How do we understand the hybrid forms of governance that occasionally emerge when rights-based approaches (RBA) are introduced into contexts of extreme poverty? Poverty is multidimensional, and any attempt to respond to poverty must offer internally consistent responses to each of the dimensions. RBA offers a coherent set of economic, social and political responses to poverty that promise substantive change in the social order.
In rural Peru in 2002, a host of local and national movements were eager to experiment with new RBA alternatives to address intense poverty. The introduction of RBA did not occur in a vacuum, however, and existing clientelist practices mixed with RBA to produce governance hybrids. At first glance, this combination seems unusual. Clientelism and RBA are usually seen as mutually exclusive, polar opposites; clientelism reproduces poverty while RBA transforms it.
Yet, the current study demonstrates a variety of hybrid RBA and clientelist practices that imply different degrees of benefit for poor citizens. At a conceptual level, this study suggests we need to reevaluate discrete categories of rights and clientelism and allow for a continuum that would include a number of intermediate, hybrid steps. Policymakers may want to take these hybrids into account when designing their interventions to move in the direction of greater rights, rather than watered down RBA or reversion to clientelism.