Decentralised Planning in Nepal: Stakeholders’ Perspectives on District Development Plan
Decentralized planning has been an important agenda in view of growing concern for decentralization and governance all over the world. Nepal has been practicing decentralization for decades since 1960s under different political regimes. However, there are critiques that it has been more political rhetoric than the transformation of traditional centralized governance system into participatory local self-governance. Amid such critiques for a long time; Nepal introduced Local Self Governance Act (LSGA), 1999 to address the increasingly challenging issue of decentralization and to institutionalize local self-governance in the country. One of the important responsibilities devolved to local bodies namely District Development Committee (DDC) in Nepal through the LSGA, 1999 is the formulation and implementation of District Development Plan. Though there are number of studies laden with experts’ own views on decentralization and local government’s roles in development and service delivery at local level, there is little research on how local stakeholders themselves perceive the decentralized planning namely the District Development Plan after the introduction of LSGA, 1999. Hence, this study intends to explore the perspectives of the local stakeholders on District Development Plan in view of existing policy and practices. Perceptions of the stakeholders on the practice of the decentralized planning indeed would contribute to a fuller understanding of the decentralization process.
This study is qualitative research guided by interpretive paradigm in exploring the perceptions of multiple stakeholders of District Development Plan. As a part of ongoing PhD thesis research, the study site of this research is Kabhre district of Nepal. This study employs primarily semi-structured face-to-face interview method in order to collect primary data from the study site. The participants of the interview are the district level stakeholders of the District Development Plan who represent the government organizations, political parties and civil society and the private sector. In addition to the interviews, observations and document analysis are the other methods of data collection. Thematic analysis will be used to analyze the data and draw findings from the research.
Preliminary findings drawn from some qualitative interviews and document analysis indicate that the process of District Development Plan is more ritual, centrally influenced and less participatory. Only few stakeholders dominate the process of planning while the voices of majority of stakeholders are marginalized reflecting unequal power relationship among the stakeholders. Though the LSGA, 1999 intends strengthening the local self-governance, present role of the local government does not commensurate it as one of the stakeholders comments that ‘the power is still in Singha Darbar at central level, not at local level’. In such context, this research would be a good empirical reference for policy makers and practitioners in analyzing the process of decentralized planning for the meaningful participation and ownership enhancement of the stakeholders and to strengthen the institutionalization of local self- governance.
Keywords: Decentralization, decentralized planning, stakeholders, District Development Plan, local self-governance