Learner’s Submission: Decentralized Forest Governance in Nepal

24/05/2015

“Nepal has set an example of decentralized forest governance in whole South Asia. It’s not that other South Asian counterparts haven’t realized the role of community participation to effectively manage the forest resources, Nepal was the first to legalize it through Panchayat Forest Rules and Panchayat Protected Forest Rules in 1978. Since 1978, Nepal has left no stone unturned to devolve authorities to the communities for sustainable use and management of forest resources.

The need for decentralized forest governance in Nepal dates back to 1950s when all privately owned forests were brought under state jurisdiction by the 1957 ‘Private Forest Nationalization Act’. The aim of nationalization was to protect the valuable forests in Terai which at that time were recklessly deforested for agriculture land expansion. In contrary, the act rather triggered forest clearance both in low lying Terai region and the hills. The primary reason for this was the lack of ownership among people as after nationalization people began seeing forests as ‘public goods’. The forest Act of 1961 endorsed strong bureaucratic arrangement with objective to ‘protect forests from people’. Government started prohibiting people from the forests and penalizing the offenders. This agitated people which led to even severe forest clearance behind the back of government officials. Coupled with population growth and government’s continued inability towards effective protection, and misappropriations all led to consistent decline in the forest cover.

Having failed to manage the forest resources through bureaucratic machinery, the government started looking for alternative forest management regime that could effectively address government’s need for Timber and people’s need for basic forest products. The National Forest Plan of 1976 listed major constraints and proposed policies to tackle them. The plan envisaged the need for decentralization in forest governance and increased people’s participation in forest management. Government immediately started piloting community based forest management. Within a year or later, government formally recognized community involvement in forest management as the key to effective forest management. The ‘Panchayat Forest Rule’ in 1978 hence made provisions to govern the handover of limited areas of national forests to community as ‘Panchayat Forests’ and ‘Panchayat Protected Forests’. After the establishment of democracy in 1990, the term ‘Community Forests’ was used instead of ‘Panchayat Forests’.

Community forestry through forest users groups is the major policy initiative for the forestry sector in Nepal. Forest Act of 1993 institutionalized community forestry and recognized forest user groups as autonomous and self-governing bodies with their own constitution and regulations. The act defined community forests as parcels of national forest handed over to community for sustainable use and management. The Forest Regulation 1995 elaborated the procedures for community forest formation and governance. Under this regulation, forest users group are allowed to find ways to achieve financial sustainability. The regulation required that forest users group spend a quarter of their income in forest conservation and management activities, while the rest to be spent on community development and income generation activities. All the forest user groups are voluntarily united under the umbrella of the Federation of Community Forestry Users of Nepal (FECOFUN) to ensure their rights are protected and not curtailed by the government. Other policies that supported decentralized forest governance are Decentralization Act 1982 and Master Plan for Forestry Sector 1989. People’s participation in forest management is being continually recognized since the 8th ‘5 year Plan’ in 1990.

Since the enactment of the Forest Act in 1993, government of Nepal has gradually been handing over the national forests particularly in the mid-hills to local communities based on an agreed forest management plan between the District Forest Office and the forest user groups. As of 2012, over 2 million hectares of national forests have been handed over to more than 16,000 community forests users groups across the country. The community forestry program has helped government to achieve the twin goals of forest protection and poverty alleviation.

In general, there are plenty of reasons to call community forestry in Nepal one of the most successful decentralized modes of forest governance, but more attention needs to be paid to make forest user groups more equitable, inclusive and pro-poor oriented. The existing policies and legislation have provided a legal framework for decentralization, but frequent unilateral governmental policy amendments make forest user groups skeptical about their rights in the future. Major challenge for community forest users group now is to keep their autonomy in a changing political context of Nepal. They need to find a way to become politically neutral, but committed to democracy and protection of the rights of forest users.” – Pradeep Baral – Pathumthani, Thailand


Learner’s Submission: Local Government System in State of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), Pakistan

15/03/2015

“The State of Jammu & Kashmir was one of the largest amongst 560 princely States in British Rule in India. The ownership of state was transferred to Dogra Gulab Singh on the payment of 7.5 million rupees according to Amritsar Deed of 1846. The Dogra despotic and oppressive rule The Dogra despotic and oppressive rule caused unrest in majority of population of the state. In order to resolve the issues Glancy Commission was formed which gave recommendation to form Praja Sbah (Legislative Assembly partly elected and partly nominated). This was the first time when Local Government took its shape in AJK. The elections to the Assembly were held in 1934, 1938 and 1946.

