GLD Working Papers

Politics and Community Narratives of Participation in Local Governance of Rural India

Mudit Kumar Singh


Public engagement is vital to achieving good local governance. For the last three decades, donor agencies such as World Bank (WB) have emphasized community participation and local government. Thus, understanding the micro-level ethnic and political nuances of community participation in these local governing institutions is essential. India has the second-largest population in the world with a long history of local governance reforms, so it offers valuable insights into these connections. Using the data on local elections and the narratives gathered by face-to-face interviews and participant observation, the paper highlights that people are losing interest in local participation. Councils have many vacancies, and contesting elections for council members is declining. This will increasingly centralize decision-making at the local level years of decentralization reforms would be lost. The narratives from select villages suggest further decentralization of financial powers among the village council members is needed. Additional funding alone would not increase community participation in villages; a devolution of financial powers at the village committee level must accompany additional funding in order to make local governance more inclusive.

Changing Repertoires of Housing Mobilisation: Struggles to Stay at Home During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Valesca Lima 


In this study, Valesca examines how social movements focused on the right to housing have responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It particularly sheds light on new modes of contestation generated and expanded by housing groups as producers of political innovation, knowledge, resistance, and transformative possibilities. To this end, Valesca compares two cities, Fortaleza (Brazil) and Lisbon (Portugal). The research provides a fresh approach to the study of changes in social movements and their roles in pandemic responses. This contribution attempts to overcome the existing limited cross-continental approaches to semi-peripheral/peripheral countries. The study shows that groups focused on the right to housing were particularly active in three main areas: anti-eviction campaigns, new ways of organizing protests, and the creation/expansion of solidarity networks and new alternative futures.

Parish-Based Responses to the Philippine Drug War

Steven Brooke and David T. Buckley 


How do local religious institutions protect communities from state-sanctioned violence? This general question has taken on particular importance in the Philippines, where populist President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a “Drug War” that has killed tens of thousands of citizens while triggering opposition from prominent religious elites. In this paper, the authors use an original, in-depth survey of Catholic priests and lay parish leaders in an urban area heavily impacted by Drug War violence to catalog how dozens of local parishes mobilize to protect their communities. They find two broad types of mechanisms in operation: directly impacting the localized production of violence and indirectly altering characteristics of the local community in ways likely to limit violence. Quantitative evidence documents the widespread existence of both direct and indirect mechanisms of community protection is consistent with the more limited presence of some of the highest risk Drug War responses and demonstrates an association between parish capacity and these protective mechanisms. Qualitative evidence traces the links between parish activities and particular cases of community protection, highlighting the coexistence of rationalistic and normative logics through which institutions reduce violence. Interviews also foreground some of the obstacles that even highly motivated and capacious institutions face in organizing local protection.

Assessing the Performance of Local Authorities in Zambia During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mulenga Chonzi Mulenga and James Mulenga


The Covid-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on human well-being, consequently affecting the operations and delivery of services by governments around the world. In many cases, the effective provision of essential services has been limited at both national and local levels of government. This study aims to assess the performance and challenges faced by the local authorities in Zambia in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic by collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data was collected from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) and the Covid-19 Advisory Center for Local Authorities, while quantitative data was collected from 32 local authorities across nine provinces in Zambia. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, while qualitative data was analyzed using theme assignment.

The study has established that Covid-19 has affected the provision of key services by local authorities in Zambia, with some services suspended and others increased. It has also established that local authorities in Zambia faced new challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as increased operational costs arising from adopting Covid-19 compliance systems. As a result, local authorities, in adherence to WHO and MoH guidelines, have had to employ various response strategies, including social distancing, masking, and hand sanitizing. The study recommends a look into sustainable solutions for councils and long-lasting measures to address the effects of the pandemic and the challenges being faced by the local authorities.

Explaining the Resilience of Single-Party Regimes: Centralized Politics, Promotability, and Corruption

Ngoc Phan


The spread of democracy during the Third Wave was accompanied by the expansion of one- party autocracies. Compared to other non-democratic systems, one-party regimes are more durable, suffer fewer coups, and enjoy higher economic growth. Why are single-party regimes so resilient? In this paper, I argue that in certain single-party regimes, centralized politics and meritocratic promotion combine to create an incentive system conducive to development and economic growth, which in turn consolidate the regime’s capacity and legitimacy. Using the case of local politicians in Vietnam, I employ a Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD) to provide evidence that promotion pressures in these regimes incentivize the political elites to rein in rent-seeking, corruption, and the extortion of businesses. These conditions subsequently result in better economic performance in the localities.