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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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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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

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Feasibility and acceptability of a mobile phone intervention to improve post-rape service delivery in South Africa.

Feasibility and acceptability of a mobile phone intervention to improve post-rape service delivery in South Africa

MAVC Research Report (2017)

Mobile health (mHealth) interventions – in which mobile phones are used to advance positive health outcomes – have only recently been applied to addressing broader questions of health governance. More details

Illustration of rural scene with protestors

Emancipatory Rural Politics: Confronting Authoritarian Populism

Journal of Peasant Studies Forum on: Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World (2017)

Academic paper exploring the rise of authoritarian politics around the world, and how it relates to rural areas. More details

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The Role of Social and Political Action in Advancing Women’s Rights, Empowerment, and Accountability to Women

IDS Working Paper 488 (2017)

Through the lens of four case studies focused on women’s political participation (Palestine and Sierra Leone), and the passage of domestic violence law (Brazil and South Africa), this paper looks at the role of social and political action in advancing women’s rights. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC ractice Paper It Matters Who Produces Data: Reflections on two citizen generated data initiatives.

It Matters Who Produces Data: Reflections on Two Citizen-Generated Data Initiatives

Development Initiatives (DI) and Development Research and Training (DRT) received a Making All Voices Count practitioner research and learning grant to examine the purpose, use and users of citizen-generated data in two case studies. One case study examined how citizen-generated data on the quality of schools and schooling was channelled to the Ministry of Education in Kenya. The other looked at the work of community resource trackers in five communities in Uganda and their role in providing unsolicited feedback to local government actors and other development partners. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC research Report Social accountability Initiatives in Health and Nutrition: Lessons from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Social Accountabilty Initatives in Health and Nutrition: Lessons from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

South Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population and is a region of dynamic economic growth, yet it performs relatively poorly on health and nutrition indicators. As a potential route towards addressing this poor performance, a range of accountability initiatives has been implemented to improve service delivery in the health and nutrition sectors. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Giving Voice to Clients of Post-Rape Services: Building and Piloting a Feedback Mechanism in Tshwane

Giving Voice to Clients of Post-Rape Services: Building and Piloting a Feedback Mechanism in Tshwane

This practice paper reflects on the development of an appropriate and confidential feedback mechanism for users of post-rape services at Thuthuzela Care Centres / Rape Crisis Centres in Tshwane, South Africa. More details

This is the fornt cover of MAVC Learning Event Report More Accountable and Responsive Governance: ho to technologies help make it happen

More Accountable and Responsive Governance: How Do Technologies Help Make It Happen?

The change Making All Voices Count wants to see is more responsive, accountable governance. The programme has contributed to this change by supporting tech-enabled initiatives which amplify citizen voice and nurture government responsiveness, and by building understanding of when and how the technologies help create and support change. More details

IDS publications on international development research

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

Disasters 41 (2017)

This paper starts by analysing the political effects of disasters: a social contract against crises of subsistence and survival. The paper then studies the storm itself, and the politics of disaster management. It examines the impacts on Pakistani political legitimacy and the world's reaction to the events in Bangladesh. The conclusion analyses the subsistence crisis mandate of the Bangladeshi state. More details

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How Do State–Business Relations Shape Sustainable Development?

IDS Policy Briefing 141 (2017)

The achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals will depend on the ways in which states and businesses engage with one another. While state–business interactions can take many forms, they inherently involve processes of negotiation through which actors in both camps pursue their own interests. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Gendered (in)security in South Sudan: masculinities and hybrid governance in Imatong state

Peacebuilding (2017)

Since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 ended the civil war between north and south Sudan, many citizens of what is now South Sudan have increasingly felt left behind by their government. 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

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

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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

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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

IDS publications on international development research

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policies in the Rising Powers

New Political Economy 22.5 (2017)

The future of human life on our planet is influenced increasingly by what goes on in the rising powers. This paper provides a political economy analysis of the climate-relevant policies of China, India, Brazil and South Africa. More details

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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