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From Civil Wars to Drug Wars: The Limits of Decentralization Policies in Central America


  • Alfredo Stein

    (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.)


In recent decades, international donors promoted decentralization policies as vehicles to achieve economic growth, state reform and human development. Although these policies improved national and local governments’ responsiveness, it is not sufficiently clear whether they actually led to poverty reduction, social cohesion and conflict resolution, especially in countries’ ongoing peace and reconciliation processes. This article analyses decentralization in the context of post-conflict reconstruction in Central America. It argues that the mechanisms that transferred responsibilities and resources to local governments to ensure accountability and transparency generally led to increased local participation in social programmes. However, the weak capacity of the state to reduce social inequalities, as well as the absence of national governments to supervise policy implementation, generated unforeseen consequences. Given the challenges associated with the impacts of severe weather and increased violence, this absence is becoming critical and could lead to further insecurity in the region.Depuis plusieurs décennies, les pays donateurs favorisent les politiques de décentralisation comme véhicules de croissance économique, la réforme d′État et le développement humain. Bien que ces politiques aient amélioré la réactivité des gouvernements locaux et nationaux, on ne sait pas encore clairement si elles ont réellement contribué à réduire la pauvreté, améliorer la cohésion sociale et favoriser la résolution des conflits, particulièrement dans les pays engagés dans des processus de réconciliation et de paix. Cet article analyse la décentralisation dans le contexte de reconstruction post-conflit en Amérique centrale. Nous soutenons que les mécanismes grâce auxquels les responsabilités et ressources ont été transférées aux gouvernements locaux pour assurer le renforcement de la responsabilité et de la transparence ont donné lieu à une participation accrue des acteurs locaux dans les programmes sociaux. Cependant, la faible capacité de l′État à réduire les inégalités sociales, ainsi que le manque de surveillance, par les gouvernements nationaux, de la mise en œuvre de ces politiques, ont entraîné des conséquences imprévues. Étant donné les difficultés liées à l′impact de conditions météorologiques extrêmes et de la recrudescence de la violence, cette absence devient grave et pourrait conduire à davantage d′insécurité dans la région.

Suggested Citation

  • Alfredo Stein, 2012. "From Civil Wars to Drug Wars: The Limits of Decentralization Policies in Central America," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 24(3), pages 319-336, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:24:y:2012:i:3:p:319-336

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