Decentralization: The Key to Local Development

Fiscal Decentralization and Development

Countries around the world are increasingly recognizing the impact fiscal decentralization can have on both national and community level development. Fiscal decentralization is characterized by a shift in financial responsibility from a central government to a local municipal government. Decentralization is a key element for development because it puts power back into the hands of community members. When local communities have the autonomy to control their own resource allocation and spending, they have a greater ability to fill the needs of their specific community than their centralized government. They tend to be more efficient at delivering public goods and services, which only increases the effectiveness of their local governance system. Development should happen at the community level, driven by the people who will keep their communities functioning and productive.

According to the World Bank (WB), decentralization can occur through several mechanisms, including local self-financing, co-financing or co-production, local taxes, monetary transfers from central governments, and/or municipal borrowing. Most importantly, measuring local fiscal autonomy and management must be included when evaluating a country’s level of decentralization . Decentralization goes beyond expenditure and resource allocation data; it must be considered in the context of who makes the decisions and at what level public goods are being delivered.

Unfortunately, most decentralization studies fail to address local fiscal autonomy. Many countries have limited to no data on the decision-making power of local government bodies compared to their central counterparts. Establishing a standard way to measure progress worldwide is the next crucial step forward in decentralization efforts.

Measuring Fiscal Decentralization

Decentralization data that accounts for local fiscal autonomy is difficult to find. However, several thorough sources of data capture not only countries’ fiscal autonomy data, but also dissect how this information relates to important global development outcomes.

In a report released in 2012 titled “How Close is Your Government to Its People?” the World Bank measures fiscal decentralization by: vertical fiscal gap, taxation autonomy, unconditional transfers to local government, expenditure autonomy, and borrowing freedom. These indicators allow countries to be profiled on a holistic level, providing accurate and usable data. Some of the top fiscally decentralized countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, USA, and Denmark, while the bottom countries are Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Oman, and Samoa. This report also includes measures of political and administrative decentralization, as well as the meaning and measurement of the relative importance of local government.

Another great example of a measurement system comes from The Local Public Sector Initiative, a multi-organization collaborative project that determines how decentralization is contributing to individual countries’ efforts to achieve global development outcomes. The surveys include a variety of metrics, ranging from “Basic Country Information” to “Assignment of Functions & Expenditure Responsibilities”. Each country has a detailed profile of health and education expenditure background, sectoral decentralization, and development indicators. The researchers included the survey template and instructions alongside their completed country surveys, enabling an understanding of their framework. The survey accommodates countries with varying government structures, allowing for up to four levels of government to be evaluated. The twenty nine currently completed country surveys are a great start to a global standard of measuring fiscal decentralization.

The Next Steps in Decentralizing for Development

The most important next step in achieving fiscal decentralization is a steadfast commitment from communities, policy makers, and countries as a whole to make decentralization a reality. International efforts are not being widely adopted, and community members must advocate for their policy maker’s commitment to fiscal decentralization. For example, only nine countries in the African Union have signed the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance, and Local Development to date, delaying it being put into force. If a major international body like the African Union committed to fiscal decentralization, we would see large scale dramatic change in community-level development. Countries worldwide must make a commitment to decentralize their spending, balance their power and resources between all levels of government, and put autonomy into the hands of local community leaders. These efforts will pay off in achieving not only the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, but also prosperity for communities at all levels.


Local Public Sector Initiative country-level data can be viewed here.

Featured image courtesy of The Hunger Project, United Kingdom.



Inter-Epicenter Exchanges to Strengthen Local Leadership

THP-SenegalThe Hunger Project-Senegal has initiated an approach associated with The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Senegal was the first African country of intervention for The Hunger Project, starting in 1991. THP-Senegal continues to build sustainable community-based programs using the Epicenter Strategy. The strategy was devised in Africa, by Africans, and for Africans. To date, it has been applied to all eight program countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, reaching 1.6 million people across Africa.

For more than 20 years, the Epicenter Strategy has proven to be an effective, efficient and replicable model to achieve sustainable development. The program takes approximately eight years over four phases: 1) training to mobilize communities to commit to creating positive change, 2) construction of the Epicenter building, 3) implementation of community programs, the implemented programs address the needs of the community, like health, food security, education, agriculture, and household finance and; 4) transition to self-reliance.

THP-Senegal added an Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit to increasingly advance local leaders’ capacities. The initiative will serve as a liaison for Epicenter leaders to exchange practices and various techniques with other Epicenter leaders to obtain knowledge and ideas at the same time rectify faults and dysfunctions perpetrated as they sustain for the accomplishment of their goal.

The Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit is composed of two phases: 1) participants welcome the words and presentation of distinguished leaders from other Epicenters, 2) participants attend a thematic workshop specifically about important issues  and programmatic components of THP-Senegal such as mobilization and leadership, health and nutrition, food safety, environment and sanitation, monitoring and evaluation, microfinance, income generating activities, and gender and women empowerment.

