DSA2016: Politics in Development
This panel brings together academics and practitioners in a participatory format to explore opportunities and challenges of implementing politically smart and adaptive development interventions. It draws out links to theory and a research agenda on how better to think and work politically.
International aid has been increasingly criticised over recent years for adopting delivery models that fail to take seriously the political realities of the context within which they operate. This in part derives from increasing awareness of the political drivers of development. It also stems from a growing interest in complexity science, which highlights how actors interact in a dynamic and adaptive way, resulting in processes of change that are non-linear and unexpected.
A growing body of literature suggests solutions to address these challenges and urges practitioners to 'think and work politically' (TWP) or adopt approaches based on 'problem-driven iterative adaptation' (PDIA). However, much of this literature has been limited to light-touch empirical analysis of a few repeated examples of alleged success with little attention paid to some of the challenges faced and how these were overcome.
This panel brings together academics and practitioners to discuss learning from case studies of successes and failures of attempts to TWP in practice. Following a short introduction to current debates, it seeks to enrich the current empirical literature through a discussion of the factors that led to individual successes or failures, and the opportunities and challenges that arise from this emerging approach. The panel will provide suggestions for a future research agenda to deepen our understanding of the factors that facilitate effective TWP.
The panel is organised in a participatory format to enable audience members to engage authors in parallel, followed by a round-table to discuss linkages between and implications of the papers.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Nigeria - How has political economy thinking informed DFID's programming since 1999?
We trace the evolution of politically adaptive donor approaches in Nigeria since 1999 through support for governance & public financial reforms. Emphasising political awareness has been important because Nigeria's everyday politics is largely about the functioning & capture of state institutions.
This paper traces the evolution of politically adaptive approaches to support programmes led by the UK's DfID in Nigeria over the past 15 years. It begins with the scenario post 1999's transitional election and why standard approaches to supporting development didn't work well in the succeeding years, leading to a rethink and new DFID country strategy based on political economy analysis in 2003-2005. The inclusion of political realities as a core part of designing support for reforms has been particularly important because a substantial part of Nigeria's everyday political transactions are fundamentally about the capture and functioning of state institutions themselves. We draw on the insights of practitioner-analysts in designing successive state-level, federal level and sector-specific programmes of governance and public financial reform for service delivery and trace their fortunes as they were supported through successive administrations with little interest in core governance reform, and in which much of the progress possible was at the level of constituent states or individual ministries, including through PDIA approaches based on timely identification of specific practical problems of interest to government. The latest iteration of this 15-year learning curve takes in the period immediately after the landmark 2015 elections in which development partners have been faced with a reversal of the problem; the advent of a national administration with public legitimacy and a strong explicit interest in public administration reform, but with limited capability as to the means of achieving it and problematic coordination.
Learning about Success and Failure in Development Programming using a Thinking and Working Politically Approach: Lessons from the Facility for Oil Sector Transparency (FOSTER) in Nigeria
This paper is a reflective study on the DFID-funded programme called FOSTER in Nigeria. It aims to understand to which extent FOSTER has managed to think and work politically (TWP) in a difficult and complex socio-political context to improve the transparency and accountability of the oil sector.
This paper is a reflective study on the DFID-funded programme called FOSTER (Facility for Oil Sector Transparency) in Nigeria. It aims to understand to which extent FOSTER has managed to think and work politically (TWP) in a difficult and complex socio-political context to improve the transparency and accountability of the oil sector. The paper draws on five case studies - three considered 'successes' and two considered 'failures' - to analyse how the TWP approach has been integrated and is implemented in practice. It looks, among other things, at how FOSTER has managed to negotiate its political environment, to use political economy analyses, to work flexibly and adaptively, and to incorporate learning throughout the programme. It focuses on the trade-offs that TWP approaches face such as between working flexibly and innovatively, and having good management practices; and between development and foreign policy objectives. The findings aim to inform future programming and to make a contribution to the TWP literature.
Note that only the panel handout is available online. A complete version of the paper will be uploaded on the OPM website following the conference.
