what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's politics, stupid

My mother lived to the grand old age of 101 – and was still pottering around her small flat in the supported accomodation in which she lived for almost a decade in her 90s, doing her own shopping and cooking meals for me on my visits from far-flung places. She had some difficulty understanding what it was I was doing in the countries of central europe and central asia which had, for so much of her lifetime, behind "The Iron Curtain". And it was not easy to explain – she was, after all, of that generation which actually produced things; the more effete characters who provided services in those days such as teachers, acountants, bankers, doctors had status precisely because they were in such a small minority. Since then the number of what Robert Reich called in the 90s "symbolic analysts” who do little more than manipulate words and figures has grown to scandalous proportions. Little wonder that we are all so confused!
But I have just come across a new paper which gives a clear overview of the difficulties people doing my sort of work in transition countries over the past 2 decades face; and which also captures the critique I have been conducting of it in varoius papers. It’s written by Tom Carrothers for the Carnegie Foundation and is entitled Aiding governance in developing countries – progress despite uncertainties. He has eight injunctions –
• recognise that governance deficiencies are primarily political
• give attention to the demand for governance, not just the supply
• go local
• strive for best fit – rather than best practice
• take informal institutions into account
• mainstream governance (ie don't just run it as an add-on)
• don’t ignore the international dimensions
• reform thyself

Its references pointed me to a useful summary which DfiD did recently of the findings from 10 years of funded research on governance and fragile states 2001-2010 - The Politics of poverty - elites, citizens and states
A year ago, I was working on a sceptic's glossary of administrative and political terms which really deserves wider currency

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