Leaders that participated in the exchange visits have expressed that they have learned a lot from discussing activities of their partner Epicenters in the many workshops. It has also spawned discussion among Epicenter leaders to exchange agricultural products such as millet, groundnuts, rice, and cowpeas,  between Epicenters of the north and center. They believe this would strengthen partnership linkages between communities of partner Epicenters in THP-Senegal and help to expand local economies and subsequent opportunities

The greening of Epicenters initiative was another lesson assimilated by the leaders generated from the environment and sanitation workshops. They have agreed to the tree planting initiative by Epicenters Ndéreppe, Dinguiraye and Coki to continue the tree planting efforts to their respective communities.

Leaders strongly acknowledged the importance of sanitation and latrines, especially in consideration of community members’ comfort in hosting visitors. The leaders also realized the CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) approach appeared to be simple and accessible to the communities.

The leaders expressed that the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit was a strong moment of sharing and cooperation with partner Epicenters. With all the information exchanged from one leader to the other, they hope to follow and implement the lessons they have assimilated during the visit, and as they wait for the following gathering at the end of the year, they are committed to advance their respective communities’ capacities with respect to the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit initiative.

The Development of communities is not a one-size fits all philosophy therefore it is not imperative for communities to replicate the activities and strategy of its partner communities, but exchange of ideas opens the door of possibilities and opportunities for communities to grow. One community’s insight could foster advanced inputs and innovation to other communities.

THP-Senegal’s Inter-epicenter initiative would be a great practice to pilot in other program countries because it promotes stronger partnerships between communities. The leaders who have participated in the initiative have also testified that the meeting renewed their interest and alleviated their drive for progress and innovation. The practice of exchanging information with other communities also highlights gaps or hindrances that possibly jeopardizes progress, therein safeguarding progress and ensuring sustainability from activities.

Women and the Role of Husbandry for Stronger Community-led Development

THP-Burkina Faso’s Director,  Evariste Lebende Yaogho, with program participant.

We live in a world where women still continue to fight for equal rights. They are not given the option to make decisions and their needs are only secondary to men. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries up to almost 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown but ironically, a greater number of the world’s hungry are women.

In many rural communities, women are not granted the freedom to generate their own income or even leave the confines of their home. A huge number of them are illiterate because they are denied to receive an education. They are mandated to spend most of their days care-giving and perform other household responsibilities. They have to face different challenges on the road in order to achieve literacy. When they grow up, their daughters go through the same oppression: a cycle of poverty. It can be very difficult to break that cycle given that a girl’s future is determined by the time she takes her first breath.

The Hunger Project believes that development requires gender equality. This begins with empowering women. When women join the working sector there is an increase in economic productivity. One of the Hunger Project’s most recent initiatives, “Projet d’appui à la production animale dans les Communes de Arbollé et de Kirsi (PAPA/AK),” is a twelve month project funded by FAO that attempts to break the cycle of poverty through livestock husbandry. Fifty have chosen 3 rams during a community fair, each benefiting from the inclusion of monthly health monitored for each animal.

Educating whole communities, including men, about the benefits of empowering women can affect a critical social mindset shift to improve household income and bring families out of poverty. This can also lead to different possibilities and opportunities for women to build greater agency and roles within her community.  Women empowerment does not equal to male inferiority. Women empowerment seeks the closure of gender-gaps that consequently results to development and betterment of the lives of women, men, families and communities.

Heifer International, co-founder of the Movement for Community-led Development with The Hunger Project, also aims to empower citizens and communities at the grassroots level to become agents of change for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. They strengthen local economies by distributing livestock and leading husbandry trainings to help families become self reliant. Heifer also provides veterinary services to project participants to maximize benefits and reduce livestock mortality rates.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, “when women have equal access to education, and go to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.” A community cannot meet full development unless women receive the same treatment and opportunities as men. Women posses the essential skills for development, they just need the transition to reach that goal.

The Hunger Project’s recent animal donation project with FAO places particular priority on women, as it empowers them to become financial providers for their family. It generates opportunities for women to cut the cycle of poverty and hunger, and an opportunity for them to participate to fostering equality and breaking the norms of inferiority. They become the key agents of their own development and the innovator their community needs.

Localizing the SDGs in Malawi

On May 15, 2015, The Hunger Project and World Vision co-hosted a nationally-broadcast panel discussion in Lilongwe on localizing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals in Malawi. The focused and frank discussion resulted in significant commitments to greater partnership among five key groups of development actors.

The panelists include:

  • Chris Kang’ombe, Principal Secretary of the Malawi Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
  • Chancellor Kaferapanjira, president of the Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Gospel Kazako, Managing Director, Zodiak Broadcasting
  • Aubrey Chibwana, Executive Director, National Youth Council
  • Ronald Mtonga, Executive Director, CONGOMA: The Council of NGOs of Malawi

The discussion was moderated by:

  • Naile Salima, Advocacy Officer, World Vision-Malawi
  • Rowlands Kaotcha, Country Director, The Hunger Project-Malawi

In attendance were members of The Hunger Project Global Board of Directors who had traveled to Malawi for their annual meeting, and senior officials from UNDP, WFP, NEPAD, the EU and other agencies.

