This paper explores literature related to the dynamics and methods of strengthening community-based participation in the context of programmes for democratic decentralisation. It specifically examines the merging of two distinct traditions of participation, social/project and political, and looks at the linking of development with the state, and a concept of governance that is accountable to civil society. In so doing, the authors demonstrate the emergence of a new definition of participation as citizenship, and contend that such new forms of citizen participation can best be seen at the local level, where ægrassrootsÆ interact with those of governance and the state. Barriers to citizen participation in local governance are discussed, such as: power relations; no previous history of grassroots/citizen organisations; weak or non-existent participatory skills; lack of will at both central and local government level; the level of participation; and the paucity of financial resources at local level. Ways in which these obstacles can be overcome are subsequently suggested, including participatory planning, citizen education and awareness building, and training and sensitising of local officials. The paper concludes with an illustration of a successful experience of citizen participation (participatory budgeting in Latin America), and a brief discussion of issues for further research.