Beyond Normative Models and Development Trends: Strategic Design and Implementation of Decentralization in Developing Countries

Smoke, P.
prepared for the Management, Governance and Development Division, United Nations Development Program, New York,

This paper considers recent thinking on and experience with decentralization and local government reform in developing countries, primarily from the perspective of national policy. The paper begins by reviewing why decentralization has re-emerged as an important development trend and considers whether this is sensible. The third section examines why recent attempts to decentralize have not been particularly successful.  The fourth section selectively summarizes a few experiences from the 1990s in which attempts were made to overcome common obstacles to decentralization. The paper closes with a few modest lessons for the design and implementation of decentralization and local government reform programs.

Wagner Faculty