Topic Guides

Conflict

Conflict is inherent in all societies and arises when two or more groups believe their interests are incompatible. ‘Conflict’ is not, however, interchangeable with ‘violence’. Non-violent resolution is possible when individuals and groups have trust in their governing structures, society and institutions to manage incompatible interests. Conflict becomes a problem when this trust and respective conflict management capacities are absent and conflicting parties choose instead to resort to the use of force to secure their goals.

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Fragile states

This resource guide introduces some of the best literature on the causes, characteristics and impact of state fragility and the challenge of aid effectiveness and lessons learned from international engagement in these contexts. It highlights the major critical debates that are ongoing within the international development and academic community in relation to understanding and responding to fragile situations.

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Civil service reform

Improving a country's civil service can further development goals. Reforming the civil service is important in improving governance, service delivery, economic policy and public financial management. What do we know about what has – or hasn't – worked in civil service reform, and where? What lessons emerge from the literature?

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Climate change adaptation

This topic guide focuses on adaptation to climate change in developing countries from a governance and social development perspective. It explores how climate change is likely to impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, and some of the response measures which might be adopted.

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Communication and governance

A key aspect of governance is how citizens, leaders and public institutions relate to each other in order to make change happen. Crucially, two-way communications allow citizens to monitor the states’ activities, to enter into dialogue with the state on issues that matter to them, and to influence political outcomes. Many political scientists believe this encourages the development of trust between state and society, and is a foundation of state legitimacy over the long-term. The role of communications in governance can be understood on two levels – communications structures, and communications processes.

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Conflict sensitivity

Conflict sensitivity helps aid actors to understand the unintended consequences of aid and to minimise harm and achieve positive outcomes. This Topic Guide synthesises and introduces key literature in this field.

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Decentralisation and local government

Estimates suggest that decentralisation is currently being pursued in over 80% of developing countries. For many people, local government is the part of government that most directly impacts on their lives, particularly via the provision of services like water, sanitation, and primary education and healthcare.

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Disaster resilience

The impacts of disasters on development, poverty and vulnerability have led to calls for improving disaster resilience – the capacity to cope with and adapt to shocks and stresses associated with natural hazards. What do we know about what can enable or constrain disaster resilience? This Topic Guide for policymakers and practitioners synthesises the evidence, approaches and lessons that emerge from the literature.

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Gender

Considering 'gender' involves examining how social norms and power structures affect the lives of, and opportunities available to, different groups of men and women, boys and girls.

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Human rights

Human rights are increasingly visible in international development language, policies and programmes. Human rights, and the principles they are based on, are argued to improve the effectiveness of development programmes. But beyond that, a human rights framework is seen as essential for poverty reduction because it seeks to address the multiple rights denials that cause and shape poverty. This topic guide provides an introduction to the interactions and linkages between human rights and international development.

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Inclusive institutions

Institutions are the formal and informal rules and norms that structure citizens’ rights, entitlements, opportunities and voice. How can policymakers and practitioners support inclusive institutions to promote development that ‘leaves no-one behind’? What do we know about what has – or hasn't – worked, and where? This Topic Guide synthesises the evidence, debates and approaches that emerge from the literature.

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Institutional development

Institutional development is as yet not a precisely defined or thoroughly researched area. This page is intended to serve as an introduction to why institutional development matters for poverty reduction in developing countries. In addition to introducing the institutional framework and approach, it also outlines tools for diagnosis, design and evaluation of institutional development programmes.

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International legal frameworks for humanitarian action

International legal frameworks for humanitarian action provide guidance on delivering assistance in a variety of challenging contexts. They can also be powerful tools in advocating for, and achieving, the protection of civilians.

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Justice

As well as being an important aim in itself, an accessible and effective justice sector is essential for development in a number of ways. Security of property and protection of assets are vital to support the livelihoods of the poor. Access to legal protection can help the poor resolve disputes, and secure their rights to engage in political processes and access services. In addition, effective justice institutions can form part of the enabling environment for economic growth.

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Measuring results

What challenges are involved in monitoring and evaluating development interventions, and how can these be addressed?

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Political economy analysis

Political economy analysis aims to situate development interventions within an understanding of the prevailing political and economic processes in society - specifically, the incentives, relationships, distribution and contestation of power between different groups and individuals - all of which greatly impact on development outcomes. Such an analysis can support more effective and politically feasible donor strategies, as well as more realistic expectations of what can be achieved, over what timescales, and the risks involved.

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Political systems

Political systems are the formal and informal political processes by which decisions are made concerning the use, production and distribution of resources in any given society. This guide considers some of the key questions about how political systems evolve, how they can best foster democratic and inclusive politics, and - crucially for development practitioners - under what conditions they most effectively promote poverty reduction. It focuses on strengthening the accountability, responsiveness and effectiveness of political systems and political governance, and includes guidance and case study materials.

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Safety, security and justice

Safety, security and justice are priorities for poor people and are associated with development outcomes. What do we know about what has – or hasn't – worked in safety, security and justice programming, and where? This new Topic Guide for policymakers and practitioners synthesises the evidence, challenges and approaches that emerge from the literature

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Security sector reform

Security sector reform (SSR) aims to develop a secure environment based on development, rule of law, good governance and local ownership of security actors. In countries at risk of conflict or in post-conflict contexts, SSR can be of central importance for stability or conflict prevention.

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Sequencing reforms in fragile states


Service delivery

How can we ensure that basic services reach the poorest? What is the best way of involving service users and ensuring that providers are accountable to them? Are non-state service providers pro-poor, and how should the state engage with them? What are the particular challenges for delivering services in conflict or fragile environments? This guide provides an introduction to a few of the key recent debates for development practitioners involved in the provision of basic services, particularly health, education, water and sanitation.

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Social exclusion

This GSDRC resource guide aims to introduce some of the best literature on the definitions, understandings, causes, and impact of social exclusion, as well as the ways in which exclusion can be measured, and addressed by governments, civil society actors and international organisations. It also highlights the major debates taking place on the issue within the international development and academic communities. It is intended primarily as a reference guide for policymakers. New publications and emerging issues will be incorporated on a quarterly basis.

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Social protection

Recent research emphasises that social protection schemes are an investment in the future as they have the potential to promote growth and improve long-term poverty-reduction. Social protection includes longer-term mechanisms designed to combat chronic poverty as well as short-term interventions to reduce the impact of shocks.

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Statebuilding and peacebuilding

Statebuilding and peacebuilding, while conceptually distinct, are becoming more closely integrated in academic and policy circles. This Topic Guide supplement is one of two supplements that explore this development.

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State-society relations and citizenship

This Topic Guide supplement focuses on crucial, intangible aspects of statebuilding and peacebuilding: state-society relations, civic trust, citizenship and socio-political cohesion. These issues are generating increasing interest among donors.

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Voice, empowerment, and accountability

Voice, empowerment and accountability (VEA) interventions aim to support poor and marginalised people to build the resources, assets, and capabilities they need to exercise greater choice and control over their own development, and to hold decision-makers to account. This guide provides an overview of the best available evidence on the impact of VEA interventions. It identifies what we know about the barriers to VEA in different contexts, and emerging lessons on how to address them.

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