Explaining the Varying Impact of International Aid for Local Democratic Governance in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Paula Pickering, College of William and Mary


Political theorists and development practitioners consider local governance, as the level of governance closest to the people, to be a foundation of democracy. This paper uses field-based research and statistical analysis to investigate how international and domestic factors explain the varying impact of internationally supported local governance reforms across municipalities in Bosnia. Statistical analysis finds that electoral competition in municipal councils and lower initial levels of municipal governing capacity encourage improvement the capacity of municipal administrations that receive international aid. Interviews and observation help flesh out why these factors matter and suggest also that inclusive and entrepreneurial leadership skills help improve the quality of local government. Civic organizations were not found to impact local governance performance. Finally, while Bosnian citizens believe that internationally supported programs have improved important aspects of local government, they also believe that politicization hinders participatory local decision-making and the provision of basic services beyond documents.

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