The Governance research cluster works across a number of thematic areas that are focused on ensuring citizens are represented and governed fairly in a world of changing state authorities. Our work critically examines public authority and the institutions, networks and politics that shape it. Researchers in the cluster engage with citizens, decision-makers, and powerholders across the globe and at all levels of governance (from local to global) to co-produce inclusive and interdisciplinary evidence to challenge and refine ideas and practice. Our work includes providing technical support to governments, donor agencies, and civil society actors and building research capacity of social scientists in different parts of the world.

The cluster houses researchers that work across four thematic areas: Taxation; Accountability and Public Policy; Gender and Politics; and Conflict. They have backgrounds in political science, economics, anthropology, urban studies, development studies, and international relations, and have broad expertise in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

The Governance cluster also has a commitment to teaching and houses the MA Governance, Public Policy and Development programme. Fellows also convene and teach on other MA programmes at IDS, including the MA Gender and Development, and the MA Development Studies, and supervise on the doctoral programme.


Understanding how taxation affects the quality of governance has implications for social justice, inequality, sustainability and security at both global, national and sub-national levels. The International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD), housed in the Governance cluster, is globally the leading organisation in its field. ICTD generates research evidence that supports developing countries in raising domestic revenues equitably and sustainably, and it convenes a global network focused on improving the quality of tax policy and administration in developing countries, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

Accountability and public policy

On the other side of the equation, the cluster’s work seeks to generate evidence on state-society interactions that shape the design and implementation of public policy. In particular, we consider questions around making public policy inclusive and accountable, especially to vulnerable and marginalised populations and in more fragile and conflict-affected contexts. The Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme anchors much of this work. Concepts that our work engages with and pushes further include: capacity of state and non-state actors in policy formulation and implementation; the role of states in enabling collective action and accountability; and the interaction between governance and informality. Researchers in the cluster also have a particular interest in studying the role of bureaucracies in implementing inclusive and redistributive public policy, and in understanding the conditions under which democratic governance at the local level can be strengthened. The cluster supports a global network on Democratisation, Decentralisation, Local Governance around this work.

Gender and politics

Despite advancement in women’s participation in politics and the economy, many challenges to gender equality persist. The current pandemic, economic crisis and the rise of populist anti-gender equality forces have emphasised both the persistence of gender inequality and the paucity of policy responses to this. Our work seeks to examine the gendered politics of recognition and redistribution, through empirical work in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are especially interested in collective action and feminist struggles for equality in diverse political settings and how they counter backlash, such as through the SuPWR programme, with an emphasis on state-society relations underpinning these struggles for gender equality. Our focus areas include: unpaid care work and its impact on women and girls and the care justice agenda; labour market interventions and women’s economic empowerment (WEE); women’s voting behaviour, political participation and representation at various levels of government; and the gendered politics of implementing policies on social welfare, reproductive and sexual diversity rights, anti-VAW and sexual harassment.


The Governance cluster has a longstanding focus on conflict-affected countries, with several projects seeking to understand the effects of violent conflict on a range of development issues and inform actors intervening in such contexts. The ESRC Funded Trust and Governance project analyses the short and long term effects of violent conflict on inequality and trust in Colombia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Spain and Greece. Two recent projects have been focusing on understanding the effects of violent conflict on education: The REALISE project analyses how violent conflict alters dynamics of marginalisation from education, in particular the intersection of economic, gender, social and political marginalisation, with a focus on the Batwa populations of Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The BRiCE research project, a partnership between IDS and the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Bukavu, analyses how violent conflict penetrates the school environment in Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and affects teachers’ and students’ well-being and capacity to teach and learn. The cluster has also been contributing to methodological debates on the study of violent conflict, notably through a recent ESRC funded project which assesses the relative strengths of new and old media in reporting violent events.

Key contacts



Recent work

Upcoming Event

Book launch: Smugglers and States

We are thrilled to host the launch for the book Smugglers and States, with an introduction by its author Max Gallien, followed by a drinks reception. Smuggling is typically thought of as furtive and hidden, taking place under the radar and beyond the reach of the state. But in many cases,...

21 March 2024

Upcoming Event

Understanding gender backlash: Southern perspectives

This event will launch the new IDS Bulletin ‘Understanding Gender Backlash: Southern Perspectives’ (published on the 7 March). It will address the urgent question of how we can better understand the recent swell of anti-gender backlash across different regions, exploring different types of...

7 March 2024

Upcoming Event

This Stained Dawn: feminist documentary and director Q&A

An International Women’s Day film screening of 'This Stained Dawn', a documentary film about the build up to the 2020 Aurat March (women’s march) in Pakistan. The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with the globally acclaimed film director and producer Anam...

5 March 2024



Covid-19 Learning, Evidence and Research Programme in Bangladesh (CLEAR)

The Covid-19 Learning, Evidence and Research Programme in Bangladesh (CLEAR) is a 2.5 year FCDO-funded programme to support an evidence-informed Covid-19 response and recovery in Bangladesh. The pandemic has disrupted production in agriculture, industry and the informal sector- creating a new...