I. outcome it would usher in the community

I.                  
Introduction

   The first
part of this paper describes the definition of decentralization. Moreover, to
which purposes it serves and the likely outcome it would usher in the community
with decentralized government.

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   Apart from
the usual discussion of its effectiveness, this paper talks about how
decentralization can be of importance given a particular context.
Decentralization can likewise be an instrument to provide lasting solution to
conflict in multiethnic nations.

   This explores
how the nature of conflict in Southeast Asian Countries such as Indonesia and
Philippines brought a shared experience. Outlining the different grievances
which aggravated the conflict situation in each countries, we link how
decentralization fills in the gaps reflected in their experiences. Ultimately,
decentralization through “self-rule” and “autonomous government” were the most
contentious aspect in reaching a concession between the warring groups; curbing
violence, allowing for the right to self-determination, and achieving peace in
the respective regions. The communities then manifest a greater opportunity to
collectively prosper with representation and other features that
decentralization guarantees.

 

II.               
Decentralization

What?

   Decentralization
itself offers a variety of definitions as debated by many scholars. However,
although they vary by definition and by degree, most scholars would agree that
decentralization entails the essential features of moving power and resources
from the national government to the subnational levels.

   A more
decentralized government tend to exercise more work compared to a form which is
none delegated. In a way, decentralization can be described as a way of
delegation by its government. Given this setup, with the transfer of power and
resources, the concentration of functions and work are likewise relieved from
the central government to the decentralized form of government.

   Along the
powers and functions, the responsibility is likewise ceded to the lower level
of the hierarchy. And yet, what comprises decentralization is more complex than
its seemingly essential feature. Donahue (2003) characterizes the process of
decentralization 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 of
decentralization: fiscal, administrative, and political.

   Then basing
from this different factors and dimensions will be able to set up boundaries as
to what extent a subnational government is decentralized. Likewise, it is
reflective of the kind of services and the subnational government’s capacity to
deliver. Given that there is a movement of function in decentralization, it likewise
entail a territorial aspect.

   Political
decentralization can be associated with enabling of pluralistic politics and
representative government. It is aimed at giving the citizenship more
discretion or influence in the process of policy formulation and implementation
through their elected representatives.

   Fiscal
decentralization allows for the transfer of authority on the revenue raising
and distribution to the subnational level, allowing for more discretionary
power.

   Administrative
decentralization can be described as a delegation, where the implementation of
policies are carried out by the subnational level. Also, it entails devolution
which allows the decentralized government to exercise an independent decision
making on matters of policy formulation and implementation of a specific area
which was transferred.

 

 

Why?

   Both
developed and developing countries have shown a tendency towards
decentralization in the recent decades, according to De Vries (2000).

   Generally,
decentralization exists to remedy what the centralized form of government
cannot provide solutions to. It has been seen as a solution to difficulties
covering the economy, government low responsiveness of services, a weak
legitimacy of the public sector and the clamor of the minority to acquire
representation especially in the local level.

   For the
purposes of providing solutions, decentralization can be looked at by it’s the
components it aims to improve: participation, efficiency, diversity and
conflict resolution.

   Ribot (2003)
believes that local representatives with actual discretionary powers are the
basis of decentralization that can lead to local efficiency, equity and
development. Hence, decentralization is likewise the restructuring of authority
which brings the government closer to the people, which enhances participation
and representation.

   Decentralization
is also believed to improve the efficiency of services, the authority being
close to the locality and with the discretionary power to exercises, response
to the needs in the locality are easily met. Implementation are likely to be
more tailor-fitted in the sense that communication channels remain shorter
especially with the opportunity for consultation. In turn, builds a cohesive
community with an enhanced partnership.

   Existing
social groups in the community plays a huge role in influencing the kind of
decentralization that may emerge and its capacities. To quote Johnson (1999), “Diversity is defined to be unique
properties of entities, agents, or individuals that are not shared by the
larger group, population, structure. Decentralized is defined as a property of
a system where the agents have some ability to operate “locally.” Both
decentralization and diversity are necessary attributes to achieve the self-organizing
properties of interest.”

   Another important aspect which I would like
to emphasize on this paper consistent with the abovementioned is the conflict
resolution prospects of decentralization. Because decentralization perceives
the need to address the inequalities on both economic and political among
regions which the central government confronts difficulty. Decentralization in
terms of political, fiscal and administrative are viable solutions for conflict
resolution especially in nations which is composed of multicultural groups.

   Later, this paper will discuss how the
essential factors of decentralization fills in the gap given an actual case of
conflict resolution in the Southeast Asian context.

