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 Lyla Mehta More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Marjoke Oosterom More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Melissa Leach, IDS Director More details

Photo of Mick Moore, Professorial Fellow with Governance team More details

Photo of Naomi Hossain, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Nick Nisbett, IDS Research Fellow in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction team More details

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IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Rhiannon McCluskey More details

Richard Crook is a Professorial Fellow with the Governance Team, IDS. More details

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photo of Shilpi Srivastava More details

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Photo of Tony Roberts, IDS research fellow, Digital 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

IDS researchers argue that there is an urgent need to look beyond the immediate, on-the-ground concerns of disease control and containment to consider the bigger and broader questions about international development. More details

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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Wp513_FrontCover

Energy Protests in Fragile Settings: The Unruly Politics of Provisions in Egypt, Myanmar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, 2007–2017

IDS Working Paper 513 (2018)

How do popular protests about the basics of everyday life, specifically about energy, come about in settings where political authority is fragmented and conflict and repression common? How do state and political actors respond to protests which disrupt social and economic life, and undermine public authority? To what extent do such mass protests, often justified as inherently moral struggles over the basics of everyday life, empower the powerless or hold the powerful to account in such political settings? And how do external actors shape these events? More details

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Wellbeing and Protracted Urban Displacement: Refugees and Hosts in Jordan and Lebanon

The war in Syria, now in its eighth year, has led to the mass exodus of the Syrian people. Lebanon and Jordan have achieved a remarkable feat by hosting millions of refugees, with many having located to urban areas, where the great majority of local populations are already situated. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Post-Conflict Ruptures and the Political Space for Women’s Empowerment in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is widely deemed to have made rapid progress on gender equality and women's empowerment. How to understand the apparent advances of women in a poor, populous, Muslim-majority country in the belt of classic patriarchy? More details

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Decentralisation, Devolution, and Dynamics of Violence in Africa

IDS Working Paper 511 (2018)

This research sets out to understand the effect of processes of decentralisation on violent conflict in Africa, and what entry points these provide for research and policy actors to engage in meaningful and effective governance, peace-building and conflict resolution. More details

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The Relationship between Perceptions of Inequality and Political Participation: The Case of the Western Balkans

IDS Working Paper 509 (2018)

This paper discusses how disparities and in particular perceptions of inequality may have influenced political participation in Western Balkans over the last years. The arrival of the international crisis in the last quarter of 2008 has had not only economic but also significant political consequences on the region. More details

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Gender and Intersecting Inequalities in Local Government in South Asia

IDS Working Paper 507 (2018)

This paper is an evidence review of how intersecting forms of inequalities influence women’s political participation and representation at the local level in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. More details

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How Do We Research Tax Morale at the Subnational Level?

IDS Working Paper 506 (2018)

One of the most effective ways of increasing voluntary tax compliance is by improving tax morale. Several studies have been undertaken to examine why some individuals pay taxes while others do not. While many of these studies have been conducted at the national level, there is an increasing body of research at the subnational level. More details

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Bringing Together Voices to Address Climate Change Uncertainty in the Indian Sundarbans

IDS Policy Briefing 149 (2018)

The majority of the five million people that live in the deltaic Indian Sundarbans face continuous uncertainties in relation to their shelter, livelihoods, and health. Climate change is one of the key factors aggravating this situation. More details

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Navigating Power and Intersectionality to Address Inequality

IDS Working Paper 504 (2017)

This paper examines the drivers of inequality and social exclusion, especially discrimination, with a focus on how they intersect at the levels of family, community and local government institutions. The paper reviews current literature and emerging research, drawing on empirical work being carried out by the authors in Central and Eastern Europe, the UK and Africa. More details

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The Role of External Actors in Supporting Social and Political Action towards Empowerment and Accountability with a Focus on Fragile, Conflict- and Violence-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 503 (2017)

This paper explores the role and experience of external actors, particularly donors, in supporting social and political action in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Trabalhando com Rádios Comunitárias: Desafios e Lições Aprendidas pelo CEP

O programa Cidadania e Participação (CEP) é um programa de responsabilização social que visa melhorar a qualidade dos serviços nas escolas e unidades sanitárias das zonas onde o programa é implementado. A teoria de mudança do CEP sugere que o fortalecimento do envolvimento dos cidadãos na monitoria dos serviços e na governação das unidades de prestação dos mesmos, pode melhorar a qualidade de serv More details

IDS publications on international development research

Manual de Implementação do Cartão de Pontuação Comunitária pelo Programa CEP

O Programa CEP – Cidadania e Participação é um programa de responsabilização social que tem como objectivo contribuir para a melhoria da qualidade dos serviços de saúde e educação, nos lugares onde o programa é implementado. A visão do CEP é a de cidadãos a beneficiarem de serviços públicos de educação e saúde apropriados e de qualidade, onde são tratados com respeito e dignidade. A abordagem util More details

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Comment l’exploitation minière en Côte d’Ivoire peut-elle mieux bénéficier aux communautés locales sans exacerber les conflits?

IDS Policy Briefing (2017)

La Côte d’Ivoire connaît actuellement un boom minier. La contribution du secteur minier àl’économie du pays est amenée à croître rapidement. Ainsi, le secteur minier pourrait permettre de financer une partie des projets de développement du gouvernement au cours des années à venir. More details

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How Can Mining in Côte d’Ivoire Better Serve Local Communities Without Exacerbating Conflict?

IDS Policy Briefing (2017)

Côte d’Ivoire is currently experiencing a mining boom. The country’s growing mining sector is quickly becoming an important source of national income, and could help to finance part of the government’s development agenda in the coming years. Côte d’Ivoire, however, still faces political and security challenges, such as the mutinies that occurred in 2017. More details

Wp501_FrontCover

The Influence of Policy and Legal Frameworks on the Development of National Social Protection Systems

IDS Working Paper 501 (2017)

Social protection in low and lower middle-income countries is slowly but steadily becoming more systematised. Policy and legal frameworks are widely considered to be crucial for the creation of social protection systems. More details

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The Impact of Social Media and Digital Technology on Electoral Violence in Kenya

IDS Working Paper 493 (2017)

Electoral violence has become synonymous with Kenya’s elections. This acquired deadly proportions during the 2007 elections. However, it was also during this time that social media and digital technology was first used for political reasons including campaigning and polling. Social media and digital technology had mixed uses where it was not only used to propagate hate speech and mobilise for violence, but also to identify and map out violence hotspots. More details

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Accountability in Health Systems and the Potential of mHealth

IDS Working Paper 490 (2017)

The rapid spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs) (and of mobile phones in particular) across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has generated considerable excitement in development circles regarding their potential to revolutionise service delivery in health systems. More details

IDS publications on international development research

NGOs and Personal Politics: the Relationship Between NGOs and Political Leaders in West Bengal, India

The article explores the relationship between NGOs and political leaders through a study of local NGOs in the Indian state of West Bengal. It uses a combination of a survey and case studies, as well as interviews with political leaders and government officials, to question some dominant assumptions about how the state uses NGOs and how government funding for NGOs impacts on the relationship between NGOs and the state. More details

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