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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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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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ER108_FrontCover

Civil Unrest and Government Transfers in India

IDS Evidence Report 108 (2015)

This paper investigates empirically the role of government expenditure on social services in mitigating and preventing civil unrest (riots) in India. The empirical analysis makes use of a unique longitudinal dataset compiled across the 16 largest Indian states for the period 1960–2011. More details

ER105FrontCover

High-Level Roundtable on Political Settlements: Goodenough College, London, 15 October 2014

IDS Evidence Report 105 (2015)

This roundtable was held at Goodenough College, London, on 15 October 2014. Its purpose was to engage high-level policymakers and academics on the relevance of the political settlement lens for the comparative study of political settlements within countries across different time periods and levels. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Green Transformation – Is There a Fast Track?

The green transformation is different from previous transformations in one critical respect: urgency. This is the first transformation in history to be achieved against a deadline. Hence the question in the title: is there a fast track? More details

IDS publications on international development research

Bangladesh: Year 3 Findings from the Life in a Time Of Food Price Volatility Study

In 2014, Bangladesh has been placed at the 142nd position among 187 countries on UNDP Human Development Index, progressing upwards by one place from 2013. Bangladesh has also been placed among 18 countries making the fastest progress in human development for year 2014 by the UN (UNDP Human Development Index, 2014). According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s report, Bangladesh is among the countries that “saw the largest improvements” in Global Hunger Index 2014 (Prothom Alo, Oct 13, 2014). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Learning from citizen participation for accountability in Nampula province

The Citizen Engagement Program (CEP) in Mozambique is an empowerment and accountability program aiming to improve the quality of health and education services through supporting citizens to monitor them. The program supports citizens to engage with service providers to address identified problems; it also aims to generate evidence for policy and program improvement at the local and national levels More details

PB81 Front Cover

Mitigating 'Non-Conflict' Violence by Creating Peaceful Political Settlements

IDS Policy Briefing 81 (2014)

Understanding and addressing ‘non-conflict’ violence is a key challenge for development. Different types of ‘non-conflict’ violence, such as homicide, massacres, armed robbery and gender-based violence, which occur outside of armed conflict contexts involving state or other parties, are not only reflections of social problems like youth unemployment and gang culture. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Impact and Implications of the Ebola Crisis

This rapid literature review looks at the available evidence on the impact of the Ebola crisis on four key areas: political, economic, social, and security. More details

ER101 Front Cover

Toward Effective Violence Mitigation: Transforming Political Settlements

IDS Evidence Report 101 (2014)

Recognising the centrality of violence in the development process, in 2012–14 a group of researchers at IDS engaged in depth with the complex and thorny questions of how ‘new’ forms of violence in the developing world should be understood. More details

ER99 Front Cover

The HANCI Donor Index 2013: Measuring Donors’ Political Commitment to Reduce Hunger and Undernutrition in Developing Countries

IDS Evidence Report 99 (2014)

This report presents the Hunger And Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) 2013 for donor countries. More details

This is the cover to the report, 'Bridging and Bonding: Improving the Links Between Transparency and Accountability Actors'.

Bridging and Bonding: Improving the Links Between Transparency and Accountability Actors

Report (2014)

This report is for participants and others with an interest in technology for transparency and accountability. In the same spirit as the event, our intention is to share insights and lessons we have learned to help provoke thought and aide discussion. More details

This is the cover for IDS Bulletin 45.6, 'Rethinking Impact Evaluation for Development'.

Rethinking Impact Evaluation for Development

IDS Bulletin 45.6 (2014)

This IDS Bulletin presents a 'rallying cry' for impact evaluation to rise to the challenges of a post-MDG/post-2015 world. It is the first of two issues that follow a workshop entitled 'Impact, Innovation and Learning: Towards a Research and Practice Agenda for the Future', held at IDS in March 2013. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC report Enabling citizen engagement and accountable, responsive government: Strategy synthesis.

Enabling Citizen Engagement and Accountable, Responsive Government: Strategy Synthesis

Making All Voices Count is a programme that began with a clearly defined set of aims, a theory of change (ToC) and a structure centred on four linked components – innovation, scaling, research and evidence, and catalysing global action. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Illustrating the Rise in Food Prices in Zambia: Household Expenditure Shares and Price Indexes, 2006 and 2010

Food consumption and subsequently household welfare are sensitive to changes in food prices. This is especially so among poorer households who can spend up to three quarters of their income on food (Cranfield, Preckel, & Hertel, 2007). More details

IDS publications on international development research

"The Constitution Lies To Us": Securing Accountability for the Right to Food in Kenya

Food Riots and Food Rights project report (2014)

Factors rooted in Kenya’s history and political economy have dampened citizen expectations of the state, thwarted popular mobilisation and generated weak state responses. This raises a question of responsibility. In this paper, we explore the failure and efforts to overcome them, before considering how accountability for hunger can be made the norm. More details

Cover for IDS report entitled the Moral and Political Economy of Food Security in Bangladesh

The Food Riots That Never Were: The Moral and Political Economy of Food Security in Bangladesh

Food Riots and Food Rights project report (2014)

The green revolution and the global integration of food markets were supposed to relegate scarcity to the annals of history. So why did thousands of people in dozens of countries take to the streets when world food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011? More details

Boy stand by a burning car in the 2008 Mozambique riots.

Them Belly Full (But We Hungry): Food Rights Struggles in Bangladesh, India, Kenya

Food Riots and Food Rights project report (2014)

The green revolution and the global integration of food markets were supposed to relegate scarcity to the annals of history. So why did thousands of people in dozens of countries take to the streets when world food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011? Are food riots the surest route to securing the right to food in the 21st century? More details

IDS publications on international development research

Hunger Revolts and Citizen Strikes: Popular Protests in Mozambique, 2008-2012

Food Riots and Food Rights project report (2014)

In February 2008 and September 2010, the cities of Maputo and Matola were the scene of violent protests against the rise in the cost of living, undertaken by groups of ordinary citizens. Immediately afterwards, these protests were replicated in some other Mozambican cities, but on a much smaller scale, and they were quickly brought under control by the police. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Why a governance perspective could contribute to improving drug policy and engaging the international development community: Lessons from Colombia

The International Journal of Drug Policy 25.5 (2014)

Focusing on the governance of policy-making and delivery may help overcome some of the seemingly unbridgeable divides in drug policy, and open up possibilities for innovation. More details

ER95 Front Cover

Indian Development Cooperation: the State of the Debate

IDS Evidence Report 95 (2014)

In this changing landscape, India is becoming an important player . India’s increased volume of development cooperation or DC (particularly to African countries), its clearer articulation of a rejection of ‘traditional’ aid principles, and its growing role as a representative of emerging economies that aim to act as a bridge between the North and South have led to it becoming a key figure in shaping the future of international DC. How is this new role being perceived domestically? More details