Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021
Decentralization and the governance of climate adaptation: Situating community-based planning within broader trajectories of political transformationFischer, Harry W.
AbstractDecentralized, "community-based" approaches to climate adaptation are now viewed as a key strategy to assist vulnerable populations confront global climate change. While these efforts are premised on the belief that citizen participation will lead to more effective climate responses, there remains limited empirical evidence of the relationship between local democracy and climate risk reduction. This paper asks: How, and through which processes, do local institutions emerge as more substantively democratic arenas to coordinate responses to climate risk and change? And how does the character of local democratic practice, in turn, influence the effectiveness of adaptive responses? To answer these questions, the paper analyzes the implementation of India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)-a substantial devolution of development resources to rural local governments in India-and its effects on climate risk reduction in the state of Himachal Pradesh. A primary data set of 798 small-scale development projects in 35 villages shows that a majority of water-related interventions are helping to improve water access in the face of water stress, while benefits skew towards poorer and historically marginalized social groups. Drawing on intensive qualitative enquiry, the paper argues that these outcomes were made possible as the result of long-term political transformations in the region, which have paved the way for more inclusive - if often contested - participation in local decision-making processes. The analysis underscores the need to move beyond a narrow focus on institutional building to undertake longer-term investments in supporting more robust subnational democratic systems. The growing flow of resources dedicated to climate assistance has the potential to help drive such processes where the nascent conditions for democratic deepening are in place. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
KeywordsClimate change; Democratic decentralization; Community-based adaptation; MGNREGA; South Asia; India
Published inWorld Development
2021, volume: 140, article number: 105335
Fischer, Harry (Fischer, Harry)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
University of Melbourne
La Trobe University
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG13 Climate action
SDG8 Decent work and economic growth
SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
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