Local Democracy: Institutional Choice and Recognition in Natural Resource Management
Principal Investigator: Jesse Ribot
This research project explores the democratizing effects of natural resource decentralization reforms and projects. Many developing countries have launched decentralization reforms to establish and democratize local government. These reforms purport to lead to better service delivery, stronger local development, and more sustainable resource management. However, national governments, international development agencies, and other organizations are not empowering local government. Instead, they are transferring power to a wide range of local institutions, including private bodies, customary authorities, and non-government organizations. By transferring powers to these other local institutions, states are choosing to recognize them in place of democratically elected local governments. As a result, fledgling local governments receive few public powers and face competition for legitimacy. While planners have long espoused integrated rural development, the new trend in decentralization often results in fragmented forms of authority and belonging. The new trend also dampens long-run prospects for local democratic consolidation.
The Institutional Choice research program examined how the institutional choices made by governments, international development agencies, and other organizations impact three dimensions of democracy: (1) representation, (2) belonging and citizenship, and (3) the public domain. This comparative policy research program includes case studies in Benin, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, Zimbabwe, China, India, Inner Mongolia, Thailand, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Russia.
Status: Ongoing. Several major research efforts have been completed in The Institutional Choice and Recognition program. The resulting publications are detailed in the Publications list below. The RFGI program, described above, continues this research.
Note that publications listed below will also be found under other projects since publications have been matched to as many projects as they are relevant to. The EAA research page reflects the earlier material in this research focus. The Working Papers from EAA (WRI Working Papers) are only listed on the EAA page -- they are all focused on democratic decentralization of natural resources.