Decentralisation and the building or restoring of sub-national government institutions can significantly alter centre-periphery relations. Much of the literature cites the potential for these processes and structures to contribute to improving state-citizen relations and advancing state legitimacy.
The contribution that decentralisation and sub-national government can make to statebuilding is influenced to a great extent by the nature of the political settlement and the political economy of the country. Much of the literature and case studies from around the world stress that decentralisation frameworks and the development of new local institutions cannot in themselves counter entrenched political economies. Political contexts and actors that present particular challenges include neo-patrimonialism, fragmented political power, traditional and non-state actors and exclusionary settlements.
The literature draws attention to various aspects that need to be addressed in order for decentralisation and sub-national government to contribute to state-citizen relations and state legitimacy. They include:
- reform and capacity building at both the local level and the central level;
- attention to political context;
- and long term engagement