Competition and Cooperation in Urban Land Governance

Authors: Ryan Thomas*, Cornell University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: decentralizaton; growth management; neoliberalization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The global wave of optimism for decentralization among donors and national governments is not reflected at the local level. Local governments find themselves with increasing autonomy and responsibility for administering service provision and financing infrastructure. In this respect, decentralization - in addition to high urbanization rates and foreign capital - may result in a race to the bottom where local governments compromise sustainable development goals to attract development capital with the hopes of increasing their local tax base. In support of this, economic development that accompanies fiscal decentralization has been shown to increase urban expansion rates. The paper explores the following research questions. At what scale can land governance effectively manage urban sprawl? In what ways does land governance fail to do so?

The paper reviews case literature on urban land governance approaches in countries with decentralization agendas. The cases include four intergovernmental structures: government endorsed communal and collective land management; co-management of land between communities and local government; competition between local governments (lack of governance); and cooperation between different levels of government. Among these same cases, there are examples of administrative, fiscal, and political decentralization. Particular attention is paid to cases where local growth management strategies exist.

The review suggests that intergovernmental politics play a key role in determining the growth management policies pursued by local governments. The review finds that decentralization can lead to increased intergovernmental competition for development capital and fiscal transfers, but there are also examples of cooperation.

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