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Accepted Paper:

Policy transfer through the global ‘good governance’ agenda and changing institutional values at the local level: The case of local governments in West Bengal, India  
Debjani Dasgupta (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the implicit tensions underpinning policy prescriptions of global aid agencies on ‘good governance’, and finds out to what extent these are responsible for changing institutional values at the local level, based on the case of local governance structures in West Bengal, India.

Paper long abstract:

The characteristics of the global ‘good governance’ agenda range from those emphasising human rights and democratic accountability (e.g. DFID) to the World Bank’s more functional focus on administrative efficiency and service delivery. Local governance structures provide a key terrain for such global agendas to operate and interact with local political agendas. They emerge as contentious sites between top-down, technocratic approaches of reshaping state processes and the struggle for assertion of active citizenship rights through everyday practices. This paper tries to explore the implicit tensions underpinning the policy prescriptions of the global aid agencies on good governance, and find out to what extent (if at all) these are responsible for changing institutional values at the local level.

The Indian state of West Bengal has a history of nurturing local government institutions (panchayats) since 1978 and witnessed a change in political regime in 2011. It was also the preferred site for implementation of two separate donor-sponsored programmes – one by DFID-UK, and the other by World Bank. This makes West Bengal panchayats a strategic site for operationalising global discourses of ‘good governance’ which might then be re-interpreted by the local political dynamics. Findings of this research indicate that global ideas and resources do play an important role in transforming the institutional culture at the local level, but it is not a straightforward process. The process is complex and multi-layered with key state actors (in the recipient countries) playing a major role in contesting / reinforcing / facilitating the course of institutional change.

Panel P31a
The global politics and local practices of policy transfer in an unsettled world I
  Session 1 Thursday 1 July, 2021, -