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POSTFACE304 United Cities and Local Governments


305POSTFACEEssay on the clarification of some key conceptsand problems of methodGérard Marcou 1The World Report offers for the first timethe possibility of clarifying the meaning ofwords used to address the term “local”. Viathe different situations and developmentsanalyzed, the words often seem closelyrelated but not accurately synonymous. Inaddition, the choice of linguistic equivalentswhen translating may involve nuancesof meaning or presuppose differenceswhich, in fact, are merely differences interminology. The interest of the WorldReport is that it puts key notions into contextby comparing political and legal discoursefrom many countries on allcontinents. The definitions arrived at couldthen acquire legitimacy from the fact thatthey are not self-centred. The convergenceswe have found are not alien to thesocio-political reality of each of the countriesconcerned, even though mimeticeffects may still exist, and at times arisefrom prescriptions imposed by internationalorganizations. These convergences canbe considered as positive effects of globalization.However, convergence at the level of ideasdoes not necessarily imply that thesame occurs at institutional or practicallevels. On the contrary, factors of differentiationremain, resulting from verydiverse socio-political and economic realities,which should not be overlooked.The very notion of “local” varies considerablyfrom one country and one continentto another and with it varies the definitionof the territories constituting the frameworkof local self-government, and theconcept of local-state relations. Thesociology of local institutions is dependenton the importance of the socialstructures. The role of local democracy indecentralization depends on the state’spolitical system. The scope of decentralizationdepends on the political weightand human and financial resources availableto local authorities. Decentralizationdoes not exist outside the statebut it ceases to exist even withinwhere local authorities are no morethan the executors of policies determinedby higher authorities. Theseare the extreme positions that limit thespace of local self-government; this is thespace within which the equilibrium ofdecentralization must be created in eachcountry depending on the conditions 2 .The World Report refers explicitly to twonotions: decentralization and local democracy.These two terms should be clarifiedtogether with their status in the politicaland legal systems of states. A distinctionshould also be made between them andsimilar or correlated notions. This clarificationmust be contextual and comparative,i.e., based as much as possible on theaccepted concepts used by states in thevarious regions of the world, depending ontheir history and institutions. But at thesame time, these notions are part of globaldebates fostered by international organizationsand a number of states, contributingto the convergence of ideas under discussionby providing terms of common reference.Firstly, a distinction can be made betweenthree separate semantic fields: decentralization,self-governance and democracy.1. The text below is apart of the synthesischapter submittedby the author toUCLG under thetitle:“Decentralizationand local democracyat the age ofglobalization”.2. In what follows, theinformation quotedcomes fromchapters in theWorld Report,unless other sourcesare indicated bynotes.


POSTFACE306 United Cities and Local GovernmentsThe first of these three terms refers torelations between the various levels ofpower, the second to the status of theauthorities and the third to the way inwhich power is exercised. We will notaddress the expressions of these semanticfields relating to federalism or to regionalautonomies. The comparison between thesethree fields shows a convergence at thelevel of political ideas and legal notions;even though some major states have remainedoutside this tendency.A) DecentralizationThe notion of decentralization is understoodtoday in very different ways dependingon the author and institution,which leads to misunderstanding andconfusion. Sometimes, overly broaddefinitions of decentralization becomeconfused with governance, a notionwhich in itself is already not very precise.This is the case in a report publishedby the UNDP on decentralized governanceà propos the services which ought tobe provided to poor populations: “Conceptually,decentralization relates to theroles of, and the relations between, centraland sub-national institutions, whetherthey are public, private or civic.Improved governance will require notonly strengthened central and localgovernments but also the involvement ofother actors from civil society organizationsand the private sector in partnershipswith government at all levels” 3 .According to this definition, the relationsbetween the state or local governmentand private companies or NGOs are partof the problem concerning decentralization.The report then distinguishes four types ofdecentralization: administrative decentralization,in