World Health Day 2014: Combating vector-borne diseases


World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of World Heath Organization (WHO) in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The Day provides an opportunity for individuals in every community to get involved in activities that can lead to better health (WHO, 2014).

The theme/topic for 2014 anniversary is vector-borne diseases.

To download and read A global brief on vector-borne diseases by WHO, click here.

Summaries on Vectors and Vector-born diseases (Adopted from WHO)

  • Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another.

  • Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites in human populations.

  • The most commonly known vectors are :

    • mosquitoes, sand flies, bugs, ticks and snails.

  • The above vectors are responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack humans or animals. Mosquitoes, for example, not only transmit malaria and dengue, but also lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

  • They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic.

  • The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660 000 deaths in 2010. Most of these were African children.

World Malaria Report 2013 is accessible here.

  • The fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years.

  • 40% of the world’s population is at risk from dengue (2014)

          To learn more about Dengue, click here.

  • More than half of the world’s population is at risk of these diseases. Increased travel, trade and migration make even more people vulnerable.

Goal: better protection from vector-borne diseases

The campaign aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and to stimulate families and communities to take action to protect themselves. A core element of the campaign will be to provide communities with information. As vector-borne diseases begin to spread beyond their traditional boundaries, action needs to be expanded beyond the countries where these diseases currently thrive.

More broadly, through the campaign, WHO member states are aiming for the following:

  • families living in areas where diseases are transmitted by vectors know how to protect themselves;

  • travelers know how to protect themselves from vectors and vector-borne diseases when travelling to countries where these pose a health threat;

  • in countries where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem, ministries of health put in place measures to improve the protection of their populations; and

  • in countries where vector-borne diseases are an emerging threat, health authorities work with environmental and relevant authorities locally and in neighboring countries to improve integrated surveillance of vectors and to take measures to prevent their proliferation.


WHO, 2014. Retrieved on 1 April 2014 from

CDC, 2014. Retrieved on 1 April 2014 from


Update on African Common Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:


p dir=”ltr”>Following several consultation processes with African Union (AU) member states, regional economic communities, development and research groups and civil society organizations including youth and women’s organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector, African leaders adopted the African Common Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda, whose High-Level Committee was chaired by Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (ECA, 2014).

(Click here for the full text in English, and here for the full text in French).

The AU Assembly that met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month for the 22nd Annual African Summit endorsed the articulation of the African development goals consistent with the existing continental frameworks and to serve as milestones for tracking and monitoring progress towards Agenda 2063. (AU, 2014)

H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a co-chair of the High-Level Panel (HLP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

To read more on HLP on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, click here.

The key finding of the four consultations held from 2011 – 2013 is that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be reformulated after 2015; because as currently constituted, the MDGs:

  • Have limited focus on economic growth and transformation;
  • Do not sufficiently emphasize the role of domestic resource mobilization in Africa’s development agenda;
  • Tend to neglect issues relating to the quality of service delivery;
  • Are silent on inequality including spatial and horizontal inequality
  • Disproportionately focus on outcomes with limited consideration of the enablers of development, thereby excluding the role of factors such as infrastructure and peace and security in facilitating socio – economic advancement.

The following are key recommendations from Africa on post-2015 development agenda included the following:

– a need for structural economic transformation and inclusive growth,

– focus on innovation, technological transfer and research and development,

– focus on human development and

– strong financing and partnerships

To download and read detailed summaries of African Common Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda, click here.

The African High-Level Committee on post-2015 development agenda has also outlined the following preconditions to achieving and sustaining the outcomes:

• Peace and security

• Good governance, transparency and fighting corruption

• Strengthened institutional capacity

• Promoting equality and access to justice and information

• Human rights for all

• Gender equality

• Domestic resource mobilization

• Regional integration

• A credible participatory process with cultural sensitivity

• Enhanced statistical capacity to measure progress and ensure accountability

• Prudent macro-economic policy that emphasizes fair growth

• Democratic and developmental state

• An enabling global governance architecture

(Summaries are Adopted from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA))

African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation




(This historic document is posted here for easy reference).





p style=”text-align:center;”>ARUSHA 1990


  1. The International Conference on Popular Participation in the Recovery and Development Process in Africa was held, in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania from 12 to 16 February 1990, as a rare collaborative effort between African people’s organizations, the African governments, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations agencies, in the search for a collective understanding of the role of popular participation in the development and transformation of the region. It was also an occasion to articulate and give renewed focus to the concepts of democratic development, people’s solidarity and creativity and self-reliance and to formulate policy recommendations for national governments, popular organizations and the international community in order to strengthen participatory processes and patterns of development. It was the third in a series of major international conferences organized by the Economic Commission for Africa in collaboration with the rest of the United Nations system to contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development, 1986-1990 (UN-PAAERD). It came as a sequel to the Abuju International Conference on Africa. The Challenge of Economic Recovery and Accelerated Development held in 1987, and the 1988 Khartoum International Conference on the Human Dimension of Africa’s Economic Recovery and Development. It is important to note that the initiative for this Conference came from the submission of the NGOs to the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the General Assembly on the mid-term review and assessment of the implementation of UN-PAAERD in September 1988.

