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Book Review:

Understanding Autonomy

Experts expand on the theoretical underpinnings of decentralization

Decentralization and Good Governance in Nepal

Published by the Political Science Association of Nepal and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Germany

Edited by Ganga Bahadur Thapa

Price: Rs. 200/US$5

Pages: 123

Even after five decades of decentralization efforts, the officials and leaders of local bodies in Nepal do not understand its importance. The local bodies consider decentralization a way of salvation from central authority. Central bodies view the process as the transfer of authority from to the local bodies.

Following the restoration of democracy, millions of rupees have been spent on seminars on decentralization, democracy, rule of law and violations of human rights. However, countries like Nepal have not benefited much from such exercises. Hundreds of books and articles have analyzed and evaluated the process and practice of decentralization. Almost every issue faced during the implementation of the principles of decentralization have been covered in these papers. However, very few people have access to them. This book comes as a useful tool in broadening understanding of the theoretical approaches of decentralization.

In his article "Local Governance and Decentralization Programs: A Comparative Analysis in Legal Perspective", decentralization expert Tulsi Narayan Shrestha explains the core issues of local self-governance in Nepalís context. Shrestha also provides a wide historical perspective in analyzing the role of local bodies.

Ram Kumar Dahalís article, "Prospects of Good Governance", emphasizes the importance of good governance in running local bodies. Dahal argues in favour of measuring the performance of local bodies in keeping with the parameters of good governance.

Ganga Bahadur Thapa, who edited this volume, holds the view that the transitional nature of Nepalís democratic system is responsible for the present problems.

The local bodiesí quest to become more powerful and assertive and the strong tendency of central units to hold on to authority create problems in the process of devolving authority. Over the past few years, several positive efforts have been made at the legislative, economic and political levels to realize the provisions of local self-governance in Nepal. However, the essential question remains: are the District Development Committees, Village Development Committees and Municipalities able to exercise the powers envisaged?

Although a new act on the local governance is in the process of implementation, the country is yet to find answers to problems related to the allocation of power and the role and duties of local bodies. There are very important articles in the book that deal with the internal viability and autonomy of local bodies and their initiative to strengthen local self-governance. They also evaluate the mechanisms of the responsiveness of authorities and their transparency and accountability as

well as issues of coordination between different bodies.

At a time of confusion over the scope and range of decentralization, the articles in this book try to simplify the core issues for the general reader.

SPOTLIGHT The National Newsmagazine, Vol. 20, No. 31, Feb 16 - Feb 22 , 2001.

Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
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