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In 1992, two amendments to the Indian Constitution mandated greater constitutional status on institutions of local self-governance (also known as Panchayati Raj). Today, India has 2.8 million representatives of Panchayati Raj critical to furthering democratic processes in a country of more than one billion people. Even while the local bodies are mandated to put accountable systems in place at district and local levels, locally-elected representatives need to be able to democratize governance. Excluded groups, especially women should be empowered to participate more in decision-making to increase the effectiveness of local governance.

Human Development as Central to Planning

The human development approach pioneered by UNDP since the early 1990s has resonated in India. UNDP encourages efforts to make human development an integral component of government plans and policies. The Government of India and UNDP have partnered on human development for more than 10 years through two projects – Capacity building for preparation of state human development reports (1999-2005) and Strengthening state plans for human development (2004-2009). The partnership has moved beyond preparing Human Development Reports (HDRs) to integrating human development in state and district planning processes and deepening analysis at district levels through preparation of District Human Development Reports (DHDRs). Today, 21 states have prepared state HDRs and 80 DHDRs are underway in 15 states.

in depth

District Planning to Achieve the MDGs

A key strategy to achieving progress towards the MDGs is to ensure that district and state level institutions are capable of strengthening decentralized planning processes. The aim is to support a range of stakeholders, including government officials and elected representatives to engage in outcome-based planning, ensure effective convergence of resources and promote good practices.

Capacity Development for Local Governance

UNDP’s capacity development approach is aligned with the National Capability Building Framework aimed at strengthening grassroots democracy. Capacity assessments undertaken for partner states form the basis of capacity development strategies for state training institutes that reach out to elected representatives. Partnerships with NGOs aim to enhance outreach and quality.

Increasing Access to Justice for Marginalized People

In partnership with the Department of Justice since 2006, UNDP supports initiatives to strengthen access to justice for the poor, marginalized castes and tribal communities and religious minorities. The approach has two objectives: to enable key justice sector institutions to effectively serve the poor; and to empower the disadvantaged to access justice services. A Justice Innovation Fund launched in 2009 in 70 districts across India, encourages innovative practices in legal awareness and access to justice for the poor.

Upholding Citizens' Rights: Support to Key Legislations

UNDP provides support to monitoring and evaluation of centrally-sponsored schemes and key legislations at local levels, particularly the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Technical support to the Ministry of Rural Development aims to improve transparency and accountability in the world’s largest employment guarantee scheme. We also help strengthen state training institutes.

Solution Exchange: Context Specific Knowledge Towards Base to Accelerate Achievement of National Human Development Goals

Solution Exchange provides an online platform for practitioners with common interests (known as Communities of Practice) to learn from each other and collaborate for further knowledge development. The aim is to build a more nuanced and context specific knowledge base that can help accelerate achievement of national human development goals and the MDGs. Solution Exchange allows practitioners to share experiences, documents, and tools towards furthering action on human development. The Decentralization Community facilitated by UNDP brings together individuals from governments and other organizations who are concerned with strengthening the institutions of local self-governance and municipal agencies to enable them to govern more effectively. The Community addresses political, functional, administrative and financial decentralization in both rural and urban contexts.

Key Facts on Democratic Governance in India

  • 240,000 Panchayati Raj or local governance institutions in India
  • 1.03 million of the 2.8 million representatives are women
  • The Mahatma Gandhi NREGA guarantees 100 days of mandated employment per year to any rural household that demands it
  • Decentralised planning guidelines issued by the Planning Commission ensure preparation of integrated district plans


State of Panchayat Report, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, November 2006

Report on National Consultation on Strengthening Delivery and Accountability Frameworks for Public Service

This report summarizes discussions at a first-of-its-kind consultation amongst stakeholders focused on strengthening delivery and accountability frameworks for public services in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Representatives from State Governments, NGOs, Academia and the Private Sector debated recent legislative initiatives for Service Guarantees and their implementation.

A Study of Law School Based Legal Services Clinics

Recognising the growing importance of young legal professionals in facilitating access to justice by marginalised communities, the study examines innovative approaches and provides recommendations on managing law school-based legal services clinics.

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