Over the past decade, the Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCDP 2008-2016) has been the only nationwide programme on local governance. It was designed for rebuilding the trust between the citizens and the state at a time when the country had emerged from a period of conflict and there was no elected leadership, sense of accountability in citizen orientated service delivery at a local level. The LGCDP was meant to prepare the ground for institutionalized elected local governments that have become a reality under the new constitution. Four achievements of the LGCDP have been generally acknowledged:
(1) Massive social mobilization for engagement, empowerment and participation in local governance, particularly of the marginalized and disadvantaged groups and communities. This has been achieved through the Ward Citizen Forum (WCF) and Citizen Awareness Centres (CACs) which is also known as the “silent revolution” through social mobilization;
(2) Attention to local needs and the promotion of inclusive service delivery;
(3) Capacity building at a local level (planning, implementation, monitoring and downward accountability);
and (4) Expansion of the space for devolution.
The fact that an estimated 30-40 percent of the elected members in the local elections have benefitted from training and awareness raising under the LGCDP is a testimony of the credits generated by the programme. Given that under the new constitution administrative boundaries have changed – whilst formal structures have taken over from the erstwhile project structures – the main transferable asset of the LGCDP is the ‘human capital’ that it has created, and people need to see how this human capital can be made to work in the new set up. However, an analysis of GESI mainstreaming in LGCDP –II undertaken in May 20171 points out that GESI is limited to “representation of women and DAGs” without substantive participation. The need for explicit mainstreaming is obvious.
The promulgation of the new federal constitution also necessitated structural changes in the LGCDP and a faster transition to a new programme known as the “Provincial and Local Governance Support Programme” with an aim to support the newly elected provincial and local governments according to their needs and the spirit of federal transition and devolution.
A transitional bridging programme known as the ‘Transition to Sub-national Governance Programme’ was implemented in FY 2017 during the bridging period when elections to the new levels were taking place and aimed to assist with a smooth transition towards the federal structure and the preparatory and immediate capacity building needs. The enactment of legislation such as the Local Government Operations Act, 2017; the InterGovernmental Fiscal Management Act, 2017; the National Natural Resource and Fiscal Commission Act, 2017 and the Staff Adjustment Act, 2017 together with deliberations by the federal parliament and the government on various Bills to legislate federalized sector governance and optimize the federal structures to reach their greatest potential is a further testimony to the fact that the government is busy in ensuring the quick and smooth transition to the federal system of governance as envisaged in the constitution.
A new programme with objectives of policy support, institution building and capacity building at the provincial and local levels of government in new strategic ways which respect to the principles of devolution and local/provincial autonomy caters to them in accordance with their needs and with their ownership and aims to harmonize the IG relationships in the true spirit of cooperative federalism. This is a highly needed framework programme in the area of federal governance for Nepal.