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

Photo of David Leonard More details

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

Photo of Dolf te Lintelo More details

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

Photo of Fiona Wilson More details

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

Photo of Gerry Bloom, Research Fellow of the Knowledge Technology and Society team More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Hani Morsi More details

Photo of Ian Scoones, Research Fellow More details

Photo of Jeremy Allouche, IDS research fellow More details

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

Jody Harris photo More details

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Lidia Cabral photo More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

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Accountability for Health Equity Programme

Since the publication of the 2004 World Development Report a range of different attempts have been made to make the design, prioritisation and delivery of health services more accountable to different stakeholders. However, complex politics and power dynamics can limit or skew people's abilities to access services or hold them to account, particularly for poor and marginalized people. More details

Addressing Synergies and Trade-Offs between Goals for Climate-Resilient Agricultural Systems

What factors lead state and market actors in Africa to commit to implementing more ‘climate smart’ and ‘climate resilient’ agricultural approaches and practices that promoting more sustainable and pro-poor outcomes? This study is examining how different governance systems are handling the complex interface between food, energy, water and climate in pursuit of the SDGs pertaining to these sectors in four countries in Africa. More details

Analysis of Maharashtra’s Decline in Childhood Stunting

UNICEF and IDS are collaborating to undertake an in-depth analysis of the factors that may have led to the 16% decline in child stunting in Maharashtra evidenced in surveys covering the period 2006-2012. More details

Citizen Engagement Programme (CEP)

An empowerment and accountability programme aimed at improving the quality of health and education services in Mozambique. More details

Civic Freedoms, Peace and Sustainable Development

This project aims to make sense of the development impacts of the closing of civil society space. More details

Civil society and the BRICS

The Rising Powers in International Development Programme is looking at the growing role of civil society from the BRICS countries in the field of international development cooperation. More details

Democratisation, Decentralisation, Local Governance: IDS-SDC Collaboration

The aim of this third phase of cooperation between IDS and SDC is to share learning and collaborate on policy engagement in priority areas of decentralised and democratic local governance. More details

Ebola: Lessons for development

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Ethics in the Nutrition Policy Process

The issue of power in food and nutrition governance is under-explored. This research looks at the power of international actors and the (lack of) participation of those experiencing malnutrition in the setting of nutrition policy, as ethical issues. More details

Highlighting the Invisibility of Unpaid Care

This is a three year project explores why unpaid care work is merited little attention in development policy and programming. We are taking an action learning approach to engaging policy actors on unpaid care, tracking the effects, successes and failures of our policy influencing activities. More details

Measuring the Impact of Closing Civic Space on Development

The most immediate and prominent effect of shrinking civic space is its association with declining respect for human rights, in particular civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and association and protection of human rights defenders and minority group rights. More details

National Health Systems From a Comparative Perspective: Studies of Local, Regional and Participatory Management (Decentralisation, Participation and Equity in the English NHS)

This study examines the Brazilian National Health System (SUS) in comparison with the National Health Service (NHS) in England, in order to develop proposals for reform towards an effective, universal, quality health system in Brazil. More details

Poverty, Politics, and Participatory Methodologies in SDC

This Collaboration with the Quality Assurance (QA) Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is now in its second phase, running until December 2018. The aim of the program is to improve the quality and effectiveness of SDC processes and operations focused on poverty. More details

Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency

The Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency (PVCA) project is an action research project designed by researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and carried out with a number of institutional partners. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

Sustainable Services at Scale (Triple-S) Initiative

The Triple-S Initiative aims to catalyse systemic change in rural water policies and practices, to move from an infrastructure-based approach towards service delivery approaches. IDS is providing ongoing external learning and methodology support to the initiative. More details

The 'Right to Nutrition' in its Social, Legal and Political Context: A Scoping Study in Two Low-Income Countries

A ‘right to nutrition’ has been suggested as a normative concept that might increase the impact of nutrition policy and action. This research will start to explore the views of those working for improved nutrition, and their understanding of - or desire for - a right to nutrition approach to address the intractable issue of malnutrition and its social determinants. More details

Youth in Fragile Settings

This project aims to build an evidence base that maps the role young people – particularly young women – have played in contributing to processes that sought to or did address fragility as well as examine gaps and challenges with the ultimate aim of increasing the voice and participation of young people around the world. More details

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PB122_FrontCover

Reducing Violence in a Time of Global Uncertainty

IDS Policy Briefing 122 (2016)

The new Sustainable Development Goal to reduce armed violence is a welcome commitment but the prescriptive nature of its approach is problematic – there is ‘no one size fits all’. Rather, focus needs to be on how violence operates in particular settings. More details

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Internal Displacement, the Camp and the Construction of Citizenship: Perspectives from Northern Uganda

Journal of Refugee Studies 2016 (2016)

Having no opportunities for meaningful citizen engagement further erodes a sense of citizenship. More details

This is the cover to IDS Bulletin 47.3, 'Ruptures and Ripple Effects in the
Middle East and Beyond'.

