Participation and National Policy

Since Make Poverty History and international campaigning on the MDGs there has been renewed recognition of the importance of national level campaigning and policy change, with the Paris Agreement focusing on ‘national ownership’ and highlighting questions about how to bring about change at this level.

Yet despite citizen activists beginning to realise the importance of work at the national level there have been few recent studies on national level campaigning and citizen engagement. In recent years much has focused on international campaigning or engagement at the local level, especially in participatory local governance.

In response to this, important questions have arisen around the role of the nation-state as a significant area of power. While international level policy victories on issues like trade, aid and debt are important, it is critical these are supported by national change. But with a greater focus on global governance and global civil society the national level has, in some cases, become viewed as less important as an axis of pro-poor change. Similarly, local level work has been hugely important in helping ensure any gains become a reality for the everyday lives of people living in poverty. Yet, without a national framework and political commitment, local level work is difficult to sustain, especially at any larger scale.

IDS and the Ford Foundation, in collaboration with a network of country level researchers, have responded to these debates through a study on ‘Participation and National Policy’. Central to the study is the question,

How and under what conditions does citizen engagement with the state contribute to the formation and implementation of national level policies, which have a positive impact on the lives of poor and excluded people?’

Focusing on examples where there has clearly been significant pro-poor change and social justice impacts eight case studies have been produced, all of which can be downloaded from the selected outputs below.


Project details

start date
16 February 2004
end date
16 February 2007


Supported by
Ford Foundation


Rosemary McGee

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead

Recent work


Winning the Right to Information Campaign in India (Research Summary)

In 2005, after a nine-year campaign by people’s organisations, the Indian government implemented a far-reaching Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Act, which requires all central, state and local government institutions to meet public demands for information is one of the strongest in the world.

1 January 2009


Reducing Maternal Mortality in Mexico

IDS Research Summary

This Research Summary illustrates how advocacy by a loose coalition of civil society organisations made the Mexican government take action and contributed to a slow but steady decrease in maternal mortality.

1 December 2008


Winning Women’s Rights in Morocco

This Research Summary explores how the Moroccan women’s movement, which had been active since the late 1950’s, successfully strengthened women’s rights by demanding the reform of the Moudawana, or Personal Status Code, a legal code governing the roles of men and women within the family.

15 October 2008


Protecting the Child in Chile (Research Summary)

The lives of poor Chileans, especially children, improved dramatically after 1990 as poverty, maternal and child mortality rates fell, and school enrolment and child nutrition levels increased. These gains were all the more impressive given the legacy of extreme poverty, inequality and social...

15 October 2008