which local authorities areaccountable to higher authorities; politicaldecentralization, in which local authoritiesare theoretically independent of the state,invested with powers and elected; budgetarydecentralization, which refers to thetransfer of the resources necessary for theexercise of the transferred powers and responsibilities;and lastly, divestment ormarket decentralization, which entails atransfer of functions to the private sector(companies, NGOs...), including planningand administration, previously held bypublic institutions. However, the argumentslips from decentralization to governance.We recognize that improved governancemight indeed call for the involvement ofprivate actors, but this applies to all levelsof government and not just to relationsbetween local powers and higher authorities.This view is also put forward by theWorld Bank in a recent paper, which examinesdecentralization in a broader perspective,seen as a consequence of globalizationand as part of a new concept of governance4 .This approach is not really all that new. Itcomes from a critique of the “Welfare state”,developed in particular in the 1980s.Such lines of thinking advocated marketcompetition as an alternative for the provisionof services that the public powerscould no longer provide, as well as decentralizationso that fiscal competition wouldexercise pressure to reduce public expenditureand so better satisfy the collectivepreferences of the electorate through competitionbetween local authorities 5 . Hence,a distinction could be made between “eco-3. Work, R. (2002), The Role of participation and partnership in decentralized governance: a brief synthesis of policy lessons andrecommendations of nine countries on service delivery for the poor, UNDP, New York, p.3.4. G. Shabbir Cheema / Dennis A. Rondinelli (2007), “From government decentralization to decentralized governance”, p.6 in: G. ShabbirCheema / Dennis A. Rondinelli (eds), Decentralizing governance, Brookings Institution Press / Ash Institute for Democratic Governanceand Innovation.5. See amongst basic texts on the subject: Tiebout, C.M. (1956), “A pure theory of local expenditure”, Journal of Political Economy,vol.64, p.416; Buchanan, J.M. / Tullock, G. (1962), The calculus of consent: Logical foundations of constitutional liberty, University ofMichigan Press, Ann Harbor.


307nomic”, “administrative” and “political” decentralization.“Economic decentralization”refers to economic decisions (decentralizedwhen they result diffusely from the play ofmarket forces, centralized if they are decisionsmade by the government); “administrativedecentralization” refers instead tothe degree of dispersion or concentrationof public decisions; and, finally, “politicaldecentralization” which refers to theauthorities with the capacity to make politicalchoices 6 .In this framework, it has been possible topropose a classification of all systems ofdecentralization based on two dimensions:the method of allocating resources (puremarket and state controlled economies representthe two extremes) and the levels ofpolitical and administrative organization towhich the resources are allocated (central,local or intermediate). Obviously, all realsystems are mixed systems but they aresituated somewhere between four extremetheoretical models as follows: the centralizedpublic model, the centralized marketmodel, the decentralized public model andthe decentralized market model 7 . Thesemodels make it possible to assess the characteristicsof real systems and to comparetheir relative positions.Despite its heuristic value, this global theoryof decentralization may be criticized for leadingto a degree of confusion. Firstly, therelations between the public powers and therelations between the public powers and theeconomy are not the same; unlike the publicpowers, the decisions of economicagents are not subject to democratic procedures.In addition, the fact of turning to themarket to produce or supply a good or aservice does not mean that the publicauthority, local or otherwise, is no longercompetent. If the responsibility of the publicauthority is to ensure that a good or a serviceis offered to the population and it is allowedby law to chose the method or form ofprovision, it can then assess whether it ispreferable to set up a public organization, toconclude public procurement contracts or toproceed to delegate the public service to theprivate. However, the public authority remainsresponsible in the eyes of the law andthe citizens for the provision of the serviceunder the conditions it has defined. Thecase would be different, of course, if privatizationis decided on by the state and theconsequences affect the local authorities, orif the law obliged them to resort to the privatesector, even when the local authoritycontinues to exercise powers of control andorganization. It is then paradoxical to usethe expression “decentralization” to characterizemeasures which result in a reductionof the role and responsibilities of the localauthorities.This is why it is preferable to reservethe notion of decentralization