A man with a film camera looking out over the plenary room at the parliament in Accra
The Parliament in Accra, June 2006. Photo: Jonathan Ernst, World Bank.

Democratic Decentralization and Sustainable Development

Theme: Democratic Decentralization, Local Governance and Sustainable Development: Ghana’s Experiences in Three Decades

Venue: Institute for Distance Learning (IDL) Conference Centre, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana

Time: 1-2 April 2019

The closing date for abstracts was 10 February.

Ghana is often labelled as one of the few African countries with progressive institutional reforms directed towards good governance, participatory and sustainable local development. After about two decades of postcolonial experiences with series of political and economic instability in Africa, Ghana was one of the first African countries to embrace and operationalize the structural adjustment reforms in the 1980s and subsequently rolled its democratic decentralization plan in 1988.  After passing the Local government Act 1988 (PNDC Law 207), Ghana successfully held its local government elections in late 1988 and early 1989 with about 60 percent voter turn-out rate. This process initiated the institutionalization of democratic decentralization and local governance during the structural adjustment period.

Starting with 110 districts in 1988 to receive political authority with deliberative, executive and legislative functions, the number of districts has grown significantly over the past three decades reaching 254 in 2018. Fiscal and institutional reforms have also occurred during the period as part of the processes for promoting participatory, responsive and downwardly accountable governance and sustainable local development in the country. After three decades of implementing democratic decentralization since 1988, it is necessary to review, appraise and verify progress and prospects through Capacity, Authority, Autonomy, Accountability, Responsiveness and Sustainability (CAAARS) analytical framework for planning and policy-making within the context of subsidiarity science. This is necessary considering that over the years, Ghana’s institutional reforms often present relevant lessons and examples for many African countries to consider and adopt where appropriate.

This performance review workshop seeks to bring together about thirty (30) seasoned academics, local government and development practitioners and policy makers to critically examine progress, impacts and challenges of democratic decentralization, local governance and development reforms in Ghana for the past three decades. The workshop shall tease out relevant intellectual and policy recommendations to serve as lessons for deepening participatory, responsive and accountable local governance and sustainable development in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. The workshop discourse and engagement shall be guided by questions including: 

  • How have democratic decentralization and local governance reforms deepened or subverted responsive and accountable local representation and delivery of public goods and services since 1988?
  • In what ways have decentralization and local government reforms strengthened grassroots participation, bottom-up development planning and implementation processes in the last three decades?
  • How has decentralized governance promoted rural-urban spatial equity, poverty reduction and rural development?
  • To what extent have decentralization reforms over the past three decades strengthened human and financial resource capacity and autonomy of subnational structures to deliver accountable, responsive and sustainable local governance and development?
  • How has democratic local governance reforms promoted gender equal representation and women empowerment for poverty reduction and local development?
  • What legal and institutional reforms are necessary to strengthen participatory, integrated and sustainable local development in Ghana and beyond?

Keynote Speakers

  • Prof. Imoro Braimah, Provost, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, KNUST, Ghana
  • Dr. (Nana) Ato Arthur, Head of Local Government Service, Ghana

Panels / Chair:

  • Context and Historical Trajectories of Democratic Decentralization in Ghana
    Chair: Prof. Dr. Dr. Daniel Buor, Fmr. VC, Valley View University, Accra, Ghana
  • Decentralization, Poverty Reduction and Service Delivery
    Chair: Prof. Imoro Braimah, Provost, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, KNUST, Ghana
  • Decentralized Planning, Transformative Participation, Gender and Democratic Local Governance
    Chair:  Prof. Martin Oteng-Ababio, Associate Professor, University of Ghana
  • Fiscal Decentralization, Resource Capacity and Local Economic Development
    Chair: Prof. Victor Adetula, Head of Research, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Non-State Actors, Participatory Democracy and Sustainable Development
    Chair:  Prof. Osei Kofi Akuoko, Director of Centre for Culture and African Studies, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana 

Intellectual Outputs from the Workshop

  • Edited book in the Africa Now book series for planning and policy-making
  • Policy Note 

Institutional Partners

  • Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Uppsala, Sweden
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana

Paper Submission 
Abstracts of not more than 250 words with short biography of presenting authors (max. 50 words) must be submitted to Dr. Prince Osei-Wusu Adjei, Senior Researcher, Nordic Africa Institute ( / before 10th February, 2019. 

Submission of full papers for review and possible publication in the book project must be before 31st May, 2019 after the workshop. Guidelines for full paper submission will be sent along with decisions on abstracts.

Important Dates

  • Deadline for submission of abstracts (10th February, 2019)
  • Workshop for oral presentation of selected papers (1st - 2nd  April, 2019)
  • Deadline for submission of full papers for review and possible publication as book chapters (31st May, 2019)

Support for Participants
Selected paper presenters shall receive financial support to cover accommodation and/or transportation to Kumasi within our capacity for this event. Lunch, snacks and workshop materials shall be provided for all invited and registered participants. 

Further Information
Contact Dr. Prince Osei-Wusu Adjei, Senior Researcher, NAI,, for more information on this workshop and paper submission. 

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