Local Democracy

“As more and more women, men and young people raise their voices and become active in local government, and more local leaders take action for the safety of women and girls, change happens.” –Michelle Bachelet

The old saying that “All politics is local” is especially true when it comes to overcoming poverty and hunger. Issues of nutrition, primary education, primary health care, water and sanitation, preserving the environment and ensuring public safety are all local issues. Actually getting basic public services to work requires strong local government.

The global quest to cut hunger and poverty in half by 2015 through achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals largely ignored local government. As the world community considers how to finish the job of ending poverty in the Post-2015 era, it is finally “thinking local.”

More and more countries are seeing the wisdom of decentralization. Local control of local programs can be more economical, more flexible in meeting local conditions, more responsive in meeting local needs, and better able to mobilize public support.

The most important feature of good local governance is participation. People not only vote every few years; they have direct voice in decision-making and governance through public forums, citizen committees and voluntary action campaigns. A revolution in Participatory Local Democracy is underway in many parts of the world.

Our vast experience in thousands of villages around the world has taught us that people living in poverty are not the problem; they are the solution. When people have the opportunity to take charge of their own lives and destiny, and exert control over a fair share of public resources, they can rapidly and dramatically improve their lives.


  • Encourage the women electorate in India. To encourage voter participation among women and the election of women leaders to all panchayat (village) seats, we conduct intensive pre-election SWEEP (Strengthening Women’s Empowerment through Electoral Processes) programming during the critical years of panchayat election cycles. SWEEP programs include identification of potential leaders, campaigns, film screenings, street plays, door-to-door engagement, trainings, and distribution of educational posters and pamphlets.
  • Secure safe participation in democracy. In India, we partner with local civil society organizations, state- and district-level federations, and national entities to create enabling environments for the safe and productive participation of women and underserved populations in electoral processes.
  • Connect communities with local government. Creating sustainable development often means forging effective partnerships with government. In Africa, we partner with local governments to build the capacity of epicenter communities. This includes negotiating to ensure government programs are effective and people are able to access resources that are rightfully theirs. In order to strengthen local government, we facilitate discussions with local officials to generate support for epicenters prior to beginning work with a cluster of rural communities. Local government is involved at every phase of the Epicenter Strategy process, leaving communities with lasting ties to their government. 
  • Mobilize local advocates in Bangladesh. Shujan (Citizens for Good Governance) is a platform of committed, active and socially conscious citizens, mobilized by our local partners, to strengthen grassroots democracy, ensure transparency and accountability of local government, and carry out advocacy initiatives at the national level.

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