Topic Guides

Our Topic Guides aim to provide a clear, concise and objective report on findings from rigorous research on critical areas of development policy. They highlight the key debates and evidence on the topic of focus, including on approaches and lessons. They are produced in close collaboration with international experts and with practitioners in DFID.

Open data, transparency and accountability

Voters look for their names outside a polling station in Haiti in 2011, in the second round of the presidential elections (Kendra Helmer/USAID).

Open data involves the release of data so that anyone can access, use and share it. One of the main objectives of making data open is to promote transparency. For open data and transparency initiatives to lead to accountability, the required conditions include: getting the right data published; enabling actors to find, process and use information, and to act on any outputs; ...» more

Organised crime, violence and development

EU Naval Force (Op Atalanta) Somalia (Boarding teams of EU Naval Force warships conduct a routine check as part of anti-piracy operations.)

Organised crime ranges from protection economies and extortion rackets to cybercrime, oil theft, money laundering, counterfeiting, maritime piracy and the trafficking and/or smuggling of people, firearms, illicit drugs, and wildlife. It is sometimes associated with violence, but there is no strong correlation between them. Conventional law enforcement and security approaches to ...» more

Transitional justice

Participants end a mass ‘Blanket Exercise’ on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill in June 2015, which was organised by the Assembly of Seven Generations as part of the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Image: Adrian Gregorich/The Sentinel Project).

It is increasingly recognised that legacies of mass violence and human rights violations can, if left unaddressed, fuel future conflicts. Transitional justice seeks to tackle the legacies of large-scale past abuses, and includes mechanisms such as truth-telling initiatives, criminal prosecutions, reparations processes, cultural interventions, vetting and institutional ...» more

Safety, security and justice

The newly modernised Correctional Services of Solomon Islands

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 updated Topic Guide for policymakers and practitioners synthesises the evidence, challenges and approaches that emerge from the literature. ...» more

Climate change and social development

solar power in India (Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures/DFID)

This topic guide synthesises literature on the links between