Politics and Power

While the concern for good governance has become widely accepted as a critical condition for advancing development agendas, the question of why democratic politics have not delivered better outcomes for the poor in developing countries remains elusive.

Recent trends challenge the conventional wisdom that democratic institutions are structures of voluntary cooperation, that solve redistributive conflicts and benefit all. A critical approach to the dynamics of power and the interactions between influential stakeholders (business groups, political elites, the military, the media, and international aid system) is necessary to understand why policy decisions may advance the interests of a privileged few at the expense of the less organised or poorly endowed. Often, alternative power dynamics take place outside legal structures through informal institutions or networks, which may contradict, complement or enhance the workings of formal institutions.

Relevant areas of work to understand the multiple dimensions of power include the new roles of private sector investment in providing development opportunities for the poor, the underlying factors facilitating collective action for service delivery, participatory approaches to empower minorities and excluded groups in the policy-making process, the incentives to improve responsiveness and accountability of elected officials, the politics of budget governance, and the politics of international aid among others.

Through our work we aim to inform scholarly debates, as well as influence domestic policymakers, international donors and most importantly the citizens of developing countries on alternative ways to secure greater social justice and equity.

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Photo of Anuradha Joshi, IDS researcher More details

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IDS staff or research student More details

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Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

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Photo of Erika Lopez-Franco, IDS Participation team Research Officer More details

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Gauthier Marchais, Research Fellow in the Conflict and Violence research cluster at IDS More details

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IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Hani Morsi More details

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Photo of Jeremy Allouche, IDS research fellow More details

Photo of Jo Howard, Research Fellow in the IDS Participation cluster More details

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STEPS Working Paper 91 Teaser

The political economy of state-led transformations in pro-poor low carbon energy: A case study of solar PV in Kenya

STEPS Working Paper 91 (2017)

International efforts to achieve goals such as universal energy access and climate change mitigation are expected to stimulate billions of dollars of private financial flows to developing countries for clean (energy) technology transfer investments. More details

This is the front cover from MAVC Practice Paper Building an Ecosystem Around Data: Using Interactive Radio for Accountability to Farmers in Tanzania

Building an Ecosystem Around Data: Using Interactive Radio for Accountability to Farmers in Tanzania

This practice paper discusses research by Farm Radio International to assess the effectiveness of one of its projects, the Listening Post, and to examine its potential as a tool for the adaptive management of agricultural programmes. The Listening Post combines specialised interactive radio broadcasts with in interactive voice response tool created for gathering and analysing feedback and questions from audience members. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Shifting the Spotlight: Understanding Crowdsourcing Intermediaries in Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

Shifting the Spotlight: Understanding Crowdsourcing Intermediaries in Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

This report highlights the ideas and practices that underlie the work of crowdsourcing intermediaries: actors who collect and analyse citizen feedback using digital platforms, and use it to support positive change. Most studies of crowdsourcing initiatives in the transparency and accountability field are primarily concerned with representation (whose voice is being heard?) and impact (what kind of change is being supported?). More details

PB129_FrontCover

What are the Challenges and Opportunities for Multi-level Advocacy for Nutrition?

IDS Policy Briefing 129 (2017)

Over the last decade, policy advocacy has made critical contributions towards the development of nutrition policies, laws and strategies in many countries with high burdens of malnutrition. More details

ER217_FrontCover

Where is the Money? Donor Funding for Conflict and Violence Prevention in Eastern Africa

IDS Evidence Report 217 (2017)

In 2014, Kenya and Uganda were two of the top three recipients of official development assistance in Africa. The funding focused on education, health care, infrastructure, entrepreneurship development, HIV/AIDS treatment, conflict prevention and relief from natural crises such as droughts, famines or earthquakes. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Participatory Budgeting in Indonesia: Past, Present and Future

Participatory Budgeting in Indonesia: Past, Present and Future

Yayasan Kota Kita (Our City Foundation) is an Indonesian civil society organisation of governance practitioners who focus on urban planning and citizen participation in the design and development of cities. Following several years of experience with participatory budgeting in Solo city, in 2016 they carried out research to examine participatory budgeting processes in six Indonesian cities. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The 1970 Bhola Cyclone, Nationalist Politics, and the Subsistence Crisis Contract in Bangladesh

The devastating Bhola cyclone in November 1970 is credited with having triggered the political events that led to the division of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. A callous response to the disaster by the Pakistani regime resulted in a landslide electoral victory for Bengali nationalists, followed by a bitter and bloody civil war. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

The Political Economy for Low-carbon Energy Transition in China: Towards a New Policy Paradigm?

