Posted on April 20, 2016 by
As Sharon van Pelt argued in her recent blog post, politics are an inescapable reality for any international development project and must be factored into project design and implementation. The “thinking and working politically” concept is catching on, and more development practitioners are using political economy analysis to understand national-level politics in the countries where they work. Projects can benefit from these studies, but we also need to dig deeper to understand politics at the sub-national levels, where so much of the work we do takes place. This is particularly true when it comes to local governance programs, which often deal with tangible issues such as service delivery, accountability, revenue generation, and decentralization.
To better understand what works and what doesn’t in local governance programming, Chemonics researchers recently looked at three of our current and recent local governance projects — specifically, USAID-funded projects in Iraq, Colombia, and Moldova. We selected these projects because they operate within various levels of state fragility and offer a window into the competing priorities and factors that charted the courses for implementation. In Colombia, there was a need to establish a state presence in the areas of project implementation at the outset. In Iraq and Moldova, state legitimacy as the provider of basic services was strong enough in the areas of project implementation to focus on longer-term, gradual local government capacity building, with varied levels of political accountability, although this shifted over time in Moldova.
What we noticed was that with all three projects it was imperative to understand the political context at multiple levels. With this overarching point in mind, below are some specific programming considerations for “thinking and working politically” to improve local governance in developing countries.
- Adapt to the fluid political environment in fragile contexts. The political realities that exist at the time that a development program is launched may shift dramatically throughout the life of the project, often unpredictably. It is only by continually taking a read on the political context and its unique dynamics and implications that implementers can shape interventions to be responsive to immediate local needs while remaining mindful of long-term goals and sustainability. A local governance project’s ability to respond quickly and appropriately to a community’s needs is paramount to establishing credibility and trust.
- Recognize the importance of incentives. Given the political dynamics of local governance, decentralization, and service delivery, practitioners must consider the motivations of the elected and appointed officials involved, not to mention citizens and service providers. Introducing programmatic incentives, such as providing training or resources to participants, while often making sense strategically, should be done with caution and consideration of the ways in which increased power or resources at the local level correspond with mechanisms for accountability. Projects that foster local government transparency in budget planning and spending, as well as build capacity for citizen engagement, can help to develop new accountability mechanisms.
- Understand trade-offs without losing sight of long-term governance objectives. Local government service delivery projects prioritizing stability may shift emphasis away from long-term government capacity building objectives to more immediate service delivery goals. While all local governance projects need to adapt to political realities, it is critical that they consider longer-term governance objectives to support local institutional capacity to deliver quality service to citizens long after the project ends.
- Address local revenue generation and encourage local governments to support reforms by sharing the costs. The link between own-source revenue and increasing accountability at the local level is well known, but efforts to promote revenue generation often face political economy challenges which require a multi-level approach. Cost-sharing also demonstrates the government’s commitment to own, sustain, and be held accountable for reforms, and demonstrates return on investment.
What are your thoughts about politics and local governance programming? As we continue to research these topics, we invite readers to leave their comments.
Kate Arden is a risk management specialist at Chemonics and a member of the Democracy and Governance Practice.
Posted on April 13, 2016 by
After severe floods struck the Tianeti region of Georgia, many
farmers lost their crops and animal feed — and along with it, their
livelihoods. In response to the disaster, the USAID New Economic Opportunities Initiative
provided multi-mineral feed blocks to the farmer pictured above and
others to sustain their livestock throughout the winter.
To encourage long-term growth in rural Georgian communities, NEO
encouraged governments, businesses, and individuals to create
Posted on April 7, 2016 by
This post was originally published by the Alliance for Peacebuilding
and is cross-posted
with permission. Chemonics is honored to be an Alliance for
Peacebuilding member organization.
The escalation of violence in Côte d’Ivoire after the disputed
2010 presidential election led to the worst humanitarian crisis in
the country’s history. Violence devastated families, with an
estimated 3,000 deaths, numerous arrests, and hundreds of thousands
forced to flee as internally displaced persons or...
Posted on April 5, 2016 by
All changes and reforms are driven by interests and incentives.
We generally understand this and, therefore, we try through our
projects to foster positive incentives and collective interests
that lead to the change we want to see.
Sounds fairly straightforward, but clearly we know it is not,
regardless of if we work in agriculture, climate change, health,
education, or democracy and governance. Politics – that conflict
and struggle for power – permeates the development activities we
Posted on March 31, 2016 by
According to USAID’s recently released “Guide
to the Use of Digital Financial Services in Agriculture
there are an estimated 1.5 billion smallholder farmers worldwide
producing approximately 80 percent of the global food supply, who
together face an estimated $430 billion shortfall in critical
financial services that are needed to support production. In
Uganda, where smallholder farmers are responsible for 70 percent of
total agricultural production, the Feed the Future Uganda...
Posted on March 29, 2016 by
Amiranashvili and Nikoloz Chachkhiani
Is business just for adults? In many countries, the business
community’s involvement in education is limited to the secondary or
post-secondary levels. Under USAID’s Georgia Primary Education (G-PriEd)
, however, we are trying another approach: engaging
local businesses in primary education (Grades 1-6) with the goal of
equipping children with basic business skills that will help them
realize their full potential as adults.
There are many...
Posted on March 24, 2016 by
By Kartlos Kankadze, Mariia Dolynska, and Viktoriia
The theme of World TB Day this year, "Unite to End TB," reflects the
World Health Organization's (WHO's) End TB Strategy
which recently replaced the Stop TB Strategy and corresponds to the
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). End TB sets an ambitious
agenda between now and 2035, targeting a 95 percent reduction in
number of TB-related deaths, 90 percent reduction in TB incidence
rate, and zero families facing catastrophic costs due...