  2. The Conference was organized under the auspices of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Follow-Up on the Implementation of the UN- PAAERD at the Regional Level (UN-IATF) and with the full support and warm hospitality of the government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania. The ECA Conference of Ministers responsible for Economic Development and Planning adopted Resolution 664 (XXIV) at its Twenty-Fourth Session in which it supported this Conference and urged Member States of the Commission, the International Community, NGOs and the United Nations system to support and actively participate in it. The Conference was attended by over 500 participants from a wide range of African people’s organizations – including, in particular, non- governmental, grass-roots, peasant, women and youth organizations and associations, trade unions and others – as well as representatives of African Governments, agencies of the United Nations system, non-African, non- governmental organizations, regional, sub-regional and intergovernmental organizations, bilateral donors, multilateral organizations as well as specialists, both from within and outside Africa. The Conference was opened by H.E Ali Hassan Mwinyi, President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Opening statements were also made by the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, the representative of the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity and representatives of the Non- Governmental Organizations, African Women’s Organizations and the Pan-African Youth Movement. The Conference would like to put on records its appreciation for the full support and warm hospitality of the Government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania.

  3. The Conference was organized out of concern for the serious deterioration in the human and economic conditions in Africa in the decade of the 1980s, the recognition of the lack of progress in achieving popular participation and the lack of full appreciation of the role popular participation plays in the process of recover
    and development.

  4. The objectives of the Conference were to:

a. Recognize the role of people’s participation in Africa’s recovery and development efforts;

b. Sensitize national governments and the international community to the dimensions, dynamics, processes and potential of a development approach rooted in popular initiatives and self-reliant efforts;

c. Identify obstacles to people’s participation in development and define appropriate approaches to the promotion of popular participation in policy formulation, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development programmes;

d. Recommend actions to be taken by Governments, the United Nations system as well as the public and private donor agencies in building an enabling environment for authentic popular participation in the development process and encourage people and their organizations to undertake self-reliant development initiatives;

e. Facilitate the exchange of information, experience and knowledge for mutual support among people and their organizations; and

f. Propose indicators for the monitoring of progress in facilitating people’s participation in Africa’s development

  1. We, the people, engaged in debate and dialogue on the issues involved over
    the span of five plenary sessions and fifteen workshops during the five-day long International Conference. In the light of our deliberations, we have decided to place on record our collective analysis, conclusions, policy recommendations and action proposals for the consideration of the people, the African Governments and the International Community.


  1. We are united in our conviction that the crisis currently engulfing Africa, is not only an economic crisis but also a human, legal, political and social crisis. It is a crisis of unprecedented and unacceptable proportions manifested not only in abysmal declines in economic indicators and trends, but more tragically and glaringly in the suffering, hardship and impoverishment of the vast majority of African people. At the same time, the political context of socio-economic development has been characterized, in many instances, by an over-centralization of power and impediments to the effective participation of the overwhelming majority of the people in social, political and economic development. As a result, the motivation of the majority of African people and their organizations to contribute their best to the development process, and to the betterment of their own well-being as well as their say in national development has been severely constrained and curtailed and their collective and individual creativity has been undervalued and underutilized.
  2. We affirm that nations cannot be built without the popular support and full participation of the people, nor can the economic crisis be resolved and the human and economic conditions improved without the full and effective contribution, creativity and popular enthusiasm of the vast majority of the people. After all, it is to the people that the very benefits of development should and must accrue. We are convinced that neither can Africa’s perpetual economic crisis be overcome, nor can a bright future for Africa and its people see the light of day unless the structures, pattern and political contest of the process of socio-economic development are appropriately altered.

  3. We, therefore, have no doubt that at the heart of Africa’s development
    objectives must lie the ultimate and overriding goal of human-centered development that ensures the overall well-being of the people through sustained improvement in their living standards and the full and effective participation of the people in charting their development policies, programmes and processes and contributing to their realization. We furthermore observe that given the current world political and economic situation, Africa is becoming further marginalized in world affairs, both geo-politically and economically. African countries must realize that, more than ever before, their greatest resource is their people and that it is through their active and full participation that Africa can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead.

