From Poverty to Power: Power and Politics


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Part of a series of lectures by Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam GB on key issues raised in his book From Poverty to Power.

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From Poverty to Power: Power and Politics

  1. 1. Power and Politics Lecture given by Duncan Green Head of Research at Oxfam GB Notre Dame University, September 2009Part of a series of From Poverty to Power lectures.
  2. 2. Main messages Rights and dignity are a crucial part of development and well-being Achieving these requires involvement in power and politics Ability to exercise rights requires access to essential services, information and knowledge Active citizenship, including civil society organization, is essential to development Democracy is beneficial on both intrinsic and instrumental basis Effective states play a central role in development
  3. 3. And rights are about power - PictureDevelopment is about rights
  4. 4. Development is about rights Rights are long-term guarantees that allow right- holders to put demands on duty bearers Capabilities = rights + ability to exercise them Involves crucial shift from treating poor people as ‘beneficiaries’ to seeing them as active agents Rights = lawyers and scholars; development = economists and engineers
  5. 5. And rights are about power  Power within: personal self-confidence  Power with: collective power, through organisation, solidarity, and joint action  Power to: the capability to decide actions and carry them out  Power over: the power of the strong over the weak
  6. 6. First build the people… Education, healthcare, water, sanitation and housing are basic building blocks of a decent life Education: need improvements in both quality and quantity (esp. for girls) Health: maternal mortality as example of gender and wealth-based inequalities Control over fertility is both a rights and health issue The state must be central to provision
  7. 7. Then ensure access to knowledge andinformation Steady improvements in access to knowledge, e.g. radio, mobiles, internet Technology holds enormous potential But current incentives bias R&D against the needs of the poor And intellectual property rules act as a barrier to technology transfer (pharmaceuticals, biopiracy)
  8. 8. And the right to organise Increasing range and complexity of civil society organizations Role of CSOs as catalysts and watchdogs Intrinsic and instrumental benefits of CSO involvement Civil society activism waxes and wanes Civil society is very involved in decentralization processes
  9. 9. How change happens:winning women’s rights in Morocco
  10. 10. How change happens:winning women’s rights in Morocco 2004: Moroccan parliament approves new Islamic family code that strengthens women’s rights Changes driven by Union de l’Action Feminine, working within Islam, e.g. quoting Koran Counterattack from conservative activists and clerics Women’s movement used insider-outsider tactics - petitions and marches to fend off conservatives King formed commission which led to law change
  11. 11. Property rights matter Property rights matter to poor people Women often excluded from full rights to property Many systems of property rights, e.g. customary law Role of property rights in development: important but not a panacea (de Soto) and can have negative impacts
  12. 12. The importance of land reform toequality and growth
  13. 13. Democracy works Spread of democracy was a feature of the 20th century Democracies – Produce more predictable long run growth rates – Produce greater short term stability – Handle shocks much better – Deliver more equality Democracy in many countries is ‘exclusionary’, with flawed party systems and patronage politics But for most people remains the ‘least worst’ alternative
  14. 14. Democracies in the world100 Start of Great Depression9080 End of World War II7060 Collapse of Berlin Wall5040302010 0 1800 1820 1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
  15. 15. Corruption is often linked tonatural resources Corruption is both a cause and effect of poverty Impact on development varies (10% v 100%) Active citizens can curb corruption, while rich countries and corporations must also put their houses in order Natural resources can undermine the social contract between state and citizen But some countries have managed natural resource wealth well (e.g. Botswana, Malaysia)
  16. 16. States are at the heart of development(and growing in importance) Nation states play a core role in providing essential services, rule of law, economic stability and upgrading Weak or absent states are often worse than bad ones, but can be turned around, often after a ‘shock’ Looking at East Asian tigers, successful states: – Govern for the future – Promote growth – Start with equity – Integrate with the global economy, but discriminate – Guarantee health and education for all Taxation is central to the citizen-state relationship Globalization and orthodoxy make building effective states harder
  17. 17. Dilemma: are Effective States ompatible with Active Citizens?
  18. 18. Dilemma: are Effective Statescompatible with Active Citizens? Social Pacts between citizens and states are at heart of many development success stories (eg Scandinavia, Chile) But selection bias means we don’t think about states that are now developed In early stages many nation builders are undemocratic (e.g. East Asia, Germany) But autocrats often fail and society now is less tolerant of ‘benevolent dictators’ We need active citizens to exercise rights, effective states for growth and services. Task is to combine them as quickly as possible in a country’s development.
  19. 19. Further Reading on the Blog Fragile States and Paul Collier’s latest book, ‘War, Guns and Votes’, Taxation and State-Building, How can effective states emerge in Africa? Fixing Failed States (book review),
  20. 20. Further Reading From Poverty to Power, Part 2 Geoff Mulgan, Good and Bad Power, 2006 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, 1999 Hernando de Soto, the Mystery of Capital, 2001 Matthew Lockwood, The State They’re In, 2005 Publish What You Pay US is on ystem/default.asp?id=39924