Good Urban Governance: Evidence
from a Model City?
University College London, UK
Few cities in Latin America provide much evidence of good governance.
However, during the last fifteen years, Bogota
´ has been transformed and
now qualifies in certain respects as an example of ‘best practice’. The
paper considers how Bogota
´ changed and whether it can continue its
improvement, an especially interesting question insofar as a left-wing
administration has been in charge since 2004. Of course, the city is by
no means perfect and national issues continue to create difficulties both
for the poor and for the local administration.
Keywords: governance, poverty, democracy, decentralisation, Colombia.
Over the last twenty years Latin America has participated strongly in what Huntington,
1991) has labelled ‘Third Wave democratization’. Unlike the military dictatorships and
authoritarian governments that dominated the region in the 1970s, most national
governments today are freely elected. Democratically elected national governments in
turn have stimulated the rise of democracy at the local level and, today, most mayors and
town councils are elected (Rodrı´guez, 1997; Tendler, 1997; Ward, 1996, 1998; Myers
and Dietz, 2002; Ruble, Stren, Tulchin and Varat,
.2003). Advocates of decentralisation
argue that elected mayors are much more responsive to local needs than mayors
appointed directly by the national president. As such, local democracy, particularly if
it is associated with higher levels of popular participation, will improve the deficient
quality of local governance. As Van Lindert and Nijenhuis (2003: 175) put it: ‘popular
participation is an important ingredient of good governance. In theory, the transfer of
functions and funds to sub-national levels makes it easier for people to participate in
local decision-making concerning key issues that affect their lives’.
Neoliberal thinking, combined with the quest for better governance, has also encour-
aged the delegation of more responsibility to local government. Many central governments
have delegated control over previously centralised services, like education, health and
infrastructure provision, to local authorities. Financial transfers from central government
have sometimes followed the new responsibilities but generally local governments have
been encouraged to generate more of their own resources. Decentralisation, it is hoped, will
bring greater efficiency, more local accountability and less corruption (Keiner et al., 2005).
Some believe that this double shift, towards democracy and decentralisation, her-
alds a fundamental change towards better urban governance (World Bank, 2003).
The Author 2006