Making states more effective and development inclusive

The Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre (ESID) is a Department for International Development (DFID) funded partnership devoted to understanding the politics behind a range of development issues with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Research Fellow Pablo Yanguas tells us more.

Why do inequalities persist over time? How do elite interests shape developmental trajectories? When are the vulnerable included in policymaking? These are some of ESID’s key questions.

Our goal is not determining how to fit the best technical solutions to local contexts, but identifying and explaining the political drivers of reform and obstruction, and their impact on southern states’ abilities to find their own paths out of poverty, inequality, stagnation, or institutional fragility. Our basic framework draws on theories that explore what lies behind particular institutional choices, with an emphasis on the kinds of political settlements reached by elites through deals or bargains.

This approach requires in-depth qualitative investigation of each development context, but it has also yielded some key broader insights as to why, for example, political elites are more likely to pursue transformational and inclusive policies in Rwanda than in Ghana – and why some sectors of the Ugandan state are captured by the regime while others are insulated from political interference.

Sectors cannot be studied in isolation, and policy domains must be seen as intertwined with elite priorities and ruling ideologies. Our economic growth projects have refined our understanding of episodes of economic acceleration and deceleration and provided a novel framework for analysing state-business relations across the rent space. Our service delivery projects have identified the incentives and ideas behind basic care policies like maternal health or primary education.

Our social protection project has explored the conditions in which cash transfer models based on the Latin American experience can take root and become sustainable in African countries, highlighting the role and limits of donor influence. Our gender project has found a new way to map the coalitions that push for girls’ education and domestic violence legislation, illuminating avenues for change within otherwise patriarchal cultures.

Our primary research has seeded more than 60 working papers, peer-reviewed and publicly available on our website. In terms of policy, our research on the political determinants of growth has informed DFID’s own analytical framework. Meanwhile, our country-specific work has contributed to public debates about social policy, democratisation and natural resource management.

In our second phase of research from 2017–2019, we will deepen our understanding of elite settlements, social protection, gender equality and governance innovations. We’re working with key thinkers to determine the various forms of inclusion that lead to developmental achievements and contribute to the politics of change, developing analytical tools for our partners in donor agencies, governments and coalitions to enable them to enact change.

“why, for example, political elites are more likely to pursue transformational and inclusive policies in Rwanda than in Ghana...”

The political dynamics of illegal mining in Ghana

Some of our research for ESID highlights the inherently political nature of illegal mining in Ghana and suggests that any anti-illegal mining crusade that fails to tackle the political drivers of the problem is unlikely to succeed.

An estimated 85% of small-scale miners in Ghana operate on an illegal basis and the media has been dominated by discussions about the dangers of illegal mining. In March 2017, the Ghana Water Company warned that the spate of pollution incidents linked to illegal mining was putting the county’s water supply at risk.

So far, policymakers have focused on largely technocratic solutions, such as simplifying and decentralising the licensing regime and the provision of alternative livelihood opportunities for displaced communities. These approaches have failed because the political drivers of the problem have often been ignored.

As electoral competition has become more intense, opposition parties have often bolstered the position of illegal miners in order to make those in power unpopular and gain partisan political advantage. Once in power, these same parties are unwilling to risk losing support by addressing the problems caused by mining.

Illegal mining has persisted in Ghana, not because of weak state capacity – as some have claimed – but primarily because of political leniency and law enforcement corruption.

Our research highlights such issues and delves into the root causes of these behaviours to enable positive change for the future.

The Global Development Institute (GDI) is the largest dedicated to development research and teaching in Europe and is also home to the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Doctoral College. The results of the most recent Research Excellence Framework ranked GDI first for impact ranking in development studies in the UK, with many of our researchers deemed to be 'world-leading'. 

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