What is Democratic Decentralization?

What is Democratic Decentralization?

Democratic decentralization is the development of reciprocal relationships between central and local governments and between local governments and citizens. It addresses the power to develop and implement policy, the extension of democratic processes to lower levels of government, and measures to ensure that democracy is sustainable. Democratic decentralization incorporates both decentralization and democratic local governance.

Democratic decentralization is a political concept. Through democratic decentralization, process power is spread from the top to bottom. The aim of such decentralization is to expand the field of authority and specialization and to enable the people to make more and more participate in politics and administrative affairs.

Democratic decentralization can be defined as meaningful authority devolved to local units. governance that is accessible and accountable to the local citizenry, who enjoy full political. rights and liberty.

To achieve these objectives, new institutions are created and the old and existing institutions are reorganized or remodeled and reformed.

The main purpose of democratic decentralization, however, is to bring fundamental changes in the traditional outlook on the power structure of the government. Thus, democratic decentralization means decentralization of power. The source from which this power is decentralized is based on the democratic structure and hence, such decentralization is called democratic decentralization.

Moreover, the authority on which the power is to be delegated is also organized democratically. Through this democratic decentralization, a relation of closeness and cooperation is created between the government administrative system and the non-governmental leadership and control.

Democratic decentralization is the development of reciprocal relationships between central and local governments and between local governments and citizens.


Decentralization is the transfer of authority, responsibility, and accountability from central to local governments. Decentralization can take various forms, commonly described in public administration terms as deconcentration, devolution, and delegation. Decentralization also has several dimensions that reflect, in general terms, increasing and often sequential stages of progress in achieving the governance objectives of decentralization. These stages are: 
  • Administrative decentralization (functional responsibility)
  • Financial decentralization (access to resources)
  • Political decentralization (accountability).
The political dimension is especially critical for democratic decentralization because it reconstitutes the state in a democratic way. It provides a process at the local level through which diverse interests can be heard and negotiated and resource allocation decisions can be made based on public discussions. Democratic local governance does not exist in a vacuum. Authorities beyond the local level must be persuaded or influenced to support the legitimization and empowerment of local governments. Genuine political power sharing is a key element often missing in the political dimension of decentralization.

Decentralization—the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to subordinate or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector—is a complex multifaceted concept.

Why Is Democratic Decentralization Important?

Political and economic changes during the past decade have demonstrated people’s interest in democratic ideals of freedom, human rights, and accountable government. Because democratic regimes contribute to peace and security in the world and because democracy and respect for human rights coincide with fundamental American values, democratic decentralization is an important part of the foreign policy of the United States. As described in USAID’s Strategies for Sustainable Development,

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Decentralisation
  • The motivation of Subordinates.
  • Growth and Diversification.
  • Quick Decision Making. 
  • Efficient Communication.
  • Ease of Expansion.
  • Better Supervision And Control.
  • Satisfaction of Human needs.
  • Relief to top executives.

Democratic decentralization is the process of devolving the functions and resources of the state from the center to the elected representatives at the lower levels so as to facilitate greater direct participation of citizens in governance.

India’s efforts in decentralization represent one of the largest experiments in deepening democracy. India has a robust democratic structure for local governance, what we need to practice is a robust democratic culture and give life to our existing structure. Local bodies need to be seen as institutions of self-governance not as ‘delivery mechanisms’ to fulfill Gandhi’s vision of Gram Swaraj.
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