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Reform Program 2013

Strengthening Local Government:

The first of the issues that Muwatin will address is the overlapping of powers within the system of Local Government, specifically that between the Governates and LGU (municipalities and other regional bodies). Although there has been an acknowledgment on the need to reform the local government as can be seen in the different and periodic reports on these issues, so far any reforms achieved have tended to strengthen central government rather than local bodies while the Governates themselves have been mostly excluded from initiatives to reform local government.  This may be because Governates have been seen as a way for central government to have control over local government since out of all local governing units the Governor is the only one who is directly and solely answerable to the executive.  This combined with the security remit of Governors places them outside democratic systems of oversight and accountability. 

This may have been seen as necessary when the PNA first came in as the local government sector had been severely underdeveloped under the Israeli occupation.  However the immense growth of this sector means there is an urgent need for reform.  When the PNA took over there were only 28 municipal bodies while today there over 483 municipalities including Joint Services Councils.  These are ruled by a melange of inherited laws which have not yet been reformed into a coherent legal framework governing relations between different local and central governing bodies. 

As the Diagnostic Report for Palestinian Local Governance (2009) indicates, the definition of the role of the governors and their relation to LGU remains a key priority in any project of reform, specifically if we hope to empower local government and establish wider possibilities of citizen participation than is possible now.  The inadequate differentiation between the role of the Governates and the role of LGU can be seen not only in the system of implementation of law and security, but also in the area of planning since the Governates are also charged with a leading role in regional developmental planning.  The balance between decentralization and central control need to be determined by considerations of national priority as well as the extension of democratic participation.  We don’t believe that these need to be in conflict.  Obviously with the kind of fragmentation under Israeli occupation, empowering LGUs can protect and help sustain Palestinian survival under adverse conditions; it can also help deepen citizenship among people giving them a stake in the whole political system.  But it can also help to reinforce the weakening of the Palestinian Authority as leader of the national project, while it maintains its security edifice as its central role.  This is a danger that has to be guarded against.

Obviously the empowerment of LGU has to be tied to financial reforms that can allow LGUs to raise and administer local taxes for the direct provision of services.  The balance between local and central government, between private and public and their roles in development are also a focus of the second issue that Muwatin will look at. 

 

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