  4. We are convinced that to achieve the above objective will required a re- direction of resources to satisfy, in the first place, the critical needs of the people, to achieve economic and social justice and to emphasize self-reliance on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to empower the people to determine the direction and content of development, and to effectively contribute to the enhancement of production and productivity that are required. Bearing this in mind and having carefully analyzed the structure of the African economies, the root causes of the repeated economic crisis and the strategies ad programmes that have hitherto been applied to deal with them, we are convinced that Africa has no alternative but to urgently and immediately embark upon the task of transforming the structure of its economies to achieve long-term self-sustained growth and development that is both human centered and participatory in nature. Furthermore, Africa’s grave environmental and ecological crisis cannot be solved in the absence of a process of sustainable development which commands the full support and participation of the people. We believe in this context that the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP) – which was endorsed by the Twenty-Fifth Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) held in July 1989, and by the Conference of Heads of the State or Government of Non- Aligned countries held in Belgrade in September 1989 and by the Forty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations which invited the international community, including multi-lateral, financial and development institutions, to consider the framework as a basis for constructive dialogue and fruitful consultation – offers the best framework for such an approach. We also wish in this regard to put on record our disapproval of all economic programmes, such as orthodox Structural Adjustment Programmes, which undermine the human condition and disregard the potential and role of popular participation in self- sustaining development.

  5. In our sincere view, popular participation is both a means and an end. As an instrument of development, popular participation provides the driving force for collective commitment for the determination of people-based development processes and willingness by the people to undertake sacrifices and expend their social energies for its execution. As an end in itself, popular participation is the fundamental right of the people to fully and effectively participate in the determination of the decisions which affect their lives at all levels and at all times.


  1. We believe strongly that popular participation is, in essence, the empowerment of the people to effectively involve themselves in creating the structures and in designing policies and programmes that serve the interests of all as well as to effectively contribute to the development process and share equitably in its benefits. Therefore, there must be an opening up of political process to accommodate freedom of opinions, tolerate differences, accept consensus on issues as well as ensure the effective participation of the people and their organizations and associations. This requires action on the part of all, first and foremost of the people themselves. But equally important are the actions of the State and the international community, to create the necessary conditions for such an empowerment and facilitate effective popular participation in societal and economic life. This requires that the political system evolve to allow for democracy and full participation by all sections evolve to allow for democracy and full participation by all sections of our societies.
  2. In view of the critical contribution made by women to African societies and economies and the extreme subordination and discrimination suffered by women in Africa, it is the consensus of the participants that the attainment of equal rights by women in social, economic and political spheres must become a central feature of a democratic and participatory pattern of development. Further, it is the consensus of this conference that the attainment of women’s full participation must be given highest priority by society as a whole and African Governments in particular. This right should be fought for and defended by society, African Non-Governmental Organizations and Voluntary Development Organizations as well as non-African, Non-Governmental Organizations and Voluntary Development Organizations, Governments and the United Nations system in due recognition of the primary role being played by women now and on the course to recovery and transformation of African for better quality of life.


  1. We want to emphasize the basic fact that the role of the people and their popular organizations is central to the realization of popular participation. They have to be fully involved, committed and indeed, seize the initiative. In this regard, it is essential that they establish independent people’s organizations at various levels that are genuinely grass-root, voluntary, democratically administered and self- reliant and that are rooted in the tradition and culture of the society so as to ensure community empowerment and self-development. Consultative machinery at various levels should be established with governments on various aspects of democratic participation. It is crucial that the people and their popular organizations should develop links across national borders to promote cooperation and inter- relationships on sub-regional, regional, south-south and south-north bases. This is necessary for sharing lessons of experience, developing people’s solidarity and raising political consciousness on democratic participation.
  2. In view of the vital and central role played by women in family well-being
    and maintenance, their special commitment to the survival, protection and development of children, as well as survival of society and their important role in the process of African recovery and reconstruction, special emphasis should be put by all the people in terms of eliminating biases particularly with respect to the reduction of the burden on women and taking positive action to ensure their full equality and effective participation in the development process.

  3. Having said this, we must underscore that popular participation begins and must be earnestly practiced at the family level, because home is the base for development. It must also be practiced at the work place, and in all organizations, and in all walks of life.


  1. We strongly believe that popular participation is dependent on the nature of the State itself and ability of Government to respond to popular demand. Since African Governments have a critical role to play in the promotion of popular participations, they have to yield space to the people, without which popular participation will be difficult to achieve. Too often, the social base of power and decision-making are too narrow. Hence the urgent need to broaden these; to galvanize and tap the people’s energy and commitment, and to promote political accountability by the State to the people. This makes it imperative that a new partnership between African Governments and the people in the common interest of societal and accelerated socio-economic development should be established without delay. This new partnership must not only recognize the importance of gender issues but must take action to ensure women’s involvement at all levels of decision- making. In particular Governments should set themselves specific targets for the appointment of women in senior policy and management posts in all sectors of government.
  2. We believe that for people to participate meaningfully in their self-
    development, their freedom to express themselves and their freedom from fear must be guaranteed. This can only be assured through the extension and protection of people’s basic human rights and we urge all Governments to vigorously implement the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ILO Convention No 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

  3. We also believe that one of the key conditions for ensuring people’s participation throughout the continent is the bringing to an end of all wars and armed conflicts. The millions of African refugees and displaced persons are those with least opportunity to participate in the determination of their future. We urge Governments and all parties to Africa’s conflicts, domestic and external, to seek peaceful means of resolving their differences and of establishing peace throughout Africa. In situations of armed conflicts, we uphold the right of civilians to food and other basic necessities and emphasize that the international community must exercise its moral authority to ensure that this right is protected.

