I. Introduction The firstpart of this paper describes the definition of decentralization.
Moreover, towhich purposes it serves and the likely outcome it would usher in the communitywith decentralized government. Apart fromthe usual discussion of its effectiveness, this paper talks about howdecentralization can be of importance given a particular context.Decentralization can likewise be an instrument to provide lasting solution toconflict in multiethnic nations. This exploreshow the nature of conflict in Southeast Asian Countries such as Indonesia andPhilippines brought a shared experience.
Outlining the different grievanceswhich aggravated the conflict situation in each countries, we link howdecentralization fills in the gaps reflected in their experiences. Ultimately,decentralization through “self-rule” and “autonomous government” were the mostcontentious aspect in reaching a concession between the warring groups; curbingviolence, allowing for the right to self-determination, and achieving peace inthe respective regions. The communities then manifest a greater opportunity tocollectively prosper with representation and other features thatdecentralization guarantees.
II. DecentralizationWhat? Decentralizationitself offers a variety of definitions as debated by many scholars. However,although they vary by definition and by degree, most scholars would agree thatdecentralization entails the essential features of moving power and resourcesfrom the national government to the subnational levels. A moredecentralized government tend to exercise more work compared to a form which isnone delegated.
In a way, decentralization can be described as a way ofdelegation by its government. Given this setup, with the transfer of power andresources, the concentration of functions and work are likewise relieved fromthe central government to the decentralized form of government. Along thepowers and functions, the responsibility is likewise ceded to the lower levelof the hierarchy. And yet, what comprises decentralization is more complex thanits seemingly essential feature. Donahue (2003) characterizes the process ofdecentralization as being composed of three different factors: legitimacy,decentralization of resources and decentralization of authority.
Schneider(2003) also came up with three core dimensions of the concept ofdecentralization: fiscal, administrative, and political. Then basingfrom this different factors and dimensions will be able to set up boundaries asto what extent a subnational government is decentralized. Likewise, it isreflective of the kind of services and the subnational government’s capacity todeliver. Given that there is a movement of function in decentralization, it likewiseentail a territorial aspect. Politicaldecentralization can be associated with enabling of pluralistic politics andrepresentative government. It is aimed at giving the citizenship morediscretion or influence in the process of policy formulation and implementationthrough their elected representatives. Fiscaldecentralization allows for the transfer of authority on the revenue raisingand distribution to the subnational level, allowing for more discretionarypower. Administrativedecentralization can be described as a delegation, where the implementation ofpolicies are carried out by the subnational level.
Also, it entails devolutionwhich allows the decentralized government to exercise an independent decisionmaking on matters of policy formulation and implementation of a specific areawhich was transferred. Why? Bothdeveloped and developing countries have shown a tendency towardsdecentralization in the recent decades, according to De Vries (2000). Generally,decentralization exists to remedy what the centralized form of governmentcannot provide solutions to.
It has been seen as a solution to difficultiescovering the economy, government low responsiveness of services, a weaklegitimacy of the public sector and the clamor of the minority to acquirerepresentation especially in the local level. For thepurposes of providing solutions, decentralization can be looked at by it’s thecomponents it aims to improve: participation, efficiency, diversity andconflict resolution. Ribot (2003)believes that local representatives with actual discretionary powers are thebasis of decentralization that can lead to local efficiency, equity anddevelopment. Hence, decentralization is likewise the restructuring of authoritywhich brings the government closer to the people, which enhances participationand representation. Decentralizationis also believed to improve the efficiency of services, the authority beingclose to the locality and with the discretionary power to exercises, responseto the needs in the locality are easily met. Implementation are likely to bemore tailor-fitted in the sense that communication channels remain shorterespecially with the opportunity for consultation. In turn, builds a cohesivecommunity with an enhanced partnership.
Existingsocial groups in the community plays a huge role in influencing the kind ofdecentralization that may emerge and its capacities. To quote Johnson (1999), “Diversity is defined to be uniqueproperties of entities, agents, or individuals that are not shared by thelarger group, population, structure. Decentralized is defined as a property ofa system where the agents have some ability to operate “locally.” Bothdecentralization and diversity are necessary attributes to achieve the self-organizingproperties of interest.” Another important aspect which I would liketo emphasize on this paper consistent with the abovementioned is the conflictresolution prospects of decentralization. Because decentralization perceivesthe need to address the inequalities on both economic and political amongregions which the central government confronts difficulty. Decentralization interms of political, fiscal and administrative are viable solutions for conflictresolution especially in nations which is composed of multicultural groups. Later, this paper will discuss how theessential factors of decentralization fills in the gap given an actual case ofconflict resolution in the Southeast Asian context.
