Local Governance and Self-Government: Status and Conceptual Provisions for Their Improvement

Local management is carried out by various bodies that differ from each other in the order of formation, competence, level of autonomy in solving local problems, the nature of relations with the central government.
In this regard, in the system of local authorities it is necessary to distinguish between two types of bodies – appointed from the center (local government) and elected by the local population (local self-government).

Thus, local governance should be understood as a regional-wide management activity that is carried out by the central government or the administration of the highest territorial level of government. In turn, local self-government is the activity of the population of the region – the territorial community and its elected bodies for managing the affairs of the region. In other words, local self-government is a self-organization at the basic regional level where it can to organize and exercise their powers without having recourse to the State.
To the extent that they exercise the powers delegated to them, they are controlled by the state.

The activities of local governments and self-government bodies are of a power nature. Decisions taken by them within the limits of their powers are binding on all enterprises, organizations, institutions, officials, citizens and voluntary associations of the region concerned.

State and local management differ not only in that they are carried out at different levels of the organization of power, but also differ in goals, objectives, subjects and objects of management, implemented functions, powers and management technologies and procedures. Within the framework of public administration, management functions are implemented in various spheres of public life: political, economic, social, etc., and it characterizes all the activities of the state on the organizing influence of special subjects of the right to social relations, that is, this is the practical activity of state authorities on a society-wide scale.

Local governance has the properties of a lower level: its managerial impact is based, taking into account national interests, on the rights, duties and responsibilities of local self-government authorities and is localized within the local community, that is, it extends to the population of the region. Consequently, local government has both its own and state-transferred powers and is therefore closely interrelated with public administration. In other words, local government and self-government actively interact with the state administration on issues that combine the interests of the state as a whole, its individual region and a particular local community.

The activities of local government and self-government bodies in our country are regulated by the Law “On Local Governance and Self-Government in the Republic of Belarus” of 1991.
(as amended in 2001), as well as the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus of 1994 (5th section “Local government and self-government”).

According to these legal acts, local government bodies include:

executive committees (with the rights of a legal entity), which are executive and administrative bodies of power in the territory of the region, district, city, village, village council. Executive committees of the primary level – rural, settlement, urban (cities of district subordination); basic – urban (cities of regional subordination), district; at the regional level, they are part of the system of executive authorities and are local government bodies. Executive committees develop and implement programs of economic and social development, local budgets, dispose of communal property of the region, make decisions on the creation, reorganization and liquidation of organizations, solve issues of law enforcement, health, education, social and cultural support of the population, etc .; local administrations (with the rights of a legal entity), which are the executive and administrative authorities in the territory of the district in the city. Local administrations are part of the system of executive authorities and are local government bodies. They dispose of the municipal property of the city, organize the work of bodies of territorial public self-government, the construction and repair of housing stock, roads, exercise control over the maintenance of urban areas, the targeted use of budgetary and other revenues, solve issues of employment, education, medical, household, socio-cultural and other services for the population, etc.

Local self-government bodies include:

local councils of deputies, which are representative state bodies in the territory of the corresponding region and act as the main links in the system of local self-government. In Belarus, primary (rural, settlement, urban (cities of district subordination) Councils), basic (urban (cities of regional subordination), district Councils) and regional (regional Councils) territorial levels of councils have been established. The competence of the Councils includes ensuring compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Belarus, approving housing construction programs, socio-cultural and communal services for the population, as well as various forecasts, plans and programs for the development of regions, resolving issues of administrative-territorial structure, managing and controlling the use of the resource and financial potential of the region, etc. The Councils are legal entities; bodies of territorial public self-government, which are self-organizations of citizens on a voluntary basis at the place of their residence in a part of the territory of the region (microdistrict, street, yard, etc.) for the implementation of independent and under their own responsibility initiatives in matters of local importance directly by the population or through the bodies of territorial public self-government created by them (individual or in the form of councils, committees, etc.). Bodies of territorial public self-government have the right to monitor the work of local socio-cultural institutions and service enterprises, to use the earned funds for the development of the social infrastructure of the region, to accept residential buildings, trade and sports grounds for public and other preservation, to take initiatives on various issues of local life, etc.

It should be pointed out that local self-government is also exercised through citizens’ assemblies and local referenda.

The development of each particular region largely depends on the system of interaction between local representative and executive authorities. At the same time, the improvement of state regional policy and the system of local governance and self-government should be considered as closely interrelated processes, each of which is an indispensable implementation of the other. In this regard, some very authoritative Belarusian regional scientists (for example, V.S. Fateev) point to the need to develop two interrelated, but independent documents: the Concept of state regional policy and the Concept of further improvement of local governance and self-government.

The conceptual provisions of these documents should be:

reforming the system of local self-government bodies (local councils) in the direction of decentralization of management and strengthening the regional financial base necessary for the activities of local bodies, their relative independence; improving the organization of representative and executive-administrative power at the local level; improvement of the existing administrative-territorial division of the Republic of Belarus.

The ultimate goal of possible transformations in this area should be to give local and self-government bodies, which today, unfortunately, are considered mainly as part of the state machine, the functions of a full-fledged tool for reconciling local and national interests. In democratic states, up to 90% of all issues with which residents of the regions turn to the authorities are resolved at the local level. Experience has shown that the central governments of most countries in the world are gradually coming to understand that in many cases local problems can be most effectively solved by self-government. Therefore, more and more functions are transferred, delegated to local governments and self-government, and the role of central authorities in the conduct of local affairs is markedly reduced.

One of the guidelines for improving the national system of local self-government can be such an important international legal act as the European Charter of Local Self-Government, adopted by the Council of Europe on October 18, 1985 . governance and self-government.