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ECDPM (2003) Sector-Wide Approaches and Decentralisation Strategies pulling in Opposite Directions? A Case Study from Uganda

This case-study is part of a five-country review coordinated by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM).It focuses on the relationship between sector-wide approaches and related sector and budgetary support mechanisms, on processes of decentralisation.

The study presents the case of Uganda, a country that has chosen to implement a far-reaching and ambitious programme of decentralisation since the 90s. At the same time that Government passed the Local Government Act, it launched the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and Uganda’s relative success in achieving macroeconomic stability, and its “home-grown” poverty reduction strategy, have given donors confidence to switch from project funding modalities to forms of sector and budget support, including Sector Wide Approaches. The paper discusses the challenges of implementation of sector apporaches in an increasingly decentralised context characterised by a lack of trust on the capacity of the local level to assume responsibility for the effective management of resources and delivery of services. As a consequence of this, decision-making powers are often retained within central government to avoid the risk that sector programmes and the overall policies of Government are compromised, and the commitments made to the donor community not honoured. The study also provides a number of recommendations to donors present in the country to help decreasing the tension between SWAps and decentralisation. One of them is the adoption of an appropriate Fiscal Decentralistion Strategy that can provide a basis on which SWAps can facilitate both the implementation of the PRSP while reinforcing the process of decentralisation.

The case study puts forward several recommendations for donors:

·Adapt their respective sector support programmes in ways that take full account of the legal framework, and develop strategies to improve service delivery and local governance through the strengthening of the local government system;

·Assist the partner government to clarify the roles and responsibilities of ministries and local governments with respect to different sectors.

·Support partner governments’ fiscal decentralisation strategy and channel resources through sector programmes and the budget;

·Assist partner governments in implementing the provisions of the fiscal decentralisation strategy, particularly with respect to reducing the number of conditional grants, and increasing local government discretionary powers;

·Support the partner government in developing a comprehensive and long-term strategy for local government capacity development, including support to national level institutions that support decentralisation, and ensure that resources are set aside to support the implementation of such a strategy;

·Maintain the option to provide free-standing technical assistance and capacity development support directly to local authorities that address district-wide capacity needs and which can complement the assistance provided through the national transfer system;

·Encourage partner government and the local government to earmark resources to support the capacity strengthening of civil society and/or maintain the option to provide selective free-standing technical assistance and capacity development support directly to civil society organisations to complement the assistance provided through the national transfer system;

·Encourage multi-stakeholder participation in sector planning, monitoring and review, promote dialogue among local development actors in preparing district development plans and explore opportunities for partnerships between central and local government and non-state actors in service delivery.

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Jorge Rodriguez Bilbao
27 July 2011

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