III. Conflict in the Southeast Asian Context The conflict inthe Southeast Asian context described in this paper are the two instances ofwhich occurred in Aceh, Indonesia and Bangsamoro (Mindanao), Philippines. The intentionfor using both of the said cases, aside from it belonging to the same region,is its marked similarity in terms of experience. These two community shares astark similarity: in terms of distinctness of history from their country,continued resistance from colonial rule, the struggle for identity andself-determination, traditional political order and structure, history ofpersecution and conflict with and from the government, lagging development andultimately, how the conflict was remedied with the use of decentralization.
Aceh,Indonesia The conflictin Indonesia is between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) a conservative Islamistinsurgency group against the government of Indonesia. Historically,Aspinall (2009) described that the Aceh played an important role in therevolution and war against the Dutch colonial rule in the early 1900s. Later,the province with its military governor declared to secede from the IndonesianRepublic in 1976 due to its different preference of governance. Due to theconflict, the province confront various travails such as violence, unfairtreatment from the government and underdevelopment due to the conflict. The conflictwent on for decades until a peace agreement was met on 2004 which put an end tothe conflict and struggle for independence. Although theagreement contains various components which tends to the various needs, the self-rule which is a decentralization inits form proved to culminate GAM’s the struggle for self-determination againstthe Indonesian government.Bangsamoro(Mindanao), Philippines Thecollective ethnic groups which shared an Islamic values in the SouthernPhilippines, different from the predominantly Catholic population of thePhilippines are called the Bangsamoro.
Historically, the Bangsamoro fought allcolonial rules which arrived on their territorial islands. They resisted theSpanish, American, Japanese and eventually the Philippine colonial rule. Theyclaim not to be subjugated by any colonial rule, hence, the preservation oftheir culture and practices. Also, the group’s assertion for independence wasrooted from the illegal annexation of their territorial islands into thePhilippine Republic after the proclamation of Philippine independence fromAmerican colonial rule.
The conflictin Mindanao also lasted for decades, where different Moro fronts fought thePhilippine Government. The Bangsamoro confronts discrimination from themajority of the Philippine population. Also in the past, the Philippinegovernment adopted policies to alienate the Bangsamoro from their lands inorder to gain control over their territories. The conflict was perpetuated byvarious forms of injustices which left the Bangsamoro region impoverished andunderdeveloped. Despite thelong history and the mounting number of the conflict’s human cost, on year 1991an autonomous region was created for the Bangsamoro, it was further improvedwith the peace agreement on the year 1997.
The agreement entails an autonomousgovernance of the Bangsamoro over the territory which are predominantly Muslimpopulated in the southern Philippines. Although their territory hassubstantially reduced, due to the settlement policies of the government on thedifferent areas in Mindanao, which rendered Bangsamoro to be minority in thoseareas.TheAceh’s Self-rule and Bangsamoro’s Autonomous Government To cap thediscussion on these two instances, both communities shares the experience offighting colonial rulers. On the case of Bangsamoro, because a nation-statealready existed prior to the arrival of colonizers and that they have anestablished form of governance and political structure. Prompting the strugglefor self-determination.
They signifya distinct cultural practice compared to the rest of the countries’ majoritypopulation. Although, Indonesia, like Aceh is also predominantly Muslimpopulated, Acehnese projects the need to enforce a more conservative form ofpolicies. In bothinstances, not only the national governments proved to be inefficient andnonresponsive in delivering services, at worst case became the main proponentto the segregation of their minority populace; discrimination, enforcingpolicies expanding the social cleavage and inequality, deprivation of rightsthrough structural violence and persecution.
Due to thedecades-long conflict, both Aceh and the Bangsamoro were the poorest among theareas in their respective countries. They lag behind on almost all indices. The disputebetween their respective countries were pacified through a political settlementand a peace agreement which paved way for the minority groups’ exercise ofright to self-determination. Hence, hostilities were curbed and the communitiesobtain the opportunity to prosper with a community that is relatively peaceful.Due to the peace pacts, the warring factions transformed their relationshipinto partners in strengthening the region. For the national government toassist the subnational region to attain sufficiency and for the subnationalregion to contribute to the greater nation-building.IV.
