Local Government Systems and Decentralization : Evidence from Pakistan's Devolution Plan
The discourse of governance and development practitioners continues to embrace community participation and community empowerment as an elementary means of building local capacity for poverty reduction, development and change at the local level. This article is a review of the decentralization initiatives of local government systems after the announcement of the devolution plan in Pakistan. It evaluates the initiatives' participatory methods to ascertain the extent to which they have improved the process of community development at the local level. This article also measures the impact of community empowerment on the sustainability of community-driven projects implemented under the decentralization initiative through community-based organizations known as Citizen Community Boards (CCBs). Document analysis and literature review methodologies were employed to gain further insight into the decentralization phenomenon in Pakistan. The results describe human development, improvements in community empowerment and the sustainability of local projects; however, the sense of community has yet to be translated into shared benefits for rural communities. The fundamental goal of decentralization seems to be elusive because only power was transferred to the local level, whereas there is little support for community capacity building and community access to resources and the elites still control the electoral process. It is argued that community development initiatives in Pakistan require continuous support from local governments to boost local rural economies. Likewise, community-local government participatory development strategies can lead to strong local ownership and empowerment in rural communities. (original abstract)
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