7 April 2014.
Last month our partners at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development hosted political scientist Richard Joseph (Northwestern University) for a talk in which he questioned the “revisionist” argument that high levels of economic growth require sacrificing some of the principles of liberal democracy, a conclusion reached by David Booth and others on the basis of evidence from such cases as Ethiopia and Rwanda. Joseph believes instead that countries like Ghana should pursue a “macro-institutional rupture” pursued through democratic means instead of autocratic ones. His analysis resonates with ESID‘s work on the developmental implications of different kinds of political settlement. You can read Joseph’s full lecture on his blog, or watch the embedded video below.
4 April 2014.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact released today a report criticising the selective use of evidence in DFID and the reporting bias that stems from the pressure to demonstrate “results” (see the article on The Guardian). This resonates with a point that we made at a workshop on evidence held at LSE last year. Here’s how we see the dilemma of using evidence in development.
Progresa-Oportunidades is a Mexican programme of conditional cash transfers to the poor whose success stems from the central role of evidence in both its design and operation: empirical data were produced at all stages in order to determine whether performance failures were due to faulty theory or implementation, thus allowing for constant adaptation in search of greater effectiveness.
The World Bank is a major development agency which has invested heavily in generating evidence for better policy. However, a 2006 evaluation found that the large volume of high-quality research produced at the Bank had not been used to improve policy on a technical level, but to proselytise and generate political support: research that supported pre-existing policies was publicised, whereas unfavourable research was ignored.
This contrast illustrates the two faces of evidence in development, demonstrating that its role in policy-making ultimately depends on the nature of the politics surrounding it.
2 April 2014.
By Kunal Sen.
On 2-4 March 2014 the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) Governance Project organised a workshop on “Measuring State Quality: In China and Beyond”.
The workshop was led by Francis Fukuyama and attracted a high profile group of participants. The attendees included qualitative and quantitative political scientists from the United States and continental Europe, Chinese scholars and US public administration officials. Some of them are already engaged with ESID’s work, such as Peter Evans – one of ESID’s advisory group members – and Matt Andrews from the Harvard Kennedy School; this meeting provided an opportunity to make new connections.
The objectives of the workshop were twofold:
31 March 2014.
By Pablo Yanguas.
With “Effective States” as the first half of our name (and the entirety of our url!), ESID’s conceptual approach to the politics of development places a major emphasis on the ability of the public sector to deliver quality services. Most of our work in that regard has so far focused on the concept and measurement of state capacity: professors Kunal Sen, Antonio Savoia and Matthias vom Hau are three of our leading researchers in this area. However, sooner or later we would have to move beyond concepts and into processes, which is why we now have a dedicated project on public sector reform (PSR).
PSR is not a popular topic of research. It has been decades now since political science moved away from public administration, even if recent trends in democratisation, rule of law, political economy and conflict resolution analysis have all hinted at the centrality of the state institutions and organisations as a source of public authority. On the policy side, the development community has been dealing for some time now with the “failure” of the public sector reform agenda: beyond the walls of finance ministries and central banks where international financial experts tend to find intellectual allies, the reform of public administration and the control of public corruption have been constant headaches for donors and reformers alike. The politics of PSR are positively nightmarish.
26 March 2014.
By Binayak Sen.
Bangladesh’s experience of the last two decades suggests that decent long-term economic development can take place under political regimes engaged in a mimicry of democracy. In other contexts, arguably, such a mismatch between economic and political moments (unstable political equilibrium) would not have lasted long: it would lead either to authoritarian rule or to a more acceptable order of inclusive democracy. What is it in our past development that makes democratic mimicry persistent? There must be some structural factors that underline such democratic mimicry: in fact, the very factors that gave rise to our economic success also contained elements that contributed to democratic underdevelopment or even backtracking, marked by a dysfunctionality of political institutions with negative spill-overs on the society at large through sporadic uncontrolled outbreaks of extremist violence.