Democratic decentralisation is often presented as the sine qua non of rural poverty reduction. But there is little evidence that either democracy or decentralisation is necessary for poverty reduction in rural or urban areas, and indeed some evidence that they are counter-productive. There are success stories to report, however. They are cases where three conditions have been met: an appropriate balance between autonomy and accountability; constructive support from external actors; and a commitment to democratic deepening. It is worth building on these conditions because democratic activity is not merely an instrumental good; it also has intrinsic benefits for the rural poor.
Johnson, C. Local Democracy, Democratic Decentralisation and Rural Development: Theories, Challenges and Options for Policy. Development Policy Review (2001) 19 (4) 521-532. [DOI: 10.1111/1467-7679.00149]