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

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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

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

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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

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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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Unpaid Care Work Programme: Uganda Country Progress Report (2012–2014)

IDS Evidence Report 126 (2015)

Uganda is one of three focus countries within the Unpaid Care Work (UCW) programme of the Accountable Grant. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is partnering with ActionAid International (AAI) to help each of the three country programmes involved to develop and implement an advocacy strategy to make unpaid care work more visible in public policy. More details

This is the cover for IDS Working Paper 452, 'Unpaid Care Work in Bangladesh:
Policies, Practice and Evidence'.

Unpaid Care Work in Bangladesh: Policies, Practice and Evidence

IDS Working Paper 452 (2015)

This review examines selected policies and plans of the Government of Bangladesh and available research in Bangladesh in response to the need to address unpaid care work - the work, mainly done by women and girls, of caring for others (often called reproductive work), at the policy level. More details


Do Government Transfers Reduce Conflict?

IDS Policy Briefing 90 (2015)

How can we mitigate civil unrest before it results in the breakdown of social order? Not all forms of civil unrest escalate into violence, but why do some deteriorate and others do not? More details


Ebola, Politics and Ecology: Beyond the ‘Outbreak Narrative’

IDS Practice Paper in Brief 20 (2015)

The origin of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been traced to the likely confluence of a virus, a bat, a two-year-old child and an underequipped rural health centre. More details


Local Engagement in Ebola Outbreaks and Beyond in Sierra Leone

Practice Paper in Brief 24 (2015)

Containment strategies for Ebola rupture fundamental features of social, political and religious life. Control efforts that involve local people and appreciate their perspectives, social structures and institutions are therefore vital. More details


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


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