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Status: Published

Local government: links with human rights (2002)

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Introduction

Local ruleLocal governments run services that are vital to the quality of people’s lives: schools, health centres and hospitals, water supply, sanitation, roads, street lighting, local policing, settlement of land and family disputes. To promote development, and strengthen democracy, in recent years numerous governments have reformed local-tier authorities and strengthened their powers.

Development and governance experts have studied decentralisation extensively. However, its influence on human rights has received little attention. What happens when local authorities assume responsibility for education, policing or land use? Are minorities and poor communities better protected? Does devolution genuinely improve political accountability or entrench the power of local elites? Based on seven case studies, the report argues that local government officials and human rights advocates should think more seriously about the links between local government and human rights, and suggests how adopting a human rights approach might make decentralisation efforts more successful.

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