Posted on March 22, 2016 by
Nearly all jobs are related to water. The UN emphasizes that
sustainable development is contingent on adequate quality and
quantity for public health and agricultural and economic
development. Climate change strategies depend on the thousands of
people who work in water to help transform societies by properly
managing and operating utilities. While safe drinking water,
sanitation, and wastewater management are crucial determinants for
sustainable development, the UN has identified the need to...
Posted on March 18, 2016 by
This post was originally published by the Better Than Cash Alliance
and is cross-posted
with permission. Chemonics is a proud member of the
Many Ivoirians were concerned that the 2015 presidential
elections would lead to renewed conflict, particularly after the
violence surrounding the elections of 2010.
One successful peace-promoting initiative in the country used
radio broadcasts to share messages about reconciliation and the
need for ongoing peace during the election period. Payments...
Posted on March 17, 2016 by
The timing, approach, and pace of land reform and collective
farm restructuring throughout the former Soviet republics has
varied dramatically – and in many places is still ongoing. Whether
government chose to privatize land, guarantee land use rights, or
keep the status quo of state ownership, land and access to it
remains critical for millions of citizens who rely on the land for
their livelihoods. Land challenges faced by those throughout Europe
and Eurasia is very similar to tens of millions...
Posted on March 14, 2016 by
This week, hundreds of the world’s leading land rights scholars,
practitioners, and governors will convene in our nation’s capital
for the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference
theme of this year’s conference is “Scaling up Responsible Land
Governance,” and conference-goers will join forces to develop clear
pathways for “working at scale, mainstreaming innovations, and
sustaining investments in land governance.”
This month also marks another significant event in land rights
history, as more...
Posted on March 10, 2016 by
By Emet Mohr and
Paige Morency Notario
Coaching is a welcomed response to the need for active and
continuous teacher professional development, which is linked
to student achievement gains. Coaching provides
significant short-term impact on instruction, but comes with
potential long-term sustainability issues due to its high price tag
and possible lack of local
ownership. Teacher learning circles
(TLCs) can serve as a
promising addition to the existing coaching model by addressing
Posted on March 7, 2016 by
By Amelda Zotter and JoAnna Lipari
International Women's Day has been celebrated around the world
since the early 1900s. Originally, its aim was to provide a forum
for women to campaign for equality and guarantee their human
rights. Over the years, International Women’s Day has turned into a
time to reflect on progress made, continue to call for change, and
celebrate acts of courage by ordinary women who have played an
extraordinary role in the history of their countries and
Posted on March 7, 2016 by
By Sarah Grausz and Nikita Soman
Education is a fundamental building block for human development
and a vital precursor for a country’s overall growth and
advancement. When countries prioritize the provision of
high-quality primary education, they experience long-term positive
correlations in workforce development, economic growth, life
expectancy, and democracy and governance processes. USAID’s
reflects this fact through a strong
commitment to improving early grade reading...
Posted on March 3, 2016 by
By Kathryn Camp and Laura Conrad
Phonics teaches kids the most basic building blocks of literacy:
how to read and pronounce the letters, letter groups, and syllables
that come together to create meaning. But phonics-based education
for children can and should be more than learning to recognize
words. When coupled with interactive exercises, learning to read
can unlock children’s imaginations and intellects, and spur
critical thinking skills that bring lifelong benefits.
Read-alouds can be...
Posted on March 1, 2016 by
Climate change makes life even harder for subsistence farmers
and marginal populations. In the development field, we need to
learn how to address tangible problems that block adoption of
improved mechanisms. USAID’s Climate Change Adaptation Activity
Mali — a two-year intervention in the Mopti Region — has such an
In conjunction with our partners, the Humanitarian Response and
(HURDL) and Sahel Eco
, we are undertaking an intense study
of the socioeconomic...
Posted on February 23, 2016 by
By Linda Flynn
for many regions around the world show that although women make up
a significant percentage of undergraduate student enrollment, they
hold only 10 percent of leadership positions
higher education. Globally, men outnumber women in higher education
management, at about 5
to 1 in middle management and 20 to 1 at senior management
Why is this an issue? While women have excelled in
post-secondary settings, the opportunities for women to be...
Posted on February 18, 2016 by
Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) is a mystery for
many outside of the discipline.
For one, it is different than behavior change communication
(BCC). BCC solely focuses on promoting individual behavior change.
On the other hand, SBCC also considers the social contexts,
systems, and structures that lead to an enabling environment for
social change as well as individual behavior change.
The confusion of terms — SBCC, BCC, mass media communications,
social marketing, and so forth — also...
Posted on February 16, 2016 by
In April, I visited farmers’ plots and greenhouses in western
Georgia supported by the recently closed USAID’s New Economic Opportunities (NEO)
. Our team met dozens of farmers, who were eager to
share how they adopted new technologies or new crop varieties to
double, triple, or even increase their household income 20 times
over. For some, enthusiasm
was an understatement.
I specifically recall speaking to Nana, an animated new
strawberry farmer who heard about an information session...
Posted on February 11, 2016 by
In this photo from 2014, a "change champion" in Zambia discusses
how to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery with mothers. USAID's Communications Support for Health (CSH) project
engaged 350 chiefs and headmen through its change champion approach
within its successful Mothers Alive campaign, which was designed to
increase demand for and uptake of facility-based maternal health
services to prevent deaths and complications related to pregnancy
As part of the campaign, these traditional...