for therelations between the public powers,some of which are placed under thecontrol of others, and not for the relationsbetween the public powers andthe economy or society in general. Thisis not to ignore, for all that, the importanceof relations with the economy, and theymay be addressed in an analysis of governance,but they do not come under what isnormally called decentralization.Even within these boundaries, the notionof decentralization is still likely to beunderstood in two different ways: a broadmeaning, which relates to the public economyor to the sociology of organizations,or a narrow meaning, of a legal and politicalnature. The former has become thegeneral or commonplace meaning; the latter,more exact, is the only one, as we willsee, which has a normative scope. Decentralizationshould also be distinguishedfrom related notions: devolution, originallyan English concept, and deconcentration,which is of French origin and the notion ofdelegation.In its broadest sense, decentralizationexpresses a quality of the relations betweenlevels of authority one of which is under thecontrol of the other. We say that these relationsare more or less decentralized, depen-6. Wolman, H. (1990),“Decentralization:What it is and whywe should care”,p.29-42 in: Bennett,R.J. (ed),Decentralization,local governmentsand markets.Towards a postwelfareagenda,Oxford, Clarendon.7. Bennett, R.J.(1990),“Decentralization,intergovernmentalrelations andmarkets: towards apost-welfareagenda?”, pp.1-26in: Bennett, R.J.(ed), op. cit.;Bennett, R.J.(1994), “Anoverview ofdevelopments indecentralization”,pp.11-37 in:Bennett, R.J. (ed.),Local governmentand marketdecentralization.Experiences inindustrialized,developing andformer Eastern Bloccountries, UnitedNations UniversityPress.


POSTFACE308 United Cities and Local Governments8. Op. cit. p.4.ding on whether the inferior power benefitsmore or less from freedom of action in theexercise of its attributions under the controlof the superior power. The notion of decentralizationcan thus apply both to the relationsbetween the federal power and themember states (for example Austrian orAustralian types of federalism are said to bemore centralized than those in the USA orCanada) and to the relations between thestate and local authorities in a unitary state,or between the federated entities and thelocal authorities which they comprise, oreven to the internal relations in a companyor a group of companies considered as anorganization.In the narrow sense, decentralizationmeans that local authorities are establishedby the law, have a legal personalityand are administered by bodies throughwhich they exercise, with a degree ofliberty, the powers and responsibilitiesthey obtain from the law under the controlof the state. This notion was first assertedin France. According to an English variantfound in many countries influenced by Britishtradition, the law confers the legal personalityand powers not on thecommunities but on the bodies; since the90s, it is this concept which has been followed,with certain differences, by Russianlegislation and that of other former SovietUnion countries. Decentralization understoodin this way, depending on the variant,has resulted in quite different regimesfrom the point of view of local institutionsand the self-governance left to local authorities.But it still signifies, and this is thebasis of its unity, an institutional and politicaldifferentiation between the state andthe local authorities, and the legitimacy ofrepresentation at local level of public interestsdistinct from those for which the stateis responsible.From decentralization in its narrowest sense,we must compare and distinguish theEnglish notion of devolution, which onehesitates to translate as “dévolution” inFrench. It is a relatively imprecise notionwhich appeared at the end of the 19 th centuryas an attempt to respond to the Irishindependence movement through an internalregime of extensive self-government(Home Rule). Devolution corresponds tothe transfer of wide-ranging powers to apolitical assembly for the management ofinternal affairs. The word was used todesignate the projects in the 70s and thereforms of 1998, which transferred importantpowers and means to regional bodies.But it is also used, today, in a broader sense,particularly outside the UK, to designatetransfers of power to local or regionalcommunities.The meaning of the word devolution thusseems akin to a distinction commonly madetoday between political decentralizationand administrative decentralization. Butthe criterion of the distinction is far fromclear. In the typology of decentralizationproposed in the UNDP report referred toabove, administrative decentralization ischaracterized by the fact that the localauthorities are accountable to the higherauthority. This corresponds to what onecould call de-concentration or delegation(depending on the cases - cf. infra). Thiscontrol relation (accountability) withthe higher authority does not exist inpolitical decentralization nor in devolution,which implies a total transferof powers and responsibilities, decision-makingpower and resources,including the power to procure resources8 . However, devolution does not necessarilyimply that the local authority resultsfrom election, just as decentralization alsodoes not necessarily entail the election oflocal authorities.However, the distinction between politicaland administrative decentralization is morecurrently based on other criteria. A fewexamples follow. Political decentralizationcorresponds to the exercise of politicalpower, as in the case of federated governmentsin the framework of a federal state;whereas administrative decentralizationonly consists of the institutionalization of