III.            
Conflict in the Southeast Asian Context

   The conflict in
the Southeast Asian context described in this paper are the two instances of
which occurred in Aceh, Indonesia and Bangsamoro (Mindanao), Philippines.

   The intention
for 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 a
stark similarity: in terms of distinctness of history from their country,
continued resistance from colonial rule, the struggle for identity and
self-determination, traditional political order and structure, history of
persecution and conflict with and from the government, lagging development and
ultimately, how the conflict was remedied with the use of decentralization.

Aceh,
Indonesia

   The conflict
in Indonesia is between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) a conservative Islamist
insurgency group against the government of Indonesia.

   Historically,
Aspinall (2009) described that the Aceh played an important role in the
revolution and war against the Dutch colonial rule in the early 1900s. Later,
the province with its military governor declared to secede from the Indonesian
Republic in 1976 due to its different preference of governance.

   Due to the
conflict, the province confront various travails such as violence, unfair
treatment from the government and underdevelopment due to the conflict.

   The conflict
went on for decades until a peace agreement was met on 2004 which put an end to
the conflict and struggle for independence.

   Although the
agreement contains various components which tends to the various needs, the self-rule which is a decentralization in
its form proved to culminate GAM’s the struggle for self-determination against
the Indonesian government.

Bangsamoro
(Mindanao), Philippines

   The
collective ethnic groups which shared an Islamic values in the Southern
Philippines, different from the predominantly Catholic population of the
Philippines are called the Bangsamoro. Historically, the Bangsamoro fought all
colonial rules which arrived on their territorial islands. They resisted the
Spanish, American, Japanese and eventually the Philippine colonial rule. They
claim not to be subjugated by any colonial rule, hence, the preservation of
their culture and practices. Also, the group’s assertion for independence was
rooted from the illegal annexation of their territorial islands into the
Philippine Republic after the proclamation of Philippine independence from
American colonial rule.

   The conflict
in Mindanao also lasted for decades, where different Moro fronts fought the
Philippine Government. The Bangsamoro confronts discrimination from the
majority of the Philippine population. Also in the past, the Philippine
government adopted policies to alienate the Bangsamoro from their lands in
order to gain control over their territories. The conflict was perpetuated by
various forms of injustices which left the Bangsamoro region impoverished and
underdeveloped.

   Despite the
long history and the mounting number of the conflict’s human cost, on year 1991
an autonomous region was created for the Bangsamoro, it was further improved
with the peace agreement on the year 1997. The agreement entails an autonomous
governance of the Bangsamoro over the territory which are predominantly Muslim
populated in the southern Philippines. Although their territory has
substantially reduced, due to the settlement policies of the government on the
different areas in Mindanao, which rendered Bangsamoro to be minority in those
areas.

The
Aceh’s Self-rule and Bangsamoro’s Autonomous Government

   To cap the
discussion on these two instances, both communities shares the experience of
fighting colonial rulers. On the case of Bangsamoro, because a nation-state
already existed prior to the arrival of colonizers and that they have an
established form of governance and political structure. Prompting the struggle
for self-determination.

   They signify
a distinct cultural practice compared to the rest of the countries’ majority
population. Although, Indonesia, like Aceh is also predominantly Muslim
populated, Acehnese projects the need to enforce a more conservative form of
policies.

   In both
instances, not only the national governments proved to be inefficient and
nonresponsive in delivering services, at worst case became the main proponent
to the segregation of their minority populace; discrimination, enforcing
policies expanding the social cleavage and inequality, deprivation of rights
through structural violence and persecution.

   Due to the
decades-long conflict, both Aceh and the Bangsamoro were the poorest among the
areas in their respective countries. They lag behind on almost all indices.

   The dispute
between their respective countries were pacified through a political settlement
and a peace agreement which paved way for the minority groups’ exercise of
right to self-determination. Hence, hostilities were curbed and the communities
obtain the opportunity to prosper with a community that is relatively peaceful.
Due to the peace pacts, the warring factions transformed their relationship
into partners in strengthening the region. For the national government to
assist the subnational region to attain sufficiency and for the subnational
region to contribute to the greater nation-building.

IV.            
Decentralization
and Conflict Resolution

   This chapter
of the paper intends to provide a careful categorization on how the
decentralization in the form of self-rule
and autonomous region tended to
the grievances on the particular set of population which is in conflict with
the state.

