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Development Policy Review May 2023 round-up

Written by Annalisa Prizzon

Image credit:Book lot on table Image license:Tom Hermans / Unsplash

The May issue of Development Policy Review for 2023 is now out. As a reminder, Development Policy Review is an online-only peer-reviewed journal focusing on the links between research and policy in all aspects of international development. It does so across the spectrum of social science disciplines, intellectual persuasions, institutional backgrounds and regions.

In this May issue we are delighted to feature a written symposium (What role for aid in countries with and without a development bargain? OA) building on the influential book by Stefan Dercon “Gambling on Development” published last year. Professor Dercon – as a scholar and former senior adviser in DFID – brings a rare perspective to the question of why and how development happens, and the role aid can play. But aid is not central to his argument, the core of which concerns domestic leadership and politics. This is not necessarily the most welcome message for those concerned with directing foreign aid, which is subject to increasing scepticism, with persistent threats to cut budgets.

We posed two questions to Stefan. If aid works best where development bargains have been struck, what should aid do in such cases? More importantly, what should aid do in countries that lack a development bargain? We also asked seven distinguished scholars and practitioners from the global South to answer the same questions, and to respond to Stefan's propositions. They were, in alphabetical order, Naomi Hossain, Ma Liang, Arkebe Oqubay, Rathin Roy, Hannah Ryder, Kunal Sen and Carolina Trivelli.

They offered sharp and articulated commentaries, really worth reading. Most were sympathetic to Dercon’s argument: they agreed that development will only be achieved if some domestic compact is in place. Some took it a stage further: development partners need to recognize that they are political players; and, in some cases, donor interests will be antithetical to those of the country they purport to assist.

In March we also published a special issue curated by John Gaventa, Anuradha Joshi and Colin Anderson Citizen Action for Accountability in Challenging Contexts available in Open Access. The special issue brings together findings from across the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme. The programme explored citizen action for accountability and citizens' experiences of governance in Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and, to a lesser degree, Egypt—countries that reflect challenging conditions now common in many places across the world.

Back to the latest issue. Here is a summary of the motivation and the purpose of the articles you will find in the May edition of Development Policy Review.

  • Uganda's seed sector. In their article, Fredrick Bagamba and co-authors review the changing landscape of Uganda's seed system and assesses recent policy, regulatory, and institutional changes. They found that the low uptake of improved varieties and quality seed in Uganda has encouraged innovation to overcome failures in the country's seed market.

  • Nutrition security during the Covid-19 crisis. Implementing lockdown measures can help “flatten the curve” (of disease), but such measures may worsen nutrition security. In their article, Thomas Daum and co-authors identify nutrition-sensitive lockdown measures which reduce trade-offs with nutrition security.

  • Impact of National Agriculture Investment Plans on agricultural growth. Countries of Africa have, through the Maputo and Malabo declarations and the companion Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme committed to increased public investment in agriculture. If implemented, this should contribute substantially to realising several development goals, including reduction of poverty and hunger and making rural populations more resilient to climate change. In their OA article, Mariam Diallo and Fleur Wouterse analyse the impact of these measures on boosting agricultural growth, eradicating hunger, and reducing poverty and inequality.

  • Water–Employment–Migration nexus. Critical development studies have overlooked water-related nexuses and frameworks proposed by development agencies that recognise that water and sanitation are linked to other development challenges and identify the synergies and trade-offs between sectors. In their OA article, Hussam Hussein and Fatine Ezbakhe present a case study of the Water–Employment–Migration nexus framework. The analysis reflects on the extent to which this new nexus may be either a buzzword or instead a useful framework to improve national policies in the MENA region.

  • Skills formation and (un)employment in Latin America: Evidence from Chile. Skills formation and training have been singled out as key policies to adapt to contemporary labour market challenges such as automation and skill-biased technological change particularly in middle-income countries such as those in Latin America. However, limited knowledge about the effects of training policies in Latin America hinders adaptation to these transformations. In their article, Juan Bogliaccini, Aldo Madariaga and Miski Peralta aim to fill this gap with reference to Chile, a country usually considered a successful case of educational achievement and employment but sharing many of the development problems of its Latin American peers.

  • Bribery and corruption. Civil servants are often seen as key actors responsible for systemic corruption in emerging economies. Yet, there is a dearth of empirical studies on what public officials think of bribery and corruption. Owing to the limitations of enrolling in-service bureaucrats into research on the sensitive topic of bribery, in their article, Rajiv Verma, Saurabh Gupta and Regina Birner try to understand the perceptions of future bureaucrats. They offer a novel attempt to analyse how the select candidates aspiring to join the highly competitive elite civil services in India respond to experimental bribery situations.

  • Benefits of enhanced access to education in Tanzania. Tanzania implemented Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 2001 and expanded secondary education in 2006. However, evidence that UPE delivers benefits in educational attainment or earnings is scarce. In their article Livini Donath, Oliver Morrissey and Trudy Owens investigate if the enhanced access to education in the 2000s benefit-ted the youth able to complete more schooling, those aged 15–25 in 2018.

  • School committee composition: Exploring the role of parental and female representation in India. The adoption of school-based management reforms has led to the formation of local-level school committees in many low- and middle-income countries. These committees are usually created with the stated aim of giving parents or local community members a greater say in school management. Various studies have, however, highlighted difficulties with parental and female participation, casting doubt on the extent to which greater community representation improves school management. In this article, Panchali Guha examines whether greater parental and female representation in Indian school management committees is associated with school improvement as measured by increases in the school-level provision of basic infrastructure and services.

  • NGOs' approach to human rights and the challenges in Bangladesh. Human rights non-governmental organizations (HR NGOs) play a significant role in the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly in the global south. In Bangladesh, human rights violations are a major concern. The government's approach to helping victims of abuses and upholding human rights has become contentious. In this article Md. Kamal Uddin evaluates and explores the key challenges HR NGOs in Bangladesh face in safeguarding human rights.

  • Family's roles as a welfare pillar: The case of older persons living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh. Any mainstream welfare theories developed by social scientists and applied by economists and policy-makers underestimate families' roles in providing welfare to citizens. This is surprising given that the family constitutes one of the main welfare pillars across typologies of the welfare state. In their OA article, Owasim Akram and Mathilde Maîtrot explore the role of the family as a welfare pillar with an ageing perspective. They tested whether the family serves as a space for negotiations to improve wellbeing and achieve security in the absence of effective formal mechanisms.