Decentralization and local good governance, ensuring development in line with the needs of communities

Figure: A large administration building is surrounded by four smaller buildings overlaid by objects symbolising decision-making powers and financial resources.
The SDC supports administrative reforms that allow powers and financial resources to be devolved from central to local government. © SDC

The majority of national policies are implemented on a devolved basis, i.e. at provincial level or within rural or urban communities. However, the communities concerned often lack the necessary expertise or resources. The SDC aims to address this through a realignment of the capabilities and finances needed to promote effective delivery of public services. This is the best way to attain the global objectives for sustainable development backed by Switzerland. 

The SDC believes that the concerns of local communities are better addressed at local level. The representatives of public-sector organisations usually have greater insight into the developmental needs of local communities and are more readily accessible to citizens. It is easier to manage and maintain an overview of economic and social conditions in medium-sized economies. It is also easier to organise cooperative development projects in this context. Communities are more likely to work on solutions in their specific locality.

The necessary conditions can be established by transferring decision-making powers, responsibility for public services and the requisite funding to decentralised bodies. However, the danger remains that mismanagement, the unjust enrichment of elites and inequality may permeate down to lower levels of government. As a result, the SDC also works to strengthen decentralised forms of good governance, including the efficient management of funds, transparency, public participation and accountability, with the ultimate aim of supporting local development for the benefit of all population groups. 

Supporting decentralisation reforms

Decentralisation reforms facilitate coordinated measures for transferring functions, decision-making powers and budgetary resources and promote effective interaction between different levels of government. To this end, the SDC supports broad-based dialogue on reforms and, for example, encourages local associations to address the concerns of their members. The SDC provides the expertise required by the relevant local bodies to ensure that responsibilities are properly shared and financial powers defined. Alongside economic considerations and efficiency criteria, the SDC is guided by the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. the principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to citizens. 

Enhancing good governance at local level

The SDC supports government agencies in delivering relevant services at local level (e.g. education and health, waste management, land-use planning and economic development). It helps agencies consolidate their planning and oversight authority and provides encouragement and guidance on consulting a range of social interest groups. It also supports measures to improve practices relating to data, public information and reporting. The SDC encourages local authorities to diversify their funding base by raising taxes or other forms of finance to help implement their plans. It also promotes balanced accounting and transparent budget management. The SDC also focuses on local parliaments and courts as well as ensuring involvement of citizens and the media to participate with critical scrutiny and public debate to balanced decision-making and reporting. 

Promoting economic development at local level

The development areas targeted by the SDC may extend beyond administrative borders or combine rural regions with urban development centres. Such areas may not be covered by central government. Switzerland therefore promotes measures to support coordinated development projects through partnerships between the public and private sectors and social interest groups. The SDC supports joint planning processes based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of local economies and the opportunities and risks involved. It also promotes cooperation between devolved bodies, advising local authorities, for example, on creating optimum conditions for private sector investment. Such advice may cover matters such as market infrastructure, transport routes, methods of communication, transparent tax policy, legislative frameworks and legal certainty, with a view to creating better employment and income-earning opportunities.

Current projects

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Enhanced Skills for Sustainable and Rewarding Employment (ENSSURE) Phase II

16.07.2021 - 15.07.2025

For Nepalese women and men to gain and retain social and economic benefits from lifelong learning, the establishment of a well-functioning federalised Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system is crucial. In light of its long-standing expertise in TVET and federalism, Switzerland is well placed to support the implementation of a federalised TVET system that responds to the needs of enterprises and increases the prospect of gainful employment for all, especially youths. 


Supporting the Security Sector Reform (SSR) Process in The Gambia

01.07.2021 - 30.06.2024

The Gambia, which is a priority country in regard to Swiss migration interest, initiated a national SSR process in 2017. Based on 3 years of in-depth research and support to this process, in 2021 DCAF launched a new program to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Gambian security sector. Through its contribution, Switzerland aims to improve the quality of services provided to local communities by the immigration department by strengthening its management and accountability.


