Accountability in Decentralization and the Democratic Context: Theory and Evidence from India

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"New institutions created through decentralization policies around the world, notwithstanding the rhetoric, are often lacking in substantive democratic content. New policies for decentralized natural resource management have transferred powers to a range of local authorities, including private associations, customary authorities, and NGOs. Scholars see such transfers as detrimental to the legitimacy of local democratic institutions, leading to a fragmentation of local authority and dampening prospects for democratic consolidation. In much of this critique, however, there is limited attention to the wider democratic context (or lack thereof) and its effect on local governments. This article develops the concept of political articulation to characterize the relationship between citizens and elected representatives, and argues that accountability in decentralization cannot be conceptualized or analyzed separately from the accountability of higher institutions of representation and governance. The empirical analysis of the paper uses the experience of World Bank-funded Ecodevelopment Project in Himachal Pradesh, India, to generate insights into the role of political articulation in analyzing decentralization reforms."
decentralization, democracy, natural resources, resource management