Power, Politics and Coalitions in the Pacific: Lessons from Collective Action on Gender and Power

This paper presents findings from five case studies of coalitions in the Pacific region. It aims to address gaps in our understanding of the role played by civil society and coalitions in challenging gendered power structures and promoting women’s leadership and decision-making in the Pacific. This in turn provides insights for better supporting and enabling coalitions.

Four factors emerge from the case studies as influential in the formation and functioning of coalitions.

  • Formative events:  What brought people together to ‘do something’ in a concerted way? For example, the torture and death of a woman in a sorcery-related violence incident, followed by extensive media coverage and a conference generated the impetus for the formation of the PNG coalition examined in this study. Whether formative events are locally or externally driven appears to mould the future shape of a coalition and how it functions.
  • Shared purpose, interests and values: Clarity of shared ground and common purpose helps coalitions increase their support base, coherence and influence. The dominant forms of common purpose identified by this study are shared values and interests. For example, the Fiji case study illustrates how shared values around universal human rights and a common purpose of fighting a constitutional amendment bound together a broad range of actors to challenge gender relations.
  • Forms of leadership:  The nature of a coalition’s leadership can determine its sustainability and its ability to respond to changing circumstances, broker relationships and divergent interests, and challenge vested interests.  This study found that some coalitions understood and practised leadership as a process of adaptation; others understood leadership to be a characteristic of leaders.  For example, the Tonga Talitha case study revealed efforts to divest and decentralise leadership to overcome the limitations of individual leadership.
  • The nature of ownership: The degree to which a coalition’s agenda is locally owned and its ways of working are politically salient appears to be key to determining its effectiveness. This study found that the coalitions examined could be broadly characterised as local/hybrid variations. For example, the Kiribati coalition formed following a regional meeting and was initially supported by international donors. However, it quickly became ‘localised’ because its coordinator and members were I-Kiribati and they set its agenda and direction.

The report also discusses how the coalitions engage with different dimensions of power, and emerging lessons for coalitions and their supporters.

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

Find out more

News

Doing Development Differently workshop - Jakarta 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017

Putting the concept of Thinking and Working Politically into practice was at the heart of a workshop on 15-16 March attended by more than 200 delegates from the field of international development. Delegates from the government, civil service and local organisations of the host country, Indonesia, were joined by academics, including DLP researchers, and staff from donor organisations and NGOs.

Read more

DLP shares research at FCO Africa Study Day

Monday 27th March 2017

DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog