Decentralization and Local Governance in Asia and the Pacific

Improving Local Service Delivery for the MDGs

In 2007 a joint UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre, United Nations Capital Development Fund, UNICEF and UNESCO initiative, Improving Local Service Delivery for the MDGs, was developed to broaden and inform national policy processes and to contribute to increasing regional awareness of what it takes to establish appropriate sectoral decentralization policy frameworks.  The initiative aims to improve the local delivery of basic MDG-related services such as primary education, health and water and sanitation.

Although the countries of Asia have made impressive progress in poverty reduction, much more is needed in order to achieve the MDGs. To address the institutional challenges that result in bottlenecks where services end up being inadequately delivered, comprehensive support needs to be targeted to the policy issues linked to institutional and capacity challenges. That is an understanding needs to be developed of how local public services needed to ensure the MDG attainment are best organized, financed and delivered, in an efficient and equitable manner. In order to achieve this a workbook has been designed to assist in the identification of governance bottlenecks in local service delivery.

The workbook is designed to help practitioners identify the formal and informal arrangements that exist in the delivery of health, education and water and sanitation services, and to highlight where policy decisions can then be targeted to strengthen each sector for achieving MDG targets within a given country. In this sense the workbook is not a “recipe book” for improving local service delivery, but an adaptable guide on how to identify the institutional relationships that result in service delivery bottlenecks, and develop policy recommendations based on an analysis of four conceptually separate, but reinforcing governance components:

  1. Understanding how roles and responsibilities are divided in the provision of an MDG-related service, and how the different actors (central and local government, sector line-ministries, NGOs and private companies) can work together to deliver the services
  2. Understanding how the service providers are funded to deliver their services
  3. Understanding what accountability relationships exist with and within service providers
  4. Understanding what capacity service providers need to perform their responsibilities

To date reports have been conducted in a total of five countries (Mongolia, Cambodia, Philippines, Nepal and Laos) covering eight sectors and involving policy consultation activities with government stakeholders. Copies of the workbook, reports and a paper that presents the governance challenges in improving local service delivery identified from the case studies can be found below.



Previously workshops have been conducted by UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre, United Nations Capital Development Fund, UNICEFand UNESCO to bring together senior government officials and policy-makers, researchers and UN specialists from country offices. These workshops have helped to develop the workbook by fine-tuning common sector-specific methodologies that will operationalize the country processes of research and consultation. The workshops have also helped to promote a greater understanding of the complicated institutional arrangements involved in service delivery and identified areas for policy development and/or reform.

  • Techincal Workshop: 15-17 October, 2007, Bangkok, Thailand Improving Local Service Delivery for the MDGs in Asia: Pilot of Methodology for Support to National Policy and MDG Strategies
  • Regional Workshop: 7-9 December 2005, New Delhi, India Financing Local Service Delivery for the MDGs: Challenges and Opportunities
  • 22-24 June 2005, Hua Hin, Thailand Regional Retreat Representation in Decentralized Governance and Local Service Delivery for MDGs