chapter  15
18 Pages

Rural Governance: Participation, Power and Possibilities for Action

ByMEGAN G. SWINDAL, RUTH MCAREAVEY

The proliferation of local partnerships in recent years between public and civil society sectors is indicative of a global policy shift from government to governance (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] 2001b, 2005). Public sector modernisation and reform in many Western economies have led to a resituated state. Formerly top-down agenda-setting and decision-making processes have been replaced by multilevel partnerships between the state and different interest groups within civil society (Warner 2001). Much of the stimulus for these changes is to lessen the state and achieve greater effi ciency and accountability while also ensuring citizen involvement at a local level (Pemberton and Goodwin 2010). The belief is that decentralization and participation makes for better government as it brings government spatially closer to people and increases the availability and quality of information from citizens to government. This enables citizens to more actively participate in structures of governance and so achieve greater social and economic inclusion (Commins 2004). It also ‘adds a different and valuable dimension to local decisionmaking processes’ (Stoker 2004, 12) in that it gives individuals opportunities but also requires them to accept obligation (Blair 1994), thus helping to resolve the tension between state, market and community (Adams and Hess 2001, 13-14).