Background Paper 2 - The Politics of Institutional Indigenization

Over recent years the international community, at least in some quarters, has rightly recognised that development is fundamentally a political process. We also accept more readily that economic growth, governance and politics are interdependent. But where we have failed, at least publicly, has been in not understanding and recognising the implications of this for donor policy and programming. It is broadly agreed that ‘good governance’ and sound institutions are necessary for growth and development, but our conventional approaches to governance reform are not working.
 
Attempts to transpose institutional models (both economic and governance) from OECD countries and to facilitate ‘country led approaches’ around Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) have not had the desired impact.
 
What explains this now widespread failure of institutions, including PRSPs or national development strategies, which have been transferred from developed to developing countries to take root and prosper? It is important to explore more deeply this fundamental question as there is a lot of international aid riding on the answer(s).
 
We expect that the answer is less about technical issues and much more about political and cultural incentives and processes. We also think that much of what we, as an international community, are advocating in terms of international aid policy and strategy often lacks historical understanding.
 
The hypothesis which underlies this research programme is that appropriate, legitimate and effective institutions – and especially the ‘core’ institutions which define the fundamental rules of the game which lie at the heart of effective states, stability and economic growth – are made in the course of political processes and interactions between local leaders, elites and coalitions.
 
For appropriate and legitimate institutions to emerge and work, they need be embedded deeply in local politics and culture. Hence they need to be ‘indigenized’, that is made recognizable and acceptable within prevailing political and cultural standards, practices and norms of the host society, especially as they undergo reform and change. And effective indigenization requires the active participation, consent and agreement of local leaders, elites and coalitions. In short, the quality, legitimacy and implementation of institutions depend very much on the quality of leaders and elites and how they work collectively.

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.

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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.

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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.

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