The new book The Politics of Inclusive Development focuses on the politics and institutions that matter for inclusive development, the specific ways in which they shape possibilities in different contexts. It argues that guidance is needed about what could be done to make political contexts more responsive to inclusive development.
The chapter by Ward Warmerdam and myself in this book focuses on the politics of development in in the aid industry, substantiating the books thesis on the relative lack of political understanding. Our chapter shows there is little analysis of how donors, even where they do start adopting a political perspective, influence local institutions and the people they work with.
We believe that better understanding of the ‘impact of aid’ – and going beyond the polarisation in the debate – has the potential to directly inform practices of international development. But this requires we learn more about the way donors interact with formal and informal institutions in the countries where they work. This is particularly – but not only – relevant in aid-dependent countries, where donors have been integral part of local politics for decades.
However, for this it is crucial that we take aid itself out of political isolation, and see it as part of a spectrum of international exchange. Developing local narratives of aid relationships are essential to inform this ongoing debate, including regarding how the differing views and approaches within and across donors (and the new donors are by no means unique in this respect) lead to unexpected outcomes.