This policy brief provides natural resource policy makers and practitioners with an approach for evaluating how their policies and projects can support the emergence and consolidation of local democracy.

Executive Summary

In practice, everything but democratic decentralization has taken place in the name of ‘democratic decentralization’ reforms: privatization, administrative deconcentration, NGOization, selective civil society inclusion, participatory processes, co-management, and committee-based project implementation.

The interventions being chosen by environmental policy makers or projects in the local arena are not empowering ‘democratic’ local partners. They do not support local democracy because they usually lack the two key elements of effective democratic decentralization: downward accountability and significant discretionary power.

While many interventions increase local participation in natural resource decisions, they may do so in non-sustainable ways or in ways that hinder the institutionalization of local democracy within local government. We still have a lot to learn about the best ways for governments, donors, and large NGOs to support local institutions to foster the emergence and consolidation of local democracy, and the research for this brief yields a number of important initial recommendations.

The brief includes detailed case studies of Benin, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malawi and Senegal.