On Governing Well
Three authors approach good governance
and decentralization from a new perspective
Good Governance and Decentralization
By Dev Raj Dahal, Hari Uprety
and Phanindra Subba
Published by the Center for Governance
and Development Studies in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
First Edition - 2002.
ISBN - 99933-398-0-6
By KESHAB POUDEL
Good governance and decentralization
are one of the most passionately debated issues in contemporary
Nepalese society. In many ways, they seem to have acquired
the status of mantras for development. At a time when
the country is in the midst of an extensive debate on
how to effectively manage its resources and run local
institutions in accordance with the aspirations of the
people, a new book discusses various facets of the concept
of decentralization and good governance.
"Rational allocation of decision-making
is central not only to the efficient operation of a democratic
polity but also to prevent an overburden of the decision-making
load on a particular level of governance to its breakpoint
and disintegration," Dev Raj Dahal, Hari Uprety and
Phanindra Subba write in "Good Governance and Decentralization
The book, which is divided in two parts
- good governance and decentralization - discusses the
concept of good governance, role of state, market, resource
allocation, civil society and public space, building national
integrity system and good governance and decentralization
inter linkages. In the decentralization segment, the book
attempts to discuss globalization versus localization,
local-central government relationship, decentralization,
Nepalese political economy, donors' cooperation in decentralization
and good governance, among other things.
Although many books have been published
in the area of good governance and decentralization in
recent years, this is the first time three scholars have
made an intensive effort to highlight their development
and democratic dimensions.
One of the objectives of the publication
is to underscore the links between democracy and decentralization
and argue for vigorous decentralization measures from
the government's side and, at the same time, local initiatives
to sustain them.
Besides dealing with the theoretical
perspectives on decentralization, the authors also attempt
to analyze the historical context of decentralization
in Nepal and its implementation in the grass-roots level.
As the country's policy-makers are so concerned about
the centralization of authority, Nepal has not faced any
genuine effort toward decentralization.
Dahal, Uprety and Subba argue how decentralization
and good governance are linked with each other in terms
of community building, leadership development, social
mobilization, conflict resolution and economic, political
and social development.
"After the restoration of multiparty
democracy, people have been demanding more information
control, greater accountability, responsiveness and ownership
in the governance and development processes. The weaknesses
and inefficiency of the centralized political and administrative
superstructure that have come in the way of improving
the quality of life of the majority of people are indeed
a barrier of effective democracy," the authors say.
They attempt to compare the provisions
of the existing constitution and stress the need for greater
participation of the people in the political process.
They also discuss the existing acts on local self-government
and other issues and talk about the challenges and problems
in the implementation of decentralization policies and
Openness, fairness and predictability
in the decision making are important process of good governance
and decentralization, but there is a lack of fairness
and openness in the implementation and execution of the
From conflict management to fulfilling the aspirations
of the people at the grass roots, decentralization is
vital in a country like Nepal. Smaller the government,
better the management. In this context, decentralization
and good governance are very much interlinked.
Dahal, Uprety and Subba highlight various
aspects of good governance in the context of decentralization.
The basic concepts and theme discussed in the book are
highly academic and in-depth. The book, among others,
discusses the present structures of Village Development
Committees, District Development Committees and their
capability to exercise their limited power.
In Nepal's Governance And Decentralization
THEORETICALLY good governance and decentralization
have always been major issues in Nepal's development process
for the last 4-5 decades. With the beginning of the planned
economy since 1956, decentralization and governance seem
to have occupied a big area in the economy. Substantial
efforts were made to gear up sustainable economic growth
through decentralization of authority to the local bodies.
To some extent, certain mechanisms were developed to empower
the local bodies, but lack of accountability failed to
yield a desired result. Besides, the administrative mechanism
and political will also failed to trigger the urgency
of governance. The domino effect of poor decentralization
and ineffective governance was quite frustrating that
became more prominent even after the establishment of
multi-party system in 1990. Despite the claims of the
'so-called democratic movements after 1990, decentralization
and good governance have become just rhetoric.
After all, why have decentralization
and good governance failed to operation Nepal?
Many development experts. sociologists
are puzzled as to why governance and decentralization
have become more inefficient after 1990. Is it due to
lack of political commitment or because of corrupt bureaucracy
or poor social attitude?
The dynamics of governance and decentralization
in Nepal has been a complex phenomenon. Social scientists
like Dev Raj Dahal, Hari Uprety and Phanindra Subba have
analyzed various aspects of good governance and decentralization
in Nepal .
'Good Governance and Decentralization
in Nepal' is focused on various issues related to good
governance. The book says, "Good governance is a
process of executing coherent governing plan for the nation
based on the interests and priorities of the people. It
purports to create a just society based on the principles
of inclusiveness, liberty, equality and cooperation."
According to Dev Raj Dahal, this is
way sovereign citizens can make the governing power transparent
and accountable good governance equally needs self- discipline
and integrity of those in power, the corporate sector
and civil society.
Under the topic " Good Governance, Vision and Reality"
the authors have mentioned
"Looking at current political trends,
one can speculate that the new century will be a very
memorable one for Nepal, as political contestation will
pirouette between the citizens who desire more democracy
and those who fear its consequences. As people reclaim
their sovereignty, they reclaim their rights to local
self-governance, asserting greater autonomy, social justice
and universal rights."
Good governance requires the establishment
of a rule-governed system to guarantee the equitable,
just and rational distribution of the advantages among
all interest groups. Under the topic "The State As
A Guardian" - the authors have questioned, "Whether
the Nepalese state articulates the public life of society
and solve a variety of collective action problems? Or
is it separated from the society at large thereby constituting
what Gunnar Myrdal calls the "soft-state' syndrome
where powerful persons have tendency to disobey the laws
of the land?"
It is said that responsible governance
will require a new ethics of responsibility to the natural
world and the future generation, an ethics that goes with
human rights and democracy.
The authors have mentioned various dynamics
of good governance and say, "Governance should therefore
be institutionally and normatively redesigned to serve
the needs of the diversified and articulate citizens as
well as to legislate an equity between the generations.
In fact the concept of good governance
has drawn a tremendous attention in many developing countries
due to both changes in the nature and core functions of
government. The authors have drawn inter-linkages between
good governance and decentralization. They say "
the establishment of a decentralized society is the leitmotif
of good governance because a centralized policy limits
the choices for the people in key areas that affect that
their life, liberty and property and undermines the principles
of subsidiary embedded in the Constitution that legitimates
that sovereignty of people."
The second part of the book that is
related to "Decentralization" is related to
various aspects of distribution of authority to the local
bodies in the context of Nepal. The authors say that the
need for decentralization is not just an option for countries
as a way of good governance. It is increasingly being
necessitated by circumstances, both national and international.
The authors have described about the
paradox of decentralization in Nepal. "Without a
strong central government backed by visionary leadership,
devolution of power is not possible. But a strong government
with weak democratic credentials will of necessity, centralized
power, resources and authority. Nepal's case is additionally
problematic as its states, market and civil society institutions
are heavily dependent on externals resources for their
survival and development."
The book in totality covers most of the issues related
to the good governance and decentralization in Nepal.
Though the book is informative and analytical, the authors
should have elaborated some more issues relating to the
Local Self Governance Act. The real issues about the governance
and decentralization in Nepal still demand more clarifications
from authors. The book would have been more analytical
if authors had tried to delve into the realities that
local bodies in Nepal are facing. Still the book is very
Source: The Rising Nepal (September