309the legal entities responsible for managinglocal interests 9 . It is therefore the exerciseof legislative power by sub-national territorialunits which is considered as theexpression of political decentralization, incontrast with the classical case of the unitarystate in which the unity of legislationis the expression of the unity of power 10 .Or again, political decentralization presupposesthe dispersion of political decisionmakingpower, i.e., a degree of freedom ofaction as to the determination of policies,the capacity to mobilize resources and thefreedom to use them 11 . But some definitionsof administrative decentralization donot differ greatly from this latter concept:according to Maurice Hauriou, it is the needfor political freedom rather than administrativeneeds, which justifies decentralization12 ; according to Charles Eisenmann,administrative decentralization “consists ofgiving to locally competent authoritiespowers of action, therefore firstly of decision-making,independent of the centralauthorities” 13 .But today, over and above these theoreticalapproaches, another criterion must beadded, that of the election of local authorities.Although, from a theoretical point ofview, the notions of decentralization anddevolution do not necessarily imply theelection of local authorities, the fact is thattoday territorial decentralization is inseparablefrom the democratic legitimacy oflocal authorities, and in all countries theinstitution of locally elected councils is therule. Even in the Arab Gulf states, localelections have been held over the last fewyears with the exception of the United ArabEmirates. If the classical idea of decentralizationaccepts the autonomy oflocal authorities in the framework ofthe law, the modern view of decentralizationis today inseparable from thedemocratic norm, and no one disputesthis even if its transposition and implementationare often criticised.As soon as universal suffrage applies forthe designation of local authorities, it becomesinevitable that decentralization willtake on a political dimension, even though,in certain countries, political parties arenot allowed to participate in local elections,and even though the official vocabulary continuesto speak of “administrative” decentralization,or “administrative” elections àpropos local elections. This is so, given thatelections imply a form of responsibility ofthose elected vis-à-vis their electorateeven if the higher authority exercises aform of supervision. This is the meaning(the direction) of accountability whichmakes the difference, as shown in theUNDP report: no longer towards the statebut towards the electorate.In this case, devolution is not distinguishedfrom decentralization through its politicaldimension but by its possible scope. Inpoint of fact, the idea of devolution has nolimit on the transfers which may carried out,other than the point at which the transferswould mean independence; on the contrary,the idea of decentralization is inseparablefrom the idea of the unity of power. Decentralizedentities administer themselves withoutceasing to be an integrated part of the stateand without the state conceding to them partof its constitutional functions. Extended tothe transfer of legislative powers, politicaldecentralization corresponds in fact to adifferent notion of decentralization in itsstrictest sense. This results in the fact that,apart from this hypothesis, devolution anddecentralization may be considered assynonymous particularly for local authoritiesat municipal level for which there isnever a transfer of legislative powers.On the other hand, a clear distinction mustbe made between deconcentration anddecentralization and the former must not beassimilated to a restrictive application of theidea of decentralization as is proposed withina broad concept of decentralization. Deconcentrationis originally a French notion whichapplies to the relations between the centraladministration and their local-level officesthat depend on the delegation of powers tothe latter. Deconcentration is the opposi-9. Bourjol, M. (1975),La réformemunicipale, Paris,Berger-Levrault,pp.56-58.10. Aja, E. (1999), ElEstado autonómico.Federalismo yhechosdiferenciales,Madrid, AlianzaEditorial, pp.23 etsuiv.11. Wolman, H., op. cit.pp.29-30.12. Hauriou, M. (1919),Précis de droitadministratif, Paris,Sirey, preface.13. Eisenmann, Ch.(1982), Cours dedroit administratif,Paris, LGDJ, tome 1p.278 (cours de1966-1967).