In AJK about 88% of the total population lives in the rural areas. So, Local Government is highly responsible for planning and implementation of programs for socio-economic development of rural infrastructure. Local Government institutions mainly focuses on provision of potable drinking water, improvement of sanitation, health and hygiene conditions, construction of rural infrastructure such as rural roads, footpaths, foot bridges, identification, planning and utilization of local resources, awareness raising campaigns, organization of communities and local councils etc. Arrangement of funds to undertake these activities is made from the following resources:

  • Annual budget from Government of AJK
  • Funds generated by Local Councils
  • Funds/contribution from local communities
  • Assistance from Government, Semi-Government organizations
  • International Agencies/Donors as agreed by Government (World Bank, IDA, UNICEF, FAO, Asian Development Bank etc.)

In case of Pakistan, military dictators have tried to introduce democracy at the grassroots level but elected civilian governments have always created hindrances in holding local government elections to empower the ordinary people.

Last Local Government Elections were held in AJK in 1991 and next elections were scheduled in 1995. But the government delayed elections at that time due to gain some political benefits from the forthcoming General Elections of 1996. After that Local Government Elections were scheduled to be held in 1996. About 4.6 million rupees of Surety was deposited by the candidates throughout AJK. But elections got cancelled on the account of correction of voter lists. Since 1995, the charge of Local Government institutions is being given to ‘Administrators’ who are either government officials or ruling party leaders.

In Azad Kashmir, the last local bodies elections were held in 1991. It’s been 25 years that people in AJK are being deprived of their basic rights as given in the constitution. In developed countries and many developing countries various public services like health, education, infrastructure, civil services etc. are controlled and regularized by the local government on account of better delivery of services in an efficient manner. This decentralization is playing an important role in flourishing democracy and the democratic process in these countries. So, it is the need of hour that Local government elections are held in AJK on priority basis to eradicate political disorder.” – Maqsood Amin – AJK, Pakistan


Learner’s Submission: Strengthening the System Of Decentralised Governance in Jamaica

24/11/2014

“In Ministry Paper No. 8 of 1993, “Reform of Local Government”, the policy of the Government of Jamaica in respect of decentralisation is clearly stated: “Government’s policy on Local Government is based on the conviction that … a strong and vibrant system of Local Government is essential to the attainment of a society in which all citizens enjoy real opportunities to fully and directly participate in and contribute to the management and development of their local communities, and by extension, of the nation (p. 2)  This position is reiterated in the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2009): “The Plan presents a framework for the achievement of social transformation through a new paradigm of local governance which will give communities greater scope for their self-management and enable them to actively participate in policy decisions at the national level” (p. xxviii).  It is evident from these documents that, across Administrations, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) acknowledges the importance of an efficient system of decentralised governance.”

It is noted in the aforementioned Ministry Paper, tabled in Parliament in 1993 with a view to effecting reform of a colonial local government system with roots in nineteenth century legislation (the Counties and Parishes Act, 1867 and the Parochial Boards Act, 1887), that “the major contributors to the deficiencies and poor performance of Local Government have been inadequate financing and lack of autonomy” (p. 1).  In light of these challenges, as well as the general deficiencies and poor performance cited here, the Ministry Paper identifies the following as objectives of the reform process:

“1. Restoration of functions and responsibilities which were removed from Local Government, and rehabilitation of the Councils

  1. Establishment of new arrangements for the financing of Local Government which will allocate to them adequate and independent sources of revenue, and will give Local Authorities effective control over these sources of revenue
  2. To upgrade the institutional capability of Local Authorities to ensure that they are able to perform their functions in an efficient and cost-effective manner …
  3. To effect a comprehensive revision of all out-dated legislation which presently constitute a major constraint to the effective performance of the Councils
  4. To upgrade the quality and cost-efficiency of all Local Government services and regulatory functions
  5. To shift the focus of Local Authorities to one of providing leadership and a coordinating framework to the collective efforts of the people of their respective Parishes, towards local development
  6. To examine the present distribution of service responsibilities between Central and Local Government, community organizations, NGOs and the private sector, and to identify better or more cost-effective arrangements for the delivery of these services.” (p. 3)

The National Advisory Council on Local Government (2009) reports that within five years of the introduction of Ministry Paper No. 8 of 1993, significant progress was made in the areas highlighted below:

