Tackling Poverty Through Decentralization and Local Governance

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”; this timeless saying embodies the sustainable poverty alleviation approaches few development organizations are currently implementing. The conventional, aid focused, top-down poverty alleviation strategy has not been able to deliver its promise. Nowadays, the development community is engaged in alternative and objective approaches that are mainly characterized as bottom up, sustainable and multi-sectoral.

The main causes of entrapment in the vicious cycle of poverty are mainly deprivations of fundamental resources (education, health, etc), decision making power, and equal opportunities. The lack of decision making power that disenfranchises people from having a say in their daily life is usually the main cause for marginalization. Provisions of conventional aid in these circumstances are futile and create dependency. The levers that can transform such circumstances are the active participation of citizens and effective states allowing people to have a voice in decision making.

Local governance

Image courtesy of http://www.sswm.info/ Source: MASOUD (n.y.)

Nowadays development organizations are enabling and helping power marginalized people to gain their voice and be active in decision making all over the world. One of those organizations is Oxfam Italy (OIT). OIT believes that efficient and effective decentralization and local governance serves as an entry point to tackle poverty and foster human development.

On this regard, OIT published a report in September, 2014 that explores relevant experience of the organization tackling poverty through decentralization and local governance. According to OIT, the report critically assesses five initiatives implemented by the organization in the last ten years in the following areas: waste management in Latin America, South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo; urban and rural SMEs in Bosnia-Herzegovina; social and health care services in South Africa.

The report aims to relate best practices targeted at removing bottlenecks constraining the enhancement of individual capabilities and agency by acting on institutional capacities of local governments contextually. It explores cross-country and comparative analysis on conditions enabling the design of pro-poor policies at the local level as a result of active  involvement by the public, private and civil society stakeholders.

The Hunger Project advocates and endorses initiatives targeted towards increasing participatory local democracy, active citizenry and social accountability. THP strongly believes advocacy for participatory local governance coupled with socio-economic initiatives is the way to self-sustained, sustainable development; in other words to “….teach a man to fish and feed himself for a lifetime.” OIT’s works are a proof that this alternative approach is currently gaining traction.

You can read and download the full OIT report here!

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