July 11, 2018

Paraguay: Councils Power Community Voices

Government Creates 232 Municipal Counties, Four Times the Amount Originally Planned

When Matías travels to his appointments at a clinic for people with disabilities in Asuncion, an ambulance transports him there free of charge from the doorstep of his home in the nearby city of Itaugua. The service was introduced by Itaugua’s local government as a way to support people with disabilities after it was identified as a priority by the city’s Municipal Development Council.

Across Paraguay, development councils bring together local authorities from different sectors with neighborhood groups and local businesses. They serve as consensus bodies, convening public hearings, monitoring projects, and creating participatory development plans that outline what resources the municipality has and how the community believes they should be used. They work to improve public services, reduce corruption, ensure efficient management of public resources, and increase corporate responsibility. The councils not only help ensure public projects meet the needs of the population, but also build trust between citizens and the government.

In the last three years, some 232 municipal councils have been registered across the country — more than four times the number that the government originally planned to create. Another fifteen councils have been established at the departmental (or provincial) level. The councils help decentralize government as part of democratic reforms in the last three decades. Although the recommendations of the councils aren’t binding, they represent a huge shift for Paraguay by institutionalizing community consultation and dialog with citizens as a fundamental principle in government, which encourages civil servants to be more open, responsive, and citizen-oriented while building trust with the public.