  • Implementation of policies to reverse Local Authorities excessive financial dependence on Central Government, including establishment of the Parochial Revenue Fund (PRF); designating selected major tax types (Property Tax & 66 2/3% of Motor Vehicle Licence Fees) as dedicated sources of funding for Local Authorities; and adoption of a raft of measures/initiatives intended to assist and facilitate Local Authorities to significantly boost their own source revenues and use of their assets.
  • Amendments of more than 12 Laws and numerous Regulations, to make Local Authorities more effective in discharging their mandated responsibilities and give them greater autonomy to set/adjust licence fees and user charges, and amend By-laws and Regulations.
  • Significantly enhancing the institutional capacity of the Local Authorities in several dimensions, such as creating a new organizational structure with many new senior managerial/technical positions, and introduction of modern technology and business processes in Local Authorities.
  • Creating new mechanisms/processes (e.g. the National Advisory Council, Parish Advisory Committees, etc.) to facilitate greater civil society participation in local governance and local sustainable development issues, and to enhance accountability, openness and transparency by Local Authorities in the conduct of local affairs.
  • The conceptualization and formulation, and in some instances the actual approval and/or implementation, of several externally funded projects that supported various aspects of the Local Governance Reform Programme, such as the Parish Infrastructure Development Project, the UNPD sponsored Preparatory Assistance Project and the CIDA sponsored Supporting Local Government Reform Project” (p. 20)

A major element of the local government reform process is the entrenchment of local government in the Constitution (http://www.localgovjamaica.gov.jm/lgra.aspx?id=301).  The Bill shortly entitled, “The Constitution (Amendment) (Local Government) Act, 2014”, which has been laid on the Table of the House of Representatives, seeks to “amend the Constitution of Jamaica to make provision for the inclusion of a democratic system of local government for Jamaica” (preamble).  With its passage, the nation will have attained another milestone along the path to establishing an enduring decentralised governance structure that will facilitate citizens’ participation in governance and decision-making.” – Tracy Cohen – Kingston, Jamaica

Sources

Ministry Paper No. 8 of 1993, “Reform of Local Government”. Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, 1993). Retrieved from http://www.localgovjamaica.gov.jm/ministrypapers.aspx

“Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan” (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2009).  Retrieved from www.jis.gov.jm

Final Report of the National Advisory Council on Local Government (Department of Local Government – Office of the Prime Minister, 2009). Retrieved from www.localgovjamaica.gov.jm

The Bill shortly entitled, “The Constitution (Amendment) (Local Government) Act, 2014”. Retrieved from www.japarliament.gov.jm


Learner’s Submission: A Need for Capacity Building in the Decentralized Sectors of Adama City Administration: Ethiopia

06/06/2014

“Ethiopia has been transforming itself from a highly centralized nation to a decentralized one in the past two decades. After the end of the civil war, Ethiopia adopted a language, ethnic and cultural based federalism that resulted in the creation of nine regions and two city administrations. This decentralization effort was further pursued by regional administrations. Accordingly, Oromia regional state, the largest in size and population, has undertaken a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) study in 2009 on its public services, and brought about a decentralization of city administrations’ services to the lowest level administration system in the region called kebeles (equivalent to districts). Experts from the regional state made the study, the services to be offered at kebele level were identified and standard time was set for every service delivery process. The core objective was to attain fast public service delivery.  Plan to automate the services was the main component in the decentralization process. The decentralization plan was implemented across all cities and towns of the region.

 

Adama city, the seat of the regional council, was one of the cities to take a leading action. Staffs were recruited and offices were arranged for more than six sectors, still going on, in all 14 urban kebeles of the city. However, after the staffing and office furniture were allocated there were many challenges related to institutional capacity and customer relationship.

Institutional capacity Gap

One of the major areas is the automation process that was planned in the BPR study and yet not implemented. This impedes the sharing of information and data among kebeles and sectors on the services they offer. Hence, forinstance, there is a loophole for individuals to take multiple identity cards from the social service sector in multiple kebeles. Those individuals in turn claim subsidies and benefits from the regional government channeled through kebeles. This includes taking government subsidized homes in one kebele while having home in another, and benefiting from the distribution of subsidized food oil and sugar during shortage periods from multiple kebeles. Lack of institutional capacity to develop a common database among sectors in kebeles remains a challenge to the effective delivery of services. In 2012, the city administration announced the public to cooperate in identifying individuals who registered to get government- built condominium houses yet having their own houses, which is not allowed. The list of all  individuals who were registered to get those condominium houses were put public, but the result was minimal since the culture of the society goes against ‘exposing people and neighbors’ no matter what. Hence building the capacity of institutions to overcome such challenges will make the services offered to the public more efficient and adds value beyond creating access to the public.