  4. We cannot overemphasize the benefits that can be reaped if, with the elimination of internal strife or inter-country conflicts, the resources spent of defence were to be redirected to productive activities and social services to the people. As rightly noted in the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmens for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation, “it is not difficult to imagine what it would mean to social welfare in Africa, with all its positive multiplier effects, if a saving can be achieved in defence spending and non- productive expenditures”. We believe that our Governments can make such savings and we call upon them to do so urgently.

  5. We are, however, aware of certain situations, particularly, for the Front-line States which continue to face the destabilization acts of apartheid South Africa. This destabilization results in a debilitating diversion of resources that would otherwise have been used to meet critical basic needs of the people in these countries.


  1. We call on the international community to examine its own record on popular participation, and hereafter to support indigenous efforts which promote the emergence of a democratic environment and facilitate the people’s effective participation and empowerment in the political life of their countries.
  2. We also call on the United Nations system to intensify its efforts to promote the application of justice in international economic relations, the defence of human rights, the maintenance of peace and the achievement of disarmament and to assist African countries and people’s organizations with the development of human and economic resources. We also call on the United Nations system to implement its own decision to have at least 30 percent of senior positions held by women. Special efforts are needed to ensure that African women are adequately represented at senior levels in United Nations agencies, particularly those operating in Africa.


  1. On the basis of the foregoing, we lay down the following basic strategies, modalities and actions for effective participation in development.

A. At the level of Governments

  1. African Governments must adopt development strategies, approaches and programmes, the content and parameters of which are in line with the interest and aspirations of the people and which incorporate, rather than
    alienate, African values and economic, social, cultural, political and
    environmental realities.
  2. We strongly urge African Governments to promote the formulation and implementation of national development programmes within the framework of the aforesaid aspirations, interest and realities, which develop as a result of a popular participatory process, and which aim at the transformation of the African economies to achieve self-reliant and self-sustaining people- centered development based on popular participation and democratic consensus.

  3. In implementing these endogenous and people-centered development strategies, an enabling environment must be created to facilitate broad-based participation, on a decentralized-basis, in the development process. Such an enabling environment is an essential pre-requisite for the stimulation of initiatives and creativity and for enhancing output and productivity by actions such as:

i. extending more economic power to the people through the equitable distribution of income, support for their productive capacity through enhanced access to productive inputs, such as land, credit, technology, etc, and in such a manner as to reflect the central role played by women in the economy;

ii. promoting mass literacy and skills training in particular and development of human resources in general;

iii. greater participation and consensus-building in the formulation and implementation of economic and social policies at all levels, including the identification and elimination of laws and bureaucratic procedures that pose obstacles to people’s participation;

iv. increasing employment opportunities for the rural and urban poor, expanding opportunities for them to contribute to the generation of output and enhanced productivity levels and creating better marketing conditions for the benefit of the producers; and

v. strengthening communication capacities for rural development, mass literacy etc.

  1. Small-scale indigenous entrepreneurship and producers cooperatives, as forms of productive participatory development, should be promoted and actions should be taken to increase their productivity.
  2. Intensifying the efforts to achieve sub-regional and regional economic cooperation and integration and increased intra-African trade.

B. At the level of the people and their organizations. To foster participation and democratic development, the people and their organizations should:

a. Establish autonomous grass-roots organizations to promote participatory self-reliant development and increase the output and productivity of the masses.

b. Develop their capacity to participate effectively in debates on economic policy and development issues. This requires building people’s capacity to formulate and analyze development programmes and approaches.

c. Promote education, literacy skill training and human resource
development as a means of enhancing popular participation.

d. Shake off lethargy and traditional beliefs that are impediments to development, especially the customs and cultural practices that undermine the status of women in society, while recognizing and valuing those beliefs and practices that contribute to development. Rural and urban people’s organizations, such as workers, peasants, women, youth, students etc, should be encouraged to initiate and implement strategies to strengthen their productive power and meet their basic needs.

e. Concerted efforts should be made to change prevailing attitudes towards the disabled so as to integrate them and bring them into the main stream of development.

f. Create and enhance networks and collaborative relationships among peoples organizations. This will have the effect to social involvement capable of including social change.

g. People’s organizations should support strongly and participate in the efforts to promote effective sub-regional and regional economic cooperation and integration and intra-African trade.