2021 Population and Housing Census of Nepal

01.07.2021 - 31.12.2023

The goal is to support the Government of Nepal to conduct the 2021 census in line with international standards to obtain high quality data, reflecting Nepal’s social, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity and which can be used to better respond to the needs of the different population groups. Given its track record and emphasis on federal state building, Switzerland has a key interest that the census is adapted to the federal context and gender equality and social inclusion principles are followed. 


Long-term support to UNRWA’s reform

01.07.2021 - 31.12.2022

Switzerland contributes to enable UNRWA to pursue key reform areas of its Medium-Term Strategy 2016-2022, mainly by supporting (i) management initiatives and set of actions to ensure that governance, accountability, management and transparency meet international standards, and (ii) the systematic integration and attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, in particular children, persons with disabilities and women survivors of violence.


Promotion and respect of human rights, gender equality and the international humanitarian law

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2023

Switzerland aims at enhancing prospects for Palestinians to live in dignity, prosperity and peace with Israel, via the respect and promotion of human rights, including gender equality, international humanitarian law and the rule of law by all duty bearers. To this end, SDC supports ten Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian law organizations active in the oPt, which provide legal aid and protection services to the population and advocate for the respect of the international law. 


Improved Service Delivery (ISD)

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2025

Switzerland and Germany jointly support a project on “Improved Service Delivery for Citizens” in three provinces of Cambodia, implemented by GIZ. The project aims to improve access to equitable and inclusive public services for all citizens, including vulnerable people, in the target provinces, while contributing to Cambodia’s socio-economic development. Besides funding, Switzerland makes use of its longstanding experience in decentralised governance and service delivery.


Quality TVET for Youth (QualiTY)

01.06.2021 - 15.07.2026

The overall goal of the project is for Nepalese youth to benefit from quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and better employment prospects. To achieve this, the project will support the federal, provincial and local governments of Nepal to establish an accreditation and coaching system so that TVET schools can improve and meet national quality requirements. The project capitalises on Switzerland’s long-standing and unique expertise in TVET federalisation.



Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies (SDG 16), Phase 3 (Contribution 21 – 23) Formerly: Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

01.05.2021 - 31.12.2023

Switzerland has a strategic interest in shaping the global dialogue on development and peace. The Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16) on “Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies” provides a unique opportunity. This is why Switzerland is contributing to three initiatives advocating complementarily at the global and national levels, increasing poltical engagement and financial means to advance reforms and good governance, while leaving no one behind.   


Stimulating Participation and Civic Engagement

01.05.2021 - 31.12.2024

The project empowers Cambodian youth to engage in public life, while shifting negative norms and attitudes around youth participation. BBC Media Action creates inclusive on- and offline spaces for civic engagement, encourages a dialogue of youth and decision-makers and strengthens the provision of media for youth. Switzerland’s expertise in civic engagement will be coupled with BBC Media Action’s know-how in media production and complemented with outreach work by three local organisations.


Territorial water governance in the Gulf of Fonseca Region - phase II

01.04.2021 - 30.06.2024

The Program facilitates the empowerment of the Watershed Councils of the Nacaome, Choluteca and Sampile rivers in the Gulf of Fonseca Region in terms of their leadership and sustainable and participatory management of the water governance system. This contributes to collaborative processes and investments in the frame of the formulation and implementation of watershed plans, indirectly benefiting 500,000 inhabitants.


PRODEL - Program for strengthening municipal capacities for local development

01.04.2021 - 30.06.2024

PRODEL III contributes to the decentralization reform through introducing its municipal autonomy approach into new laws and policies, through training of “multipliers” and creation of advisory services to extend its tool of Municipal Development Strategy to more municipalities. The EDM strengthens municipal autonomy and efficient use of local resources for production infrastructure and services, while promoting participation and inclusion.

Object 49 – 60 of 264