Decentralization is not an end in itself but rather a necessary reform safeguarding the delivery of public services that match local citizens’ needs and increasing empowerment and participation in local political processes. In the course of democratic reforms in developing countries since the early and mid 1990s, decentralization policies have become a cornerstone of political and administrative reforms.
As transition countries and young democracies often lack state legitimacy, decentralization reforms are meant to enable improved management of local demands. However, challenges are manifold. Even if a general commitment towards decentralization is prevailing, political struggles often occur and may slow down the reform’s pace. Although power and competences are transferred to sub-national levels, regional and local administrations often lack adequate capacities and suffer from vacant positions. Procedures and workflows are mostly not institutionalized and therefore lead to uncertainty. This is a major pitfall for local governance and public administration. In addition, the generation of financial resources at or the allocation thereof to the local level is generally insufficient. Consequently, it is difficult for local governments to meet local citizens’ expectations which may even jeopardize people’s support for reform processes.
A rapidly growing percentage of the world’s population lives in cities. New challenges result from these ongoing urbanization processes for regional and local administration. Joint responsibility of civil society, private enterprises, and nation states is required to create an environment conducive to managing complexity, ensuring basic service provision and partake of citizens in the new urban areas.
GFA concepts and services
Building on many years of experience the GFA Consulting Group offers services not only for local institutions but for beneficiaries of all tiers of government and civil society that are related to decentralization reforms, local participation and empowerment. GFA experts consider goal-oriented reform dialog a key element in designing successful reform processes between all kinds of stakeholders at national and sub-national levels. Principally, we choose a well-balanced mix of client oriented, customized tools and the introduction of state-of-the-art methods in administrative, fiscal and political decentralization as well as local governance.
GFA’s services range from new approaches of local administration management via strategic and development oriented planning to the cooperation between various local stakeholders and departments at different levels. As we stress local financial autonomy, GFA is involved in the elaboration of vertical financial transfer mechanisms, and the improvement of local revenue management and tax administration.
Aside from advisory services, an important cornerstone of our teams’ interventions is training and capacity development. GFA’s C³ training method based on adult education principles that facilitate participation is well suited for on-the-job training. Finally, GFA emphasizes the necessity of vertical and horizontal support for a rollout of best practices based on the company’s long-standing experiences.