The Power of Municipal Development Plans: An Examination of Their Relevance and Impact in Guatemala
Although decentralization is a common ingredient of the third wave of democracy currently underway in Latin America, few investigations have been conducted on the tools used to prepare local actors for increased responsibility. This study begins to fill that void. It examines the ability of municipal development plans (MDP) to effectively achieve the goals that underlay their formulation and, consequently, promote decentralization within Guatemala.
Over the course of my service in the Peace Corps I witnessed and participated in the formulation of various MDPs. This experience provided the foundation for this research. I interviewed representatives of the three organizations most actively involved in the formulation of MDPs and a number of local participants including mayors, community leaders, representatives of community-based organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations.
This research demonstrates that municipal development plans are an effective tool for the promotion of decentralization. Despite this, the research reveals that the short and medium-term relevance of each process employed in the formulation of MDPs depends on which actor groups are focused upon.
These findings focus attention on the value of formulating MDPs. Although it is impossible to gauge long-term effectiveness at this time, it is apparent that the process of MDP formulation helps to create higher expectations of government by citizens, increases the capacity of local government to effectively assume increasing levels of responsibility, and enhances governance structures at the local level.