595 - Experiences in Local Development and Local Governance in Latin America. Challenges and Perspectives

16.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
17.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30

Coordenator 1: van Lindert, Paul (Utrecht University , Utrecht, Netherlands / Niederlande)
Coordenator 2: Rofman, Adriana (Instituto del Conurbano, UNGS, Argentina / Argentinien)

Looking at Latin America at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the subcontinent appears to have reinvented itself. The economies have been transformed under liberalization and globalisation. Next, the political environments were modified by the democratic transition, as well as by state reform and decentralized development. In the process, it became also clear that existing planning systems underwent a clear-cut paradigm shift, whereby the national and regional planning structures were withering away, to make room for more regional and local oriented ones, in local development, local governance and local participation were coming to the fore.

The ongoing debate on local development and local governance in Latin America has a clear-cut interdisciplinary nature, involving economists, sociologists and anthropologists, geographers and planners, political scientists etc. In the early stages of the debate, the economic component of the local development process carried much weight. However, in due course the debate distanced itself from this aspect, while stressing the role of local governance and the involvement of (gendered) local stakeholders, and the incorporation of elements, such as the delivery of public services, pro-poor policies, micro-credit and remittances, sustainable development etc.

At first, many local development programmes started as ‘occasional initiatives’ of lower-tier governments, often little embedded in local policy frameworks. Gradually though, local development approaches became incorporated in the ‘regular’ local planning cycles, and expanded to also embrace civic participation, pro-poor policies, sustainable development (etc.). While local development originally was above all counterbalancing the shortcomings of the (globalizing) national states, the new perspective was more and more focused on the reinforcement of local and regional production structures (often by strengthening endogenous capital) as well as by improving the local, regional, social and political institutions. The latter could not be realized without a more focused involvement of the state. Small wonder, that today’s local development efforts, although still firmly in the hands of the lower-tier governments, are gradually becoming embedded in nationally defined public policy frameworks, without resorting to the heavy state-controlled developmentalist approaches of the past. The new context presents new challenges, quite different from the ones that had to be solved in the 1980s and 1990s.

Today’s debate on local development and local government in Latin America relates to a very broad, many-faceted (and sometimes even confusing) range of aspects and activities. Moreover, the debate shows huge differences of scale, as it generally deals with the full range of human settlements, from the tiny rural municipalities (often with a rather bleak development perspective), to the huge metropolitan areas. Still, throughout the subcontinent, the inclusion of local and regional stakeholders in Latin America’s development process is articulated, sometimes even backed by surprisingly innovative initiatives in local governance and local development. At the same time, however, the deeply ingrained forces and practices of traditional politics and policies, patronage and clientelism run counter to the inclusion and participation of local communities. Despite a rapidly growing body of literature, it still remains to be seen whether initiatives for local development and local governance are effectively leading to substantial improvements in the living conditions of the urban and rural poor.

Palavras-chaves: Local Development. Local Governance. Civic Participation. Local Planning. Pro-poor policies.

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