POSTFACE310 United Cities and Local Governments14. Jalali, M. (2005),“Iran: unedécentralisation entrompe l’œil? Lesfondementsessentiels de ladécentralisation enIran”, Revueiranienne de Droitconstitutionnel,summer 2005, n°4,pp.74-86.te of decentralization in that it governsthe relations within an administrativehierarchy, whereas decentralizationexcludes any hierarchical relations betweenthe state and local authorities.Deconcentration comprises two elements:i) the existence of territorially competent serviceswithin the state administration;ii) delegation of powers to these services.But the term delegation may also be usedto designate an intermediate situation:state powers and responsibilities are delegatedto a decentralized authority (i.e.,resulting from an election and not fromnomination by a higher authority) and areexercised on behalf of the state and forwhich the decentralized authority isaccountable to the state. This situation ismost often designated by the expression:“delegated powers and responsibilities”.Depending on the case, it may be thatelective legitimacy weakens the control ofthe higher authority or, on the contrary,that the weight of the delegated powersand responsibilities weakens decentralizationbecause of the control exercised bythe higher authority.These distinctions lead to a preference fora strict definition of decentralization whichmarks the difference from related notions.Decentralization is thus characterizedby the existence of locally electedauthorities, distinct from the state’sadministrative authorities, and exercising,in the framework of the law,their own powers and responsibilitiesfor which they have a degree of selfgovernment,under the control of thestate. As understood in this way,decentralization in its modern meaningis inseparable from the idea oflocal self-government and the democraticprinciple. But the volume of responsibilitiesexercised is not sufficient toassess the level of decentralization in agiven country; that depends also on theregime under which the responsibilities areto be found and the control effectivelyexercised by the state.In its broadest sense, decentralizationexists in almost all countries although ithas very different characteristics. Butstrictly defined, decentralization is lackingin very many countries. Hence, when article96 of the constitution of the People’sRepublic of China states that “local congressesof the people at different levels arethe organs of the state’s power”, this is aform of decentralization in its broadest,and not strictest, sense. This was the conceptin the Soviet Union, abandoned todayunder article 12 of the constitution of theRussian Federation. But some states, formerlypart of the Soviet Union, still adheremore or less explicitly to this concept (ingeneral the states of Central Asia and Belarus).In Cuba, although assemblies of people’spower are characterized in theconstitution as the “higher local bodies ofstate power”, it is however recognized thatthey fulfil specific functions other than theassistance they provide in realizing theultimate goals of the state (art.102 and103). Other political concepts may alsolead to principles excluding decentralizationof the local administration. This is thecase in Saudi Arabia, in Oman and inQatar; in other Arab countries and in Iransome moves have been made towardsdecentralization in recent laws and constitutions.Yet the Iranian constitution, whichsets up locally elected councils, subjectsthem to the principles of the Islamic regimeand envisages their “subordination” tocentral government authority (article100) 14 . Despite this, there is a tendencytowards the diffusion of the model ofdecentralization and the recognition of asphere of responsibility specific to localauthorities, at least regarding the principles,even in countries which seem farremoved from these principles.B) Self-government (autonomy)Autonomy literally means the power to setfor oneself the rules by which one is


