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Paraguay – Establishing Municipal Development Councils for Local Planning

A platform for citizens to influence local development

Martín González, former mayor and current advisor to the Paraguayan municipality of Itaugua, is a
passionate local activist and a highly respected member of his community. He dreams of a day when
Itaugua will develop to become a model sustainable city, “In my role as a citizen, in my role as former
Mayor, I always have a vested interest in my city, my community.” For people like Martín, Paraguay’s
new Municipal Development Councils (MDCs) have been an opportunity to engage more actively and
deeply in improving the health and welfare of the local community. Piloting the MDC model has been a
key part of the government’s strategy to improve development outcomes by decentralizing
governance, emphasizing more participatory decision-making in local development planning, and
encouraging public sector responsiveness and accountability.

With a population of nearly 7 million people, Paraguay ranked 110 out of 188 countries in the 2016
United Nations’ Human Development Report. Despite visible progress—reflected in growth of income
per capita over the past few decades and Paraguay’s upgrade to the status of Middle Income Country—
a number of significant challenges still remain. To illustrate, 80 percent of the population still practices
self-medication due to the high costs of healthcare, and only 3 in 10 Paraguayan students complete 12
years of schooling with only 1 in 10 students going on to attend university (Giménez, 2015) … 

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