The Dynamics of Decentralization in the MENA: Processes, Outcomes, and Obstacles

Ellen Lust, Kristen Kao, Chagai Weiss, Marwa Shalaby, Erik Vollmann, Sylvia I. Bergh, Ezra Karmel, Miriam Bohn, Intissar Kherigi, and Zeynep Kadirbeyoglu

Abstract

This working paper is part of a two-year project on decentralization in the MENA, focusing on Oman. The broader project aims to make three main contributions. First, it seeks to promote policy-relevant, scholarly research on decentralization, and pave the way for further cross-national studies and analyses on the topic. Second, it will inform stakeholders in the Sultanate of Oman, focusing on how differences in community governance structures – i.e. the extent to which citizens turn to state institutions versus non-state actors for services and participate in decision processes – affect challenges to decentralization. Third, it aims to strengthen and expand networks of scholars and other decentralization-oriented stakeholders from around the world, whilst also engaging local voices. To achieve these objectives, the study employs a multi-method approach to explore how and when citizens turn to state and non-state institutions. The goal is not only to expand our understanding of decentralization in the context of strong social institutions, but also to establish sustainable scholarly and policy-relevant networks and dialogues around these issues. In March 2020, we brought together decentralization scholars from around the MENA region at the University of Gothenburg. The discussions focused around the design of decentralization reforms, obstacles, progress and outcomes. It also highlighted the goals and design of upcoming research on decentralization in Oman. Furthermore, participants discussed project design and potential points of comparison with on-going research in other MENA countries. The following compendium is the result of that two-day workshop.