Decentralization Policy and Citizen Participation in Government: The Case of Liberia
Author(s)Clarke, Roland Tuwea
Polarities of Democracy
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AbstractPolitical decentralization has been advanced in the 21st century as a prescription for enabling citizens' participation in politics and increasing good governance. However, empirical investigations have offered limited knowledge about decentralization efforts in Liberia. This study explored if decentralization could serve as a catalyst for citizens' participation and good governance in Liberia. The polarity of participation and representation - one of the pairs in the polarities of democracy model developed by Benet - was used to establish the theoretical foundation for this study. The study employed a case study research design. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 20 participants recruited through snowball sampling and subjected to a thematic content procedure for analysis. The main theme indicated that decentralization was perceived as Liberia's best policy option to repair 171 years of political, social, and economic challenges. Establishment of service centers at the county level to manage social development funds and the passage of the local government act were acknowledged as achievements of the decentralization policy in Liberia. On the other hand, the country's long history of centralized governance, corruption, inequality, constitution violations, and misused of public resources were identified as major obstacles to successful implementation of decentralization policy measures. The social change implication of the study involves identifying a potential avenue for the government and citizens of Liberia to build a stronger relationship through reform which will ultimately enhance citizens' ability to be involved in governmental decision making at both national and local levels.