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This overview draws on selected theoretical and empirical works to explore the links between decentralisation and democracy and their impact on participation and empowerment at the local level. Understanding decentralisation as a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, the author argues that its potential benefits can be realised only when complementary policies and specific national or local conditions are in place. In addition, it is also important to strike a balance between the local, regional, and national levels of government so as to protect local autonomy while also promoting a reasonable level of uniformity across regions. The essay draws from the author’s fieldwork in Mozambique as well as decentralisation experiences in other developing countries.

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