“Decentralisation is thus characterized by the existence of locally elected authorities, distinct from the state’s administrative authorities, and exercising, in the framework of the law, their own powers and responsibilities for which they have a degree of self-government, under the control of the state. As understood in this way, decentralization in its modern meaning is inseparable from the idea of local self-government and the democratic principle.”
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). 2008. Decentralisation and Local Democracy in the world. First UCLG World Report. Barcelona: UCLG
“Decentralisation refers to the restructuring or reorganization of authority so that there is a system of co-responsibility between institutions of governance at the central, regional and local levels according to the principle of subsidiarity, thus increasing the overall quality and effectiveness of the system of governance, while increasing the authority and capacities of sub-national levels."
UNPD. 1999. Decentralisation: A sampling of definitions.
“A process involving the delegation of a range of powers, competences and resources from the central government to elected local (subnational) governments.”
European Charter on development cooperation in support of local governance, 2008
“Decentralization -- the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to intermediate and local governments or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector -- is a complex multifaceted concept. […] Successful decentralization is closely related to observing the design principles of: finance following [clear assignment of] functions; informed decision making; adherence to local priorities; and accountability.”
World Bank. Decentralization and Subnational Thematic Group. http://go.worldbank.org/ WM37RM8600
“State reorganization process and gradual transfer of competences that were originally owned by the central state towards other territorial government spheres (federal states, regional, provincial or municipal governments).”
Conclusiones de la Conferencia Internacional sobre descentralización y fortalecimiento de los entes locales en Iberoamérica 2009. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
“Process that reallocates resources from a higher, more central authority to a lower one. [...] It might involve either devolution –the delegation of responsibilities to subordinates- or regionalization –the division of areas of government into smaller regions. Decentralization generally tries to bring power and authority closer to the citizens it affects in order to promote efficient and democratic politics.”
BEVIR Mark. 2008. Key Concepts in Governance. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
“Devolution by central (i.e. national) government of specific functions, with all of the administrative, political and economic attributes that these entail, to local (i.e. municipal) governments which are independent of the center and sovereign within a legally delimited geographic and functional domain.”
FAGET Jean-Paul. 1997. Decentralization and Local Government Performance. Centre for Economic Performance and Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics
“Decentralization requires both power transfers and accountable representation. […] Decentralization is not about the downsizing or dismantling of central government; rather, it calls for mutually supportive democratic central and local governance. […]Decentralization is any act in which a central government formally cedes powers to actors and institutions at lower levels in a political-administrative and territorial hierarchy.”
RIBOT Jesse C. 2002. Democratic Decentralization of Natural Resources: Institutionalizing Popular Participation. Washington DC: World Resources Institute
“[…] process of strengthening local government systems through the transfer of political, administrative and financial powers from central government. Even where a municipality has been granted new financial resources and enhanced responsibilities, the delivery of basic services to its citizens will not necessarily improve. Decentralisation will always be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for improved governance.”
NICKSON Andrew. 2004. The Role of International Cooperation in the Decentralisation Process in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Madrid: Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales y Estratégicos
Types of decentralisation:
Political Decentralisation: delegation of political power, authority and resources towards subnational government levels, representative of and responsible in front of the local population that empowered them.
Administrative Decentralisation: it involves the transfer, from the central state towards its local administrative extensions or local government authorities, of certain capacities in planning and managing concrete affairs without loosing its fundamental responsibility in front of the central government.
Fiscal Decentralisation: it involves the redistribution of resources from the central government towards subnational government levels and of the necessary decision-making capacities to use these resources, in a way that an effective and transparent financial management is established.”
Forms of decentralisation:
Devolution: it is a type of political decentralisation, referred to the full transfer of responsibility, decision-making, resources and revenue generation to a local level public authority that is autonomous and fully independent of the devolving authority and that has clear geographic and legally recognized borders where they exercise its authority and execute its public functions.
Delegation: it is a type of administrative decentralisation, referred to the redistribution of administrative responsibilities towards government units or agencies that are not necessary local braches of central authority, and maintaining always the responsibility in front of the central state.
Deconcentration: the Decentralisation and Local Self-Government Committee considers that deconcentration is not a way of decentralising because it is only a territorial dispersion of central power by transferring specific administrative responsibilities of the central government towards local public structures, always maintaining the responsibility of the local government units towards the central government.