311governed. However, this notion may alsobe understood in at least two differentways. In the sense of political autonomy,it is a demand for sovereignty whichstops at the limit of independence, fromwhich it is distinct. Understood as administrativeself-government, it expressesthe possibility for the local authority togovern its own affairs and those whichthe law entrusts to it. It is in this secondsense that it is generally understood aslocal self-government. The regional autonomystatutes in different Europeancountries (e.g. in Spain or in the UK) andon other continents (for example theautonomy of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan,or that of Aceh in Indonesia) comeunder the first meaning. The Frenchconstitution today accepts both meaningsbut applies them to entities of a differentnature: the first to “overseas countries”(New Caledonia, French Polynesia)(art.74), and the second to territorialcommunities (art.72). The EuropeanCharter for Local Self-government as wellas the “Guidelines” recently adopted bythe Governing Council of UN Habitat bothrefer to the second meaning. This selfgovernmentalso has a political dimensionbut it results from elections not fromthe statute of the local authorities.Local self-government, as understoodabove, is more and more widelyrecognized on the different continents.The exceptions are states whichdo not refer to decentralization in thelegal meaning of the word and also a fewcountries which attribute a political statusto municipal self-government.Local self-government is expressed insometimes differently coined legalnotions but which are, in general, similarin content. In certain European countries,reference is formally made to the notionof “autonomy” in the constitutions (Italy:art.5; Spain: art.140; Portugal: art.6;Romania: art.120; Greece: art.102.2;“administrative autonomy”). In all theother European countries, the term usedcorresponds literally to the Germanexpression Selbstverwaltung (FundamentalLaw: art.28.2), defined as “the rightto govern, under one’s own responsibility,all the affairs of the local authority”,which corresponds to the notion of “libreadministration” in the French constitution(art.72), and the English notion of selfgovernment15 . This latter expressioncould however be distinguished insofar asits material content derives only from theprovisions of the law, but this limitation isreceding both in the United Kingdom andin the USA and Australia (constitution ofcertain federated states in the latter twocountries), and by the link with a degreeof freedom of organization at local level(home rule).This notion of “self-government” (“libreadministration” in French) is to be foundin the 1993 Russian constitution (mestnoesamoupravlenie, art.130 to 133),including the freedom of organization inlaw 131/2003), the Ukrainian constitutionof 1996 (mitzeve samovriaduvania,art.140) or the Polish constitution of1997 (samorzad terytorialny: art.163 etseq.). In Latin America, the word “autonomy”is usually preferred, both in unitarystates (Colombia: art.287) and infederal states (Argentina: art.123, ensuringmunicipal autonomy is a duty of theprovincial constitutions; see for examplethat of La Rioja: art.154). In Asia, countrieswhich were under British colonialrule have retained the British concept oflocal government and of local selfgovernment,including the restoration oftraditional methods of local organization(not only Australia and New Zealand, butalso India, Pakistan, Malaysia) but othercountries refer rather to the wording“local autonomy” (Japan, Indonesia,Republic of Korea, Philippines).One can see however that these differencesin terminology and sometimes conceptualizationhave no impact on the realcontent of “autonomy” or “self-government”.There is nothing that allows us to15. In this sense:Breuillard, M.(2000),L’administrationlocale en Grande-Bretagne, entrecentralisation etrégionalisation,L’Harmattan, coll. «GRALE » Paris.