New Political Economy (2017)

China has become the leading country to develop wind and solar energy industries. By presenting the institutional arrangement and interest constellations of China’s regulatory system of renewable energy sectors, this paper argues that the reasons for China’s swift expansion of wind and solar energy investment go beyond the notion of a state-led model. More details

ER215_FrontCover

State–Business Relations Beyond Growth: Bringing in Development

IDS Evidence Report 215 (2016)

The signatories of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have called on a wide range of businesses ‘to apply their creativity and innovation’ to address sustainable development challenges. Yet the role of business in contributing to development depends profoundly on its interaction with the state. This paper asks how states and businesses interact in different contexts to shape development outcomes. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Making coordination a catalyst for the Open Government Partnership in South Africa

Making Coordination a Catalyst for the Open Government Partnership in South Africa

Open Democracy Advice Centre, a South African civil society organisation working on transparency and accountability, has been heavily involved in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since its inception. Through this work, it saw that poor interdepartmental coordination was hindering the South African government’s ability to implement its ambitious commitments to revitalise the public service, promote transparency, and use technology to strengthen governance. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 475, 'Power, Poverty and Inequality'.

Power, Poverty and Inequality

IDS Bulletin 47.5 (2016)

Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development. More details

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Multi-level Advocacy for Nutrition

IDS Evidence Report 211 (2016)

Over the past decade, nutrition has received strong global attention as a development problem. Concerted efforts by international donors, philanthropical foundations, national and international non-government organisations and civil society have pushed nutrition further up global and national policy agendas. More details

Non-IDS publication

Why Invisible Power and Structural Violence Persist in the Water Domain

IDS Bulletin 47.5 (2016)

This article argues that inequality in access to water and sanitation is largely caused and legitimised by different forms of invisible power that prevent universal access. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Intersectionality: A Key for Men to Break Out of the Patriarchal Prison?

Reflecting on male gender activists’ lessons from India, this article explores how intersectionality can help men (and women) better understand the structure of patriarchy, by connecting it to other forms of oppression, based on class, caste and age. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Lessons from Yowzit’s practitioner research and learning process

Lessons from Yowzit’s Practitioner Research and Learning Process

Making All Voices Count’s Research, Evidence and Learning component provides grants and mentoring support for real-time research, applied by tech for transparency and accountability practitioners, for project learning and improved practice. Practice papers document these grantees’ learning processes. More details

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Gender, Sexuality and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Meta-Analysis of Mechanisms of Exclusion and Avenues for Inclusive Development

IDS Evidence Report 206 (2016)

Through its work, the Institute of Development Studies Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme provides new evidence-based knowledge and policy options support efforts to strengthen the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. More details

Non-IDS publication

Grassroots Innovation And Innovation Democracy (Briefing)

Big Ideas (2016)

In this thinkpiece we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. More details

Non-IDS publication

Solar PV And Solar Water Heaters In China: Different Pathways To Low Carbon Energy

This review paper examines pathways towards solar energy in China by examining two different solar energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heaters (SWH). More details

Non-IDS publication

Grassroots Innovation And Innovation Democracy

STEPS Working Paper (2016)

In this thinkpiece we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. More details

ER198_FrontCover

The Violent Politics of Informal Work, and How Young People Navigate Them: A Conceptual Framework

IDS Evidence Report 198 (2016)

This report explores the linkages between young people’s economic engagement and their social and political engagement in contexts of violence in Africa. More details