Innovative Ways in Supporting Decentralised and Democratic Local Governance

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC) Democratisation, Decentralisation and Local Governance Network (DDLGN) is a platform of about 220 SDC staff, implementing partners and affiliates working on local governance, democracy and decentralisation around the world. This project follows on from a successful first phase of cooperation between IDS and DDLGN through the project ‘The Governance of Service Delivery’.

The aim of this second phase of cooperation is to support the DDLGN and its members’ understanding, learning, and policy engagement in four priority areas of decentralised and democratic local governance:

Work in fragile and conflicted areas

There are particular challenges of contexts where forces of conflict or violence and weak or non-existent state institutions affect efforts to strengthen democratic local governance and citizen engagement. Work on this theme will generate methodological tools and innovations for working in conflict-affected and fragile settings. Subthemes in this area will include:

  • creation of political order when states are weak and conflict affected
  • citizen engagement in contexts of conflict and fragility
  • creation of legitimacy from below in violent and fragile environment.

Addressing inequality and inclusion

Inequalities are shaped by a variety of structural factors and economic, social and political disparities. These are often the result of lack of opportunities, social and political exclusion of certain population groups and other forms of discrimination and can stem from a colonial legacy or from political connections and inherited wealth. Subthemes in this area will include:

  • the causes and consequences of inequality in furthering economic and political empowerment
  • intersectionality: the effects of multiple discriminations in perpetuating inequalities including the impacts for gender related work
  • land governance and its role in reducing inequality.

Strengthening accountability and citizen engagement

There has been renewed optimism both around the prospects for citizen engagement in political decision-making and change, and around the proliferation of transparency and accountability initiatives. The project views accountability and citizenship as closely inter-related. Subthemes in this area will include:

  • representation
  • working with new and less-targeted actors
  • unruly or popular politics
  • working with informal institutions.

Enabling revenue mobilisation

Decentralised sub-national and local governments are expected to deliver effective and locally accountable public authority. Yet they cannot do so without resources which are central to their ability to provide public goods that respond to local needs. Therefore most local governments rely heavily on central government transfers and spend more than the revenue they generate domestically. Subthemes in this area will include:

  • intergovernmental transfers
  • taxes on extractive industries
  • property taxes.

Project details

start date
1 February 2015
end date
31 December 2017


Recent work

Working Paper

How Do We Research Tax Morale at the Subnational Level?

IDS Working Paper 506

One of the most effective ways of increasing voluntary tax compliance is by improving tax morale. Several studies have been undertaken to examine why some individuals pay taxes while others do not. While many of these studies have been conducted at the national level, there is an increasing body...

1 January 2018

Working Paper

Navigating Power and Intersectionality to Address Inequality

IDS Working Paper;504

This paper examines the drivers of inequality and social exclusion, especially discrimination, with a focus on how they intersect at the levels of family, community and local government institutions. The paper reviews current literature and emerging research, drawing on empirical work being...

1 December 2017