Customer Relation and public participation

Customer handling is another issue to improve in the kebele level sector services. The sectors in kebels fail to develop a package in which customers will get complete and prompt information on the services they want to get. This is mainly classified in to the procedure, time, place, price of service and documents required to get the service.

 

Even if the BPR study document claims that information centers will be established in the compound of kebeles it is barely implemented. Moreover, there is no written information available to customers. For instance in the 2012 condominium houses distribution mentioned earlier , some kebeles raised the price of issuing identity card ,which is required to apply for the houses,  by tenfold.  Even if the social service sector can effectively entertain new customers on Tuesday and Thursday, and there are many document requirements and procedures to get a given service, they are not communicated in a written format. Signposts are not uniformly used to signal the offices of sector in kebele compounds. As a result there is a variation on the process of service delivery and on the prices they charge for the services among sectors in different kebeles, and this   hamper the main objective of the decentralization process which was fast service delivery.

Moreover, there are no systems of reporting to the public on the performance of service delivery and initiatives of taking input from the public on service delivery component and process.

 

Ethiopia passed through a fundamental transformation from a strictly decentralized system of governance to the decentralization of public services to the lowest level of administration. Nevertheless, institutional capacity building and improvement in customer relation are the quest of the time. These will strengthen the efficiency and transparency of service delivery in kebeles”. Mesay Barekew Liche- Adama, Ethiopia


Learner’s Submission: Case Study of Decentralization in Zimbabwe

06/02/2014

“The Zimbabwean government defined decentralization as the process of transferring planning, management responsibilities, resources, and authority and or accountability arrangements from the central to sub-national or local organs of governance. Decentralization can take different forms the dispersal of central government responsibilities through de-concentration or field administration or the delegation of specialized authority to manage executive agencies to a management team or via devolution of responsibilities, human and fiscal resources to locally governing bodies that are semi-autonomous from the national government, normally referred to as local authorities or government. In 1995, the Zimbabwean government initiated the Water Resources Management Strategy in order to introduce reforms within the water sector. The Water Resource Management Strategy process, initiated in 1995 and completed in 2000, resulted in a new national Water Policy and a National Water Pricing Policy and Strategy. The reforms within the water sector were designed to reflect key Integrated Water Resource Management principles, including stakeholder participation, decentralization, and making resources available for water development and water management. The overall goal of the National Water Resources Policy is to promote the sustainable, efficient and integrated utilization of water resources for the benefit of all Zimbabweans. Under decentralization, the government of Zimbabwe delegated the authority of water management to councils, councils had to develop water outline plans, issue permits, regulate water use and perform other water-related activities as required by the central government. The Catchment Councils delegate some activities to the Sub-Catchment Councils, although these activities do not include allocating water permits.

Under this, the Zimbabwean government had to allocate the Ministry of Rural Resources and Infrastructural Development as the custodian of water rights and develops policies on water development and Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA)  which acts as an operator and a regulator. ZINWA is responsible for water supply to urban centres, while the municipalities supply water to smaller urban settlements. Rural water supply and sanitation is coordinated by the National Action Committee for Water and Sanitation, which is an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Minister of Local Government .The seven Catchment Councils established under the Zimbabwe National Water Authority Act are responsible for all aspects of water management within their responsive catchment areas. However, this has seen the management of water as a resources not being centrally managed. Authority has been given to sub governmental units and the councils to manage the water. With such decentralization, councils can engage the community in managing the water and in decision making regarding water issues. ” – Soul Nyangoni – Harare, Zimbabwe


Learner’s Submission: A Case Study on Decentralization in Nigeria

26/09/2013

  • Nigeria as Country has adopted a three (3) tier system or structure of governance.
  • This is the Federal, State and Local Government.
  • Each of these arms of government has been empowered constitutionally to carry out certain functions, roles and responsibilities to the citizens of Nigeria.
  • The federal government or central government consists of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
  • The executive consists of the president and vice president who are elected for tenure of four years. It also includes cabinet ministers and special advisers mainly appointed by the president.
  • The executive is responsible for articulating the vision and direction of the country in terms of economic policies, infrastructural development, security, international relations, and citizen development for the country at large. It is also responsible for initiating and implementing policies guidelines that will lead to achieving its vision for the country.
  • The legislative arm of the federal government consists of the Senate and House of Representatives whose major responsibility is to make laws for the good governance of the country. It also performs oversight functions on the executive.

 

  • The judiciary is the third arm of the central government. It has the powers to interpret and enforce the laws of the country.
  • The state government is the next level in this structure of governance. Nigeria has thirty six states and each state is lead by a governor and a deputy governor also elected for four year tenure. The governor also appoints commissioners and special advisers who form the state executive and work with the governor to achieve the states articulated development agenda.
  • Every state executive has the responsibility for developing the infrastructure, economy, education and health sectors of their respective states. They build roads, schools, health care centers, and market centers etc that will beneficial to residents of the state. Sometimes they collaborate with the central government to build infrastructures and other social amenities that may be to large for the state to handle. State governments are also responsible for the security and safety of individuals within their state.
  • Every state also has a house assembly that makes laws for the good governance of the state and also carries out oversight functions on the state executive.
  • There is also the state judicial system which interprets the laws made by the state assembly and enforces it.
  • The next level of government in this governance structure is the local government. In Nigeria there are seven hundred and seventy four constitutionally recognized local government councils.
  • These councils are headed by elected local government chairmen for three (3) year tenure. These chairmen are supported by elected councilors who together with the chairmen administer the affairs of the local councils.
  • Every local council is responsible for building and maintaining basic infrastructure within their domains and these include constructing feeder roads, building and staffing of cottage hospitals or primary health care centers, building and maintaining community primary and secondary schools etc.
  • They are also in charge of the building community markets, payment of salaries of all staff who work in this tier of government.
  • The local government is the bastion of agriculture and food production in Nigeria. Most Nigeria farmers are still rural in nature and a huge percentage of arable land used for farming is located within the local councils. This is why a large part of government agriculture intervention programs are situated and channeled to local councils.
  • The local government council is the government nearest to the citizens. It is a legal representation of the central government, from where citizens can interact and engage with government.
  • This is the nature and structure of decentralized governance in Nigeria. ”  Vincent Hope – Wudil, Nigeria

Learner’s Submission: Case Study of Decentralization in Maharashtra, India

13/08/2013

Decentralization is the most revolutionary development in India because behind it are all the forces when released will change the structure of the country – Jawaharlal Nehru, Former Indian Prime Minister. This was the quote said my Indian Prime Minister while he introduced the Indian Parliament with the 73rd and 74th amendment of Indian Constitution in 1960 which marked as a pioneer stage of decentralization in India. Today has over 2.5 lakhs Panchayats in which there are over 32 lakhs of Grass-root leaders elected by the people of that village and out of it 12 lakhs are women. It is a mile stone of India and an excellent vehicle to drive decentralization at a very basic level. The main reason of decentralization is to give chance to people to govern themselves because consistent progress is what matters. Power to rule should not lie upwards with central officer but downwards with local authorities. Quantity of GDP generated is less important that quality of GDP.

Decentralization in Maharashtra started in 1961 and today there are 28,000 Gram panchayats, 350 Panchayat Samitis and 33 Zilla Parishads. But instead of this there were quarrels continuously going on in Maharashtra which we resulting in social tensions and hence the police complaints were increasing at a rapid pace ultimately creating a huge pile of court cases; Considering the huge pendency of cases in various Courts and the inevitable delays in delivering judgments, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the need of the hour. In fact this was the reason for the formation of Loknyayalas and Fast Track Courts. Maharashtra Government made a plan called as Dispute-free village scheme also called as (Tanta Mukti Gaon Mohim).According to this Plan, a village with most number of points gained after solving the cases at village level were awarded with cash prizes hence disputes taking place within families or due to small reasons were not introduced in court and golden mean was found out by the Gram Panchayat (Village Authorities) only. It reduced the Police work to a great extent. The Maharashtra model is likely to be replicated in other developing countries, where logistics and infrastructure of the judicial machinery were weak, Mr. Dighavkar said. He will also spend time with social scientists, reformers and peace makers in various universities and share the model and his experiences with them. Speaking of the achievements of the scheme, he cited figures in Pune district where 790 out of 1,134 villages have become ‘dispute-free’ in the last two and a half years and hence the district received Rs. 19,31,000,00 ($4.4 million), as the prize money from the State government. Since October 2009, 36,294 conflicts at the village-level were resolved and now, 28,084 cases were awaiting resolution, he said.

The salient features of this mission are:

1. Formation of Tanta Mukt Samities at each and every village in the state.
2. Identification of existing disputes, classifying them into criminal, civil, revenue and noting

3. Them down in a register maintained by the Samitis.
4. Preventive schemes and measures to ensure that disputes do not occur.
5. Resolution of existing and new disputes in a democratic, fair and participative manner.

Decentralization is the backbone of democracy because it really proves the meaning of democracy- For the people; by the people.” – Ameya S. Kulkarni – Maharashtra, India


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