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USAID (2009) Democratic Decentralisation Programming Handbook.

The Democratic Decentralization Programming Handbook conceptualizes decentralization as a reform that advances the exercise of political freedom and individual economic choice in a context of stability and the rule of law. Decentralization invests new actors with public responsibilities. The newly involved actors that decentralization empowers (or should empower) include appointed officials in subnational administrations, elected officials in subnational governments, and increasingly engaged citizens themselves.
For the purposes of this Handbook, decentralization is defined as the transfer of power and resources from national governments to subnational governments or to the subnational administrative units of national governments. This definition is useful because it allows unbiased discussion and comparison of two of decentralizations common forms: deconcentration and devolution.
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to key concepts in decentralization, with a particular focus on decentralization’s essential characteristics: authority, autonomy, accountability, and capacity. Chapter 2 describes the primary dimensions and forms of decentralization; while Chapter 3 discusses the three major goals that countries often pursue through decentralization. Chapters 4 and 5 are structured around the major arenas in which USAID is likely to intervene. Specifically, Chapter 4 provides guidance about how to assess the national, subnational, and civil society environment in a given country; and Chapter 5 presents programming strategies that are targeted for each of these three arenas. Chapter 6 describes how USAID can reliably evaluate the impacts of decentralization programs and learn from its experience. Chapter 7 presents concluding comments.

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Jorge Rodriguez Bilbao
19 July 2011

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