Empowerment reform, yes ... but empowerment of whom? Fisheries decentralization reforms in developing countries: as critical assessment with specific reference to poverty reduction uri icon


  • In contrast with the previous view, which placed the State as a central element for economic development and progressive social changes, the current literature on development now advocates the role of civil society and community participation and tends to assume that decentralization has generic benefits for sustained improvements of the living standards of people. The most common argument is that decentralization is by definition a mechanism of â??inclusionâ?? and â??empowermentâ??. In this paper, the authors review experiences of decentralization in common pool resources (CPR) through the specific example of artisanal fisheries. Using case studies of community-based or co-management programmes in small-scale fisheries in West Africa and Asia, the authors show that the relation between decentralization and poverty reduction in CPR-dependent communities may not be as systematic as it is usually pre-supposed by donor agencies, practitioners or even academics. The analysis of some recent case studies even suggest that these CPR decentralization reforms might have further marginalized the indigenous communities that they were initially expected to â??empowerâ??. On the basis of these empirical observations, the authors then highlight why decentralization within the context of CPR is not about changes in the relationships between local users and natural resources but changes in the (power) relationship between these users and the local institutions that govern access rights and the use of these natural resources. In particular, these examples raise the question of the potential role of local traditional institutions and their contribution to rural poverty alleviation through their involvement in decentralization and community-empowerment reforms

publication date

  • 2010