of turmoil in the country. Whilst it might have been hoped that the focus would have been on local issues, the political climate was such that they tended to be overshadowed by national issues. As such, the elections came to be seen as a test for government as a whole.

It is not surprising, therefore, that whilst significant consequences of the elections will be felt at the local level, they have had, and will continue to have, ramifications in national politics as well. The outcomes of the elections were predicted in some respects, but were surprising in others. The general consensus is that the political landscape has changed to an extent which was not anticipated, presenting new opportunities as well as a range of difficulties which will demand political skill and maturity of the kind that has hitherto often been lacking.

The paper aims to provide an understanding of the outcome of the elections and of some of the crucial issues which will dictate how local governance will play out in the future.

Full research report

Koelble & Siddle (2016). Local government in South Africa: Can the objectives of the developmental state be achieved through the current model of decentralized governance?

Under the new constitutional dispensation, South African Local government was given a critical developmental role to play in rebuilding local communities and environments, as the basis for a democratic, integrated, prosperous and non-racial society.

This study examines the notions of decentralization and developmentalism, and shows how they have become two of the most significant defining features of South African local government. By means, amongst other things, of canvassing the views and experiences of a wide range of local government actors, it demonstrates how the demands of an overly-ambitious decentralisation experiment have retarded the developmental agenda by placing too many demands on local government institutions which are ill-equipped to shoulder them.

Full research report

Spehar (2016). The Politics of Pseudoactions – Local Governance and Gender Policy Implementation in the Western Balkans

Successful implementation is often pointed out as a missing prerequisite in the attainment of gender equality goals. Only rarely, however, are gender policy implementation processes subjected to systematic study. This paper analyses the local-level implementation of national gender equality policies in three countries of the Western Balkans region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia), examining the extent to which the implementation work may have failed and the reasons behind the failures noted.

Full research report