Decentralizationand Conflict Resolution This chapterof the paper intends to provide a careful categorization on how thedecentralization in the form of self-ruleand autonomous region tended tothe grievances on the particular set of population which is in conflict withthe state. Again,although the types of decentralization can differ by degrees, scholars try toprovide some definition as to what autonomy means for a particular group suchas in the case of Indonesia and the Philippines. Hechter (2000) iterates thatpolitical autonomy is a state falling short of sovereignty. Robert Gurr (1993)defines autonomy by which the minority has a collective power base, usually aregional one, in a plural society. Harff and Gurr (2004) describes autonomy asa political arrangement in which an ethnic group has some control over its ownterritory, people and resources but does not have independence as a sovereignstate. Although, thesecessionists groups originally fought for independence, however, in anegotiation setup concessions has to be made. Instead of being granted anindependence, autonomy is in place to provide for the minimum but highlyimportant leeway to address the grievances of the particular group.
Wolff (2010)states that territorial self-governanceis seen here as a tool of statecraft and a mechanism of conflictmanagement in divided societies, specifically when compact ethnic groups makedemands for self-determination. Although,autonomy itself does not necessarily equal to decentralization, as it presentsto be more complex. It encompasses and sometimes exceeds the essentialcomponents of a decentralized government. First, it outlines the asymmetricalrelationship of the central and the subnational. The rest of the principles ofdecentralization follows, such as political, fiscal and administrativeautonomy. As with the decentralization definition and motivation, it likewiseapply in providing solutions to the concerns of the constituency, thus curbingconflict. Plotting thetraits, experiences and the grievances of the said two regions, and aligning itwith the reason for decentralization, it is not difficult to delineate thereasons how peace was achieved. Through decentralization, the participation isenhanced adding a legitimate representation and a voice to the minority group.
The governance became closer to the people unlike before. No generalapplication of policies which goes against the wishes of the minority. On theother hand, policy preferences of the set of population can now be put forthwith the representative government. Policies tend to be more centered with theinterest of the people in a more enhanced channel of communication throughconsultation.
It likewise tend to the historical political order that onceexisted among the regions. It allows the minority to establish their long heldidentity which is distinct with the rest of the population. It provides theminorities a venue for the expression of their nationalism that is more constructivecollectively.V. ConfrontingIssues Thedecentralization allows us to imagine numerous of opportunities that will bringabout prosperity to the conflict-stricken regions. To some degrees, enabled theautonomous region to achieve participation and cohesion in the community.
Someextent of productivity and reconstruction. Hostilities have been curbed andpeace obtained. However, development and stability remains to be a challengedespite the decentralization. Years afterthe political settlements were reached, Aceh and Bangsamoro remains to be thepoorest regions in their respective countries.
The case of corruption seemed tobe decentralized as well. Incompetence and transparency persist in these younggovernments. Although, it is not directly caused by the decentralizationitself, yet these challenges are correlated. Theseproblems are not unique only to these regions. It is a widely recognizedchallenge which comes along with decentralization. Hence, there are conditionsto effectively meet the desired outcome of decentralization. There is aclear reason to decentralize the governance for both Aceh and the Bangsamoro.Yet, there should likewise be some emphasis on aspects which are highly importantto fulfil decentralization to its peak effectiveness.
First, it is thepreparedness of the society and the community to rule. Decentralization shouldbe for the purpose of democratization and not to entrench elites to monopolize.There should also be a pool of individuals which can serve the bureaucracyeffectively. Professionalization of government and the promotion of technicalcapacity is also important. A framework which mainstreams transparency andaccountability should also be in place. Lastly, like any other democraticsociety, a civil society should effectively be mobilized to serve as anoversight to the government’s activities.
Althoughconfronted with these issues, it is not yet too late for these younggovernments to set things straight. For as long as the conflict is mitigatedand the participation of people are put into premium, with genuinerepresentation, the opportunity for these communities to prosper remains.VI. Conclusion Beforeadopting decentralization, it should be clear for what purpose it serves. Inits general sense, although it brings about efficiency, it also comes alongwith it some risks. These risk should not go unnoticed especially whendecentralization is already in place. Furthermore,decentralization can be appraised in many different ways, depending on thecontext.
The measurement of its effectiveness lies on the positive changes itbrings to the community. As discussedin this paper, although generally decentralization is in order to have aneffective governance and delivery of services, it can also be a greater tool toestablish a peace in multiethnic states. It serves as a resolution mechanismfor conflicts with origins reflected in the given cases of Aceh and theBangsamoro. Although, these cannot categorically be said as a perfect model ofa decentralized government. However, it presents greater opportunities forpositive changes especially compared to its previous state.
Itssustainability remains to be seen, the stability at this point perhaps lies inthe efficiency of the governing decentralized bodies. It warrants a furtherstudy to which effects either practices would lead to. For now, a struggle toself-determination has been pacified, which also created a positiverelationship among state actors and an opportunity for the minorities to charttheir own future.
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