   Again,
although the types of decentralization can differ by degrees, scholars try to
provide some definition as to what autonomy means for a particular group such
as in the case of Indonesia and the Philippines. Hechter (2000) iterates that
political autonomy is a state falling short of sovereignty. Robert Gurr (1993)
defines autonomy by which the minority has a collective power base, usually a
regional one, in a plural society. Harff and Gurr (2004) describes autonomy as
a political arrangement in which an ethnic group has some control over its own
territory, people and resources but does not have independence as a sovereign
state.

   Although, the
secessionists groups originally fought for independence, however, in a
negotiation setup concessions has to be made. Instead of being granted an
independence, autonomy is in place to provide for the minimum but highly
important leeway to address the grievances of the particular group.

   Wolff (2010)
states that territorial self-governance
is seen here as a tool of statecraft and a mechanism of conflict
management in divided societies, specifically when compact ethnic groups make
demands for self-determination.

   Although,
autonomy itself does not necessarily equal to decentralization, as it presents
to be more complex. It encompasses and sometimes exceeds the essential
components of a decentralized government. First, it outlines the asymmetrical
relationship of the central and the subnational. The rest of the principles of
decentralization follows, such as political, fiscal and administrative
autonomy. As with the decentralization definition and motivation, it likewise
apply in providing solutions to the concerns of the constituency, thus curbing
conflict.

   Plotting the
traits, experiences and the grievances of the said two regions, and aligning it
with the reason for decentralization, it is not difficult to delineate the
reasons how peace was achieved. Through decentralization, the participation is
enhanced adding a legitimate representation and a voice to the minority group.
The governance became closer to the people unlike before. No general
application of policies which goes against the wishes of the minority. On the
other hand, policy preferences of the set of population can now be put forth
with the representative government. Policies tend to be more centered with the
interest of the people in a more enhanced channel of communication through
consultation. It likewise tend to the historical political order that once
existed among the regions. It allows the minority to establish their long held
identity which is distinct with the rest of the population. It provides the
minorities a venue for the expression of their nationalism that is more constructive
collectively.

V.               
Confronting
Issues

   The
decentralization allows us to imagine numerous of opportunities that will bring
about prosperity to the conflict-stricken regions. To some degrees, enabled the
autonomous region to achieve participation and cohesion in the community. Some
extent of productivity and reconstruction. Hostilities have been curbed and
peace obtained. However, development and stability remains to be a challenge
despite the decentralization.

   Years after
the political settlements were reached, Aceh and Bangsamoro remains to be the
poorest regions in their respective countries. The case of corruption seemed to
be decentralized as well. Incompetence and transparency persist in these young
governments. Although, it is not directly caused by the decentralization
itself, yet these challenges are correlated.

   These
problems are not unique only to these regions. It is a widely recognized
challenge which comes along with decentralization. Hence, there are conditions
to effectively meet the desired outcome of decentralization.

   There is a
clear reason to decentralize the governance for both Aceh and the Bangsamoro.
Yet, there should likewise be some emphasis on aspects which are highly important
to fulfil decentralization to its peak effectiveness. First, it is the
preparedness of the society and the community to rule. Decentralization should
be for the purpose of democratization and not to entrench elites to monopolize.
There should also be a pool of individuals which can serve the bureaucracy
effectively. Professionalization of government and the promotion of technical
capacity is also important. A framework which mainstreams transparency and
accountability should also be in place. Lastly, like any other democratic
society, a civil society should effectively be mobilized to serve as an
oversight to the government’s activities.

   Although
confronted with these issues, it is not yet too late for these young
governments to set things straight. For as long as the conflict is mitigated
and the participation of people are put into premium, with genuine
representation, the opportunity for these communities to prosper remains.

VI.            
Conclusion

   Before
adopting decentralization, it should be clear for what purpose it serves. In
its general sense, although it brings about efficiency, it also comes along
with it some risks. These risk should not go unnoticed especially when
decentralization is already in place.

   Furthermore,
decentralization can be appraised in many different ways, depending on the
context. The measurement of its effectiveness lies on the positive changes it
brings to the community.

   As discussed
in this paper, although generally decentralization is in order to have an
effective governance and delivery of services, it can also be a greater tool to
establish a peace in multiethnic states. It serves as a resolution mechanism
for conflicts with origins reflected in the given cases of Aceh and the
Bangsamoro. Although, these cannot categorically be said as a perfect model of
a decentralized government. However, it presents greater opportunities for
positive changes especially compared to its previous state.

   Its
sustainability remains to be seen, the stability at this point perhaps lies in
the efficiency of the governing decentralized bodies. It warrants a further
study to which effects either practices would lead to. For now, a struggle to
self-determination has been pacified, which also created a positive
relationship among state actors and an opportunity for the minorities to chart
their own future.

 

References

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