C. At the level of the International Community.
We also call on the international community to support popular participation in
African by:

a. Supporting African countries in their drive to internalize the development and transformation process. The IMF, World Bank and other bilateral and multi-lateral donors are urged to accept and support African initiatives to conceptualize, formulate and implement endogenously designed development and transformation programmes.

b. Directing technical assistance programmes, first and foremost, to the strengthening of national capabilities for policy analysis and the design and implementation of economic reform and development programmens.

c. Fostering the democratization of development in African countries by supporting the decentralization of development processes, the active participation of the people and their organizations in the formulation of development strategies and economic reform programmes and open debate and consensus – building processes on development and reform issues.

d. Allowing for the release of resources for development on a participatory basis which will require the reversal of the net outflow of financial resources from Africa to the multi-lateral financial institutions and donor countries and their use for development purposes and for the benefit of the people.

e. Reducing drastically the stock of Africa’s debt and debt-servicing obligations and providing a long-term period of moratorium on remaining debt-servicing obligations in order to release resources for financing development and transformation on a participatory basis.

f. Ensuring that the human dimension is central to adjustment programmes which must be compatible with the objectives and aspirations of the African people and with African realities and must be conceived and designed internally by African countries as part and 15 parcel of the long-term objectives and framework of development
and transformation.

g. Supporting African NGOs, grass-roots organizations, women’s and your organizations and trade unions in activities such as training, networking and other programme activities, as well as the documentation, and wide dissemination of their experiences.

D. At the level of NGOs and VDOs. The African and non-African NGOs and VDOs have an important role in supporting recovery and development efforts and popular participation initiatives and organizations in Africa. They are urged to take the following actions:

a. African NGOs and VDOs and their partners should be fully participatory, democratic and accountable,

b. African NGOs, VDOs and GROs should develop and/or strengthen institutional structures at the regional, sub-regional and national levels, such as FAVDO, to bring them together.

c. African NGOs and VDOs should broaden the dissemination of successful African popular participation and grass-root experiences throughout the continent and the exchange of experience thereon to create a multiplier effect and sensitize policy-makers.

d. The International Conference on Popular Participation is clear in its recognition of the value of the contribution of grass-roots organizations and NGOs to Africa’s development and demonstrates that effective dialogue between governments, NGOs and grass-roots organizations is essential and valuable. This Conference recommends that national for a be established to enable honest and open dialogue between African Governments, grass-roots organizations and NGOs in order that the experience of grass-roots participatory
development informs national policy-making.

e. Non-African NGOs and VDOs should give increased support and target their operations within the framework of national economic strategies and reform programmes aimed at transforming the structures of the African economies with a view to internalizing the development process and ensuring its sustainability with a particular focus on the human dimension and people’s participation.

f. Non-African NGOs and VDOs should give due recognition to Africa NGOs and participatory, self-reliant development initiatives launched by African grass-roots organizations;

g. Non-African NGOs and VDOs should utilize African expertise to the maximum extent possible with regard to their development work in Africa and advocacy and campaigning work at the international level.

h. Non-African NGOs should strengthen their advocacy work internationally and in their home countries and with regard to bilateral donors and the multi-lateral system, closely monitoring their response to the African crisis and holding donor governments and agencies accountable for their policies and actions. In particular, non- African and African NGOs should formulate a programme of action geared towards their fullest participation in the end-term review of UN-PAAERD.

i. Cooperation and dialogue between African and Non-African NGOs and VDOs should be strengthened to increase the effectiveness of their interventions at the community level and the building of greater understanding on the part of international public opinion of the real causes of the African socio-economic crisis and the actions that are
needed to deal with its root causes.

j. Non-African NGOs acknowledge that their influence as donors is often detrimental to ensuring genuine partnership with African NGOs, VDOs and grass-root organizations and affects the enabling environment for popular participation. In that context cooperation in all its forms must be transparent and reflect African priorities.

k. African and non-African NGOs and VDOs should, in addition to their traditional humanitarian activities, increasingly provide support for the productive capacities of the African poor and for promoting environmentally sound patterns of local development.

E. At level of the Media and communication

a. The national and regional media should make every effort to fight for and defend their freedom at all costs, and make special effort to champion the cause of popular participation and publicize activities and programmes thereof and generally provide access for the dissemination of information and education programmes on popular participation.

b. Combining their indigenous communication systems with appropriate use of modern low-cost communications technology, African communities and NGOs, VDOs and trade unions and other mass organizations must strengthen their communication capacities for development. Regional and national NGOs should participate in the assessment of Africa’s Development Support Communication Needs to be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations Steering Committee and the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on UN- PAAERD.

F. At the level of women’s organizations. In ensuring that the participation of
women in the organizations development process, is advanced and strengthened, popular women’s should:
Continue to strengthen their capacity as builders of confidence among women;
Strive for the attainment of policies and programmes that reflect and recognize women’s roles as producers, mothers, active community mobilizers and custodians of culture;
Work to ensure the full understanding of men, in particular, and the society, in general, of women’s role in the recovery and transformation of Africa so that men and women together might articulate and pursue appropriate courses of action;
Implement measures to reduce the burden carried by women through:

i. advocating to the society at large, including central and local government levels, the importance of task sharing in the home and community, especially in the areas of water and wood fetching, child rearing etc;

ii. promoting the establishment and proper functioning of community-based day care centers in all communities, and

iii. striving to attain economic equality by advocating the rights of women to land and greater access to credit.

e. Women’s organizations should be democratic, autonomous and accountable organizations.