Supporting public financial management in conflict-affected situations: Adapting to change in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
This paper reviews the donor-supported introduction of PFM systems in the Palestinian Authority. It shows how problem-driven, adaptive aid has been delivered in a context of changing politics in different ways since 2002 and explores the lessons of a recent dual delivery model.
This paper traces the introduction of public financial management (PFM) processes and systems in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since they came under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). A number of factors combined make for an extremely challenging context for external actors to catalyse change: non-existent formal central government functions at the time the PA was established, major restrictions in the movement of goods and people, ill-designed donor budget support and a very asymmetric distribution of power that favours the status quo. An unelected government, donor-dependency and a suffocating and chronic (yet low-level) conflict are increasingly de-incentivising long-term institutional reform. Such a complex problem requires multi-faceted solutions.
This paper describes a dual delivery model adopted by the Palestinian Governance Facility (PGF) encompassing adaptive interventions that support longer-term PFM improvements combined with the introduction of a selective workstream targeting service delivery. This focuses on the management of external medical referrals, which emerged as a political problem. A flexible development assistance delivery model can allow reform areas not anticipated at project design to be tackled as they emerge on the political agenda and open the space for political capital. A constant examination of contextual issues and re-programming of project activities are offering lessons from which to learn and adapt. The ideal coalition involves flexible, aligned donors and relevant 'institutional entrepreneurs' from within local organisations, with direct access to politicians. If high-level government buy-in falters, a coalition of technocrats may help construct and broker problems from which to gain political access.
Thinking and working politically - macroeconomic and fiscal mangement in Sierra Leone
The paper documents the experience of applying a PDIA approach to public financial management reform in post-Ebola Sierra Leone. It documents the experience of problem identification; iteration of solutions; failure and success in supporting a tangible reform process within the Ministry of Finance.
Sierra Leone is the kind of post-conflict, low-capacity and politically-challenging fragile state where institutional development is most needed. It is also the kind of place where it is most difficult to deliver. In terms of public financial management (PFM), after a decade of donor-funded support to system and institution building, progress on reform has stalled. While some basic procedures are in place, many important PFM processes remain weakly institutionalised and subject to heavy political involvement. Furthermore, despite the shared rhetoric of 'post-Ebola recovery' and 'building back better', the government's commitment to a PFM reform agenda determined primarily by donors is increasingly uncertain. Donors themselves are losing patience with channelling support to and through government systems.
The paper documents the experience of applying a PDIA approach to PFM reform in Sierra Leone from 2015 onwards. It documents the process of supporting government-led reform in macroeconomic and fiscal management: the experience of problem identification; the iteration of different solutions; adaptation of solutions to a changing context; and the overall success (and failure) of the reforms. The example showcases how a combination of technical knowledge, careful stakeholder engagement and political awareness was needed to take forward the reform. It contrasts the experience of this reform with the progress of more traditional approaches to PFM reform aiming to achieve similar goals. The paper highlights the challenge of explaining and accounting for the reform's success using the frameworks and paradigms typically required by institutional donors who fund PFM reform in Sierra Leone.
Bureaucratic strategies for overcoming capacity constraints: the case of climate change mitigation
The paper uses a study of China and India's approaches to energy efficiency to demonstrate the relevance of TWP for understanding how departments and agencies within developing country governments seek to overcome capacity constraints and influence wider government agendas.
The literature on thinking and working politically has largely focused on strategies used by donors in the context of specific programmes. However, similar strategies are also used within developing country governments as different departments and agencies seek to influence wider government agendas. This paper draws on research conducted for the Developmental Leadership Program on climate change mitigation in China and India to explore the strategies government agencies use to overcome challenges of limited capacity and competing priorities. It highlights that agencies in both countries have sought to overcome these challenges by bundling climate change mitigation together with other more immediate priorities. These bundling strategies have been used both to broaden the appeal of climate change mitigation measures and to develop a coalition with a common interest in achieving climate change mitigation objectives. The paper argues that a greater focus on how such strategies of thinking and working politically are used by developing country governments has the potential to enrich our understanding of what it means to think and work politically by making it less donor-centric.
This paper draws on research previously published as Harrison and Kostka (2012): 'Manoeuvres for a Low Carbon State: The Local Politics of Climate Change in China and India'.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.