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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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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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

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

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This project aims to make sense of the development impacts of the closing of civil society space. 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

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Ethics in the Nutrition Policy Process

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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

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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

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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

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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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IDS publications on international development research

A Study of Education and Advocacy in Kenya's Arid and Semi-Arid Lands

How can education in northern Kenya's arid lands help build a stronger and more secure society and economy? More details

This is the cover to the book 'Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating sustainable change at scale.

Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale

International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable. More details

ER150_FrontCover

The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI 2014): Measuring the Political Commitment to Reduce Hunger and Undernutrition in Developing Countries

IDS Evidence Report 150 (2015)

This report presents the Hunger And Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) 2014. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Reorganising Global Value Chains and Building Innovation Capabilities in Brazil and India

Research Policy 44.7 (2015)

This paper is concerned with global shifts in innovation power. It shows that Brazil and India are accumulating significant innovation capabilities. Most explanations concentrate on factors within these rising powers. More details

Strengthening_Evidence_Based_Policy_2015

Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy: Outputs April 2014 – March 2015

Accountable Grant Outputs Brochure (2015)

In much writing about development, policy and practice are portrayed as if they are joined at the hip. Policy shapes practice, while learning from practice informs policy processes. In this portrayal, practice is usually understood to refer to development practice, or how development programmes and projects are implemented. More details

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

Book (2015)

Understanding and demonstrating the effectiveness of efforts to improve the lives of those living in poverty is an essential part of international development practice. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

Regulating Genetic Engineering: The Limits and Politics Of Knowledge

Charges against critics of genetic engineering (GE) often take four general forms. But all of them, we argue, are unsupported by facts. More details

Non-IDS publication

Logics Of Government Innovation And Reform Management In China

STEPS Working Paper 85 (2015)

Since the beginning of reforms in the late 1970s, China has developed rapidly, transforming itself into a middle-income country, raising hundreds of millions out of poverty and, latterly, developing broad-based social protection systems. More details

Evidence Report 138 Front Cover

Unravelling Commitment? An Empirical Assessment of Political Commitment to Reduce Hunger and Undernutrition in Five High Burden Countries

IDS Evidence Report 138 (2015)

In recent years, the global hunger and nutrition community has increasingly come to view political commitment as an essential ingredient for pushing food and nutrition security higher up public policy agendas. More details

IDS Evidence Report 137 Front Cover

Constitutional Reforms and Access to HIV Services for Women in Low-resource Settings in Nairobi, Kenya

IDS Evidence Report 137 (2015)

After more than two decades of agitation for a new constitution, the violence that followed Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections finally led to a reform movement to overhaul the way the country was governed. On 4 August 2010, voters approved a new Constitution by a clear majority, reflecting a widespread desire for change. More details

PB94_FrontCover

Is Indian Development Cooperation Taking a New Direction Under Modi?

IDS Policy Briefing 94 (2015)

Rising powers such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are taking independent stands and changing the discourse on development cooperation in international fora. India has played a key role in driving this, most recently contributing to the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank and being nominated to host its first presidency. More details

This is the cover to IDS Working Paper 456, 'Decrypting Copts’ Perspectives on Communal Relations in Contemporary Egypt through Vernacular Politics 
(2013–2014)'.

Decrypting Copts’ Perspectives on Communal Relations in Contemporary Egypt through Vernacular Politics (2013–2014)

IDS Working Paper 456 (2015)

The study of vernacular allows for an examination of multiple forms of citizen voice, agency and embedded relations that contribute to understandings of securities and insecurities in highly distinct ways. More details

ER134_FrontCover

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policy Implementation in China?

IDS Evidence Report 134 (2015)

Climate change is emerging as one of the biggest challenges confronting the sustainability of our planet, affecting the development prospects of both developed and developing countries. There is a global effort to find solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the cause of climate change, by altering patterns of socioeconomic development. More details

ER131_FrontCover

Sexuality, Poverty and Politics in Rwanda

IDS Evidence Report 131 (2015)

Recent legislative developments in Africa have focused international attention on the legal status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the continent. More details

ER132_FrontCover

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policies in Brazil?

IDS Evidence Report 132 (2015)

In this report, the central question of our research is who drives/obstructs climate-relevant policies in Brazil, paying special attention to renewable energy policies, climate policies and politics. More details

ER130_FrontCover

Tangled Ties: Al-Shabaab and Political Volatility in Kenya

IDS Evidence Report 130 (2015)

In recent years, a spate of attacks has destabilised a swathe of Kenya’s peripheral counties as well as bringing terror to its capital, Nairobi. As violent insecurity spreads, it has fomented fear and stoked ethnic and regional divisions, precipitating security crackdowns and roiling the country’s infamously tumultuous politics. More details

ER128_FrontCover

Political Economy of Climate-relevant Policies: the Case of Renewable Energy in South Africa

IDS Evidence Report 128 (2015)

Integrated energy (electricity generation) policy is by no means a settled issue in the post-apartheid era in South Africa. The policy framework is predicated on the need for new and additional energy generation capacity. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Integrated Quantitative-Qualitative Analysis for Guatemala: Ensuring Food and Nutrition Security in a Time of Volatility

Overall, the analyses aim to explore the impacts of food price volatility on poverty, well being, and food security. The global food crisis from 2007-08 serves as cut off point for exploring the households’ situation before and after well known food price changes. More details

ER126_FrontCover

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