Ruptures and Ripple Effects in the Middle East and Beyond

IDS Bulletin 47.3 (2016)

Perhaps more than any other region or any other period of post-Cold War history, the Middle East since the Arab Spring constitutes a significant challenge to established ideas about development and its relationship with conflict. More details

ER189_FrontCover

The BRICS in International Development: The New Landscape

IDS Evidence Report 189 (2016)

This Evidence Report provides a summary account of the role of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in shaping the current global development landscape. More details

ER185_FrontCover

Assessing the Policy Impact of ‘Indicators’: A Process-Tracing Study of the Hunger And Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI)

IDS Evidence Report 185 (2016)

In recent years, the global literature on reducing hunger and malnutrition has come to view progress as much an outcome of a political process as of (nutrition) technical interventions. Political commitment is now seen as an essential ingredient for bringing food and nutrition security higher up on public policy agendas. More details

ER180_FrontCover

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policies in the Rising Powers?

IDS Evidence Report 180 (2016)

The future of human life on our planet is influenced increasingly by what goes on in the rising powers. This report presents a political economy analysis of their policies, comparing China, India, Brazil and South Africa. More details

Non-IDS publication

The Effects of Protracted Conflict and Displacement on Citizen Engagement in Northern Uganda

Conflict, Security and Development 16.1 (2016)

This demonstrates the need for a clear understanding of the continued fragility of citizenship after violent conflict More details

PB112_FrontCover

Rethinking Approaches to Peace-Building and Political Settlements in an Increasingly Urbanised World

IDS Policy Briefing 112 (2016)

Violence in cities significantly compromises development and can have detrimental consequences for peace-building and political settlements in both conflict and non-conflict settings. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

One Health: Science, Politics And Zoonotic Disease In Africa

Zoonotic diseases – pathogens transmitted from animals to people – offer particularly challenging problems for global health institutions and actors given the complex socio-ecological dynamics at play. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 464, 'Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency: A Review of the Literature'.

Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency: A Review of the Literature

IDS Working Paper 464 (2016)

This Working Paper comprises a literature review that was carried out to inform the formulation of a research project on power, violence, citizenship and agency, which addresses how social actors react to complex, violence-prone contexts. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Understanding Politically Motivated Sexual Assault in Protest Spaces

Social & Legal Studies 25.1 (2016)

The article argues that a number of factors if analysed individually suggest there is no difference in the dynamics of sexual violence in protest and non-protest spaces, however suggest a pattern that is politically driven. More details

ER166_FrontCover

The Role of Business in Driving and Shaping Renewable Energy Policies in China

IDS Evidence Report 166 (2016)

This report investigates the role of business actors in shaping China’s renewable energy policy process and governance. It finds that with the tremendous growth of renewable industry over the past two decades, a new government–business coalition is taking shape in China. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Ethiopia: Year 3 Findings from the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility Study

With regards to processed foods and food perceived to be unsafe, we found that fast food consumption has significantly increased in the last few years. It is supplied at low prices and many find it affordable, easily accessible and some consider it to be nutritious. However, some have expressed their concern over hygiene while others fear that it would expose many families to economic problem because husbands and children are progressively eating outside and do not bring money home. More details

Non-IDS publication

Resistance, Revolt, and Gender Justice in Egypt

Unlike past and future uprising's during this protest, it was the women who shouted the slogans and the men who tagged along. More details

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Ejecting Women from Formal Politics in the 'old-new' Egypt 2011-2012

Women the world over are being prevented from engaging in politics. Women’s political leadership of any sort is a rarity and a career in politics rarer still. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Water resources and climate change

The state of water resources is one of constant change. Rising temperatures are reducing the reliability and quality of water supplies. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Kenya: Year 3 Findings from the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility Study in Mukuru And Lango Baya, Kenya

In particular, we were interested in a) the incentives for the consumption of processed foods, b) the worries attached to their consumption and c) the structures in place to address some of these concerns. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Contentious and prefigurative politics : vigilante groups' struggle against sexual violence in Egypt (2011-2013)

Development and Change 46.6 (2015)

The article suggests that a cross-fertilization of prefigurative and contentious politics offers a framework for understanding temporally - and spatially-bound forms of collective political agency. More details

IDS publications on international development research

A Study of Education and Advocacy in Kenya's Arid and Semi-Arid Lands

How can education in northern Kenya's arid lands help build a stronger and more secure society and economy? More details

This is the cover to the book 'Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating sustainable change at scale.

Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale

International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable. More details