G. At the level of organized labour.
Trade Unions should:
a. Be democratic, voluntary, autonomous and accountable organizations.
b. Initiative, animate and promote mass literacy and training programmes.
c. Organize and mobilize rural workers in accordance with ILO Convention 141, which African Governments are strongly urged to ratify.
d. Defend trade union rights, in particular the right to strike.
e. Assist in the formation of workers’cooperatives.
f. Assist in organizing the unemployed for productive activities, such as the establishment of small and medium scale enterprises.
g. Give special attention to effective and democratic participation of women members at all levels of trade unions.
h. Promote work place democracy through the call for the protection of workers’ rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining and participatory management.
H. At the level of youth and students and their organizations. Considering the
centrality of the youth and students in Africa’s population and the recovery and development process, the following actions should be taken:
a. Preparation and adoption of an African Charter on Youth and Student Rights to include the right to organize, education, employment and free and public expression.
b. The full democratic participation in youth and students in African society requires immediate steps by Government, popular organizations, parents and the youth themselves to eliminate the major impediments to youth participation, such as frequent bans on youth and student organizations, police brutality against unarmed protesting students, detention and harassment on campuses, dismissal from studies and the frequent and arbitrary closure of educational institutions.
c. Youth, students, Governments and the international community must join forces urgently to combat growing drug trafficking and drug abuse. We also urge Governments to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Illicit Trafficking of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
d. The advancement of youth participation in development also requires the protection of Africa’s minors against forced military service, whether in national or insurgent/rebel groups.

e. African youth and students should organize national autonomous associations to participate in and contribute to development activities and programmes such as literacy, reforestation, agriculture and environmental protection.

f. Student and youth organizations must also strive to be democratic,
accountable, voluntary and autonomous and should coordinate their activities with workers’, women’s and peasant organizations.

g. National youth and student organizations should take urgent steps to strengthen and further democratize existing Pan-African youth and student organizations to make them play their roles more effectively in Africa’s development process.


  1. We proclaim the urgent necessity to involve the people in monitoring popular participation in Africa on the basis of agreed indicators and we propose the use of the following indicators, which are not necessarily exhaustive, for measuring the progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the Charter:

a. The literacy rate, which is an index of the capacity for mass participation in public debate, decision-making and general development processes.

b. Freedom association, especially political association, and presence of democratic institutions, such as political parties, trade unions, people’s grass-root organizations and professional associations, and the guarantee of constitutional rights.

c. Representation of the people and their organizations in national bodies.

d. The rule of law and social ad economic justice, including equitable distribution of income and the creation of full employment opportunities.

e. Protection of the ecological, human and legal environment.

f. Press and media freedom to facilitate public debate on major issues.

g. Number and scope of grass-roots organizations with effective participation in development activities, producers and consumers cooperatives and community projects.

h. Extent of implementation of the Abuja Declaration on Women (1989) in each country.

i. Political accountability of leadership at all levels measured by the use of checks and balances.

j. Decentralization of decision-making process and institutions.

  1. We are convinced of the imperative necessity to follow-up and monitor the implementation of this Charter and to report periodically thereon on progress achieved as well as problems encountered. We accordingly recommend that at the national level a follow-up mechanism on which representatives at high level of Government, trade unions, women’s organizations, NGOs, VDOs, grass-roots and youth and student organizations will be members.

  2. At the regional level, we propose a joint OAU/ECA Regional Monitoring Machinery on which also, in addition to representatives of these two organizations will be representatives of the network of organizations named above. This regional monitoring group will submit biennial progress reports on the implementation of the Charter to the ECA Conference of Ministers and the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU.
    35. This Conference has taken place during a period when the world continues to witness tumultuous changes in Eastern Europe. Even more dramatically, this Conference has taken place during the very week when Nelson Mandela’s release has exhilarated all of Africa, and galvanized the international community.

  3. There is an inescapable threat of continuity between those events and our Conference; it is the power of people to effect momentous change. At no other time in the post-war period has popular participation has so astonishing and profound an impact.

  4. History and experience both teach that this world never works in compartments. The forces of freedom and democracy are contagious. Inevitably, and irresistibly, popular participation will have a vital role to play on the continent of Africa, and play that role we will.

  5. It is manifestly unacceptable that development and transformation in Africa can proceed without the full participation of its people. It is manifestly unacceptable that the people and their organizations be excluded from the decision- making process. It is manifestly unacceptable that popular participation be seen as anything less than the centerpiece in the struggle to achieve economic and social justice for all.

  6. In promoting popular participation, it is necessary to recognize that a new partnership and compact must be forged among all the ACTORS in the process of social, political and economic change. Without this collective commitment, popular participation is neither possible nor capable of producing results. We, therefore, pledge to work together in this new partnership to promote full and effective participation by the masses together with Governments in the recovery and development process in Africa.

  7. We, the people here assembled, have no illusion that the Charter will be
    embraced overnight by all of those to whom it is directed. But we are confident that this document is an indispensable step on the road to everything we would wish for the people of Africa.