POSTFACE312 United Cities and Local Governments16. Franck Moderne(2006), “Lemunicipio commeentité politique dansl’organisationterritoriale fédéraledu Brésil”, pp.347-363 in: Mélanges enl’honneur de Jean-Claude Douence. Laprofondeur du droitlocal, Paris, Dalloz.17. A renowned Frenchlegal expert, CharlesEisenmann, wrote:“decentralization isa system without agiven politicalcolour; it can beequallyundemocratic anddemocratic”; all thatis required is thatthe designation oflocal authority be“independent ofcentral authority”(op. cit. p.277).assert that the reference to “local autonomy”corresponds to a degree of decentralizationgreater than the reference tothe principle of “self-government”, if onecompares institutions, powers and responsibilities.Municipalities in Germany orFrance do not benefit from less extensivedecentralization than municipalities inItaly or Portugal; decentralization is nomore advanced in the Republic of Koreathan in India. But decentralization isessential as a reference standard for localgovernment. This standard is being developedby the European Charter for LocalSelf-government and the UN Habitat Guidelinesfor Decentralization.This general tendency has however a fewnuances. In African countries, the conceptswhich the constitutions and nationallaws reflect follow those of the formercolonial power. However, this conceptionhas been dominated since independenceby the wish to ensure the unity of thestate, which has upheld a centralized systemand an essentially instrumental visionof decentralization. However, for anumber of years, the reforms undertakenin a certain number of states bring themcloser to the general trend by giving todecentralization a more substantial contentof local self-government (for example:South Africa, Uganda, Zambia,Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal).Lastly, a few countries stand out, conversely,by the affirmation of a concept ofmunicipality which makes it a componentof the state or the framework of an expressionof sovereignty. Sweden is theonly European country whose constitutiondeclares that “self-management oflocal communities” contributes to therealization of “national sovereignty”(1:1). The constitution of the Ukraine alsostates that the people’s sovereignty isexercised by the organs of power of thestate and by the bodies of local selfgovernment(art.5), but this formula recallsthe former adherence of local bodiesto the state power. In Brazil, the 1988constitution, in principle, confers on themunicipalities (municipio) political selfgovernment:the municipios, as withfederated states, are part of the componentswhose “indissoluble unity” formsthe Federal Republic of Brazil (art.1), andthe federal constitution defines the basesof their organization and their powersand responsibilities (art.29 to 31). Thepractical scope of this concept seems,however, limited 16 . In Indonesia, the introductionof the reference to “autonomy”in the laws of 1999 and laterlaws, corresponds on the other hand to achange of concept, with the transfer ofwide-ranging powers, responsibilities andresources and the direct election of thelocal executive.Local self-government is a constituentelement of decentralization.The terms “local autonomy”, “libreadministration” and “self-government”do indeed correspond to oneand the same notion. It presupposesfreedom of action and organizationfor the local authority in the contextof the laws; this freedom may bemore or less extensive but this doesnot affect the notion itself.C) DemocracyThe classical notion of decentralizationdoes not necessarily imply democracy;an organization may be decentralizedwithout being based on democratic principles17 . Conversely, an organization basedon democratic principles may becentralized.Now, the link between decentralizationand democracy has become narrower andmore direct, as in the past in Europe, thelink between parliamentary government,arising out of the census system, anddemocracy. Decentralization, understoodin its strictest sense as a methodof organization, today impliesdemocracy. It presupposes the self-


313government of local authorities inthe framework of the law, but it isdemocracy which is the basis forlocal self-government. Democracyeffectively allows citizens to expresscollective preferences which direct theexercise of power held by local authoritiesby law. This has not always been thecase: property ownership as a requirementfor voting or the recognized authorityof the traditional elite have in thepast constituted the basis, or the drivingforce, for decentralization.This has not completely disappeared. Onthe contrary, in certain countries, the institutionsgive community leaders or religiouschiefs a controlling role in civilsociety and the law sometimes givesthem a place in the representative bodiesexercising public powers (for example:Ghana, Uganda, Niger, South Africa...).In certain Middle Eastern countries, theauthority of members of the local aristocracyis influential even though there areelections (UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).Despite these surviving customs, the generaltrend is towards the election of localgovernment bodies and to the developmentof instituted forms of popular participation.Even if the election is notdisputed, it is considered to be essentialfor the authority and the legitimacy of thelocal authorities and one can see that legislationtends to introduce a degree ofpossibility of choice or influence for electors(Vietnam, 2004 local elections; Chinaat village or district committee level).In conclusion, it is obvious that a systemof reference for decentralization is beingconsolidated which includes recognizinglocal self-government and calls for representativeelected institutions and participatoryinstitutions by which the peoplemay express their collective preferencesand interests. We should underline thatthis system of reference is not foundeverywhere, but it is challenged by anyother reference system and continues tospread. Without question, its strengthlies in its ability to take form in a widevariety of institutional models.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


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