Territorial Governance and Decentralisation: Comparative Insights from South-East Asia

3rd SIS-EURAC Annual Lecture - 7 May 2019
7 May 2019
Venue: Palazzo Paolo Prodi, Room 001 – via Tommaso Gar, 14 – Trento

The School of International Studies and The Institute for Comparative Federalism (EURAC Research, Bolzano) jointly convene the third SIS-EURAC ANNUAL LECTURE ON FEDERALISM:

Territorial Governance and Decentralisation: Comparative Insights from South-East Asia

Invited Speaker: Andrew Harding, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore
Chair: Andrea Fracasso, School of International Studies

As elsewhere in the world, decentralization has occurred extensively in SE Asia – indeed in every country in that region - over the last 30 years or so. Currently, for example, there are proposals for federalism in the Philippines, discussions over decentralization in Myanmar, and debates concerning the rebalancing of federalism in Malaysia. Despite the ubiquity of decentralization in the region, it has however been little studied, and any conclusions must be tentative at this point.

In this talk Professor Harding, embarking on a major project to study this phenomenon, inquires into different modes of decentralisation in SE Asia – federalism, asymmetrical devolution, and local government reform. Many questions arise. Why has decentralization been so prevalent? Is it constitutionally mandated or entrenched? Why have Asian developmental states with their highly centralized bureaucracies given away so much power? Does this represent new developmentalism, a push for greater administrative efficiency, an entrenchment of democracy itself, or a response to a need to recognise pluralism and traditional local identity in SE Asia’s plural societies? He concludes that all of these reasons are relevant, but that the last is the most significant driver of decentralization across the region.

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