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Making Decentralisation Work

A Handbook for Policy-Makers

image of Making Decentralisation Work

This report offers a comprehensive overview of decentralisation policies and reforms in OECD countries and beyond. Sometimes called a “silent” or “quiet” revolution, decentralisation is among the most important reforms of the past 50 years. The report argues that decentralisation outcomes – in terms of democracy, efficiency, accountability, regional and local development – depend greatly on the way it is designed and implemented. Making the most of decentralisation systems is particularly crucial in the context of a “geography of discontent” and growing divides between places that feel left behind by globalisation and technological change and those that may benefit from the opportunities offered by megatrends. The report identifies 10 guidelines for making decentralisation work and allowing it to be conducive to regional development. Beyond the guidelines, the report proposes concrete tools for policy-makers, including detailed sets of recommendations, checklists, pitfalls to avoid and examples of good practices, both in unitary and federal countries.

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Current trends in decentralisation

This chapter highlights that there has been a path towards decentralisation in a majority of OECD countries over the past decades. The chapter also underlines that deecentralisation trends around the world have often gone hand in hand with an upscale in subnational governance through amalgamations, inter-municipal cooperation, metropolitan governance, and the strengthening of regions. Municipal fragmentation has driven policies encouraging or imposing mergers or cooperation. In parallel, there has also been an increase in asymmetric decentralisation, i.e. the fact that governments at the same subnational government level have different political, administrative or fiscal powers. While asymmetric decentralisation appears more “natural” in federal countries, it is increasing in unitary countries. Finally, the chapter shows that decentralisation is too often understood as a simple increase in the power of local governments. The reality is much more complex, as most responsibilities are shared across levels of government. Decentralisation is about reconfiguring relationships between the central government and subnational governments towards a greater cooperation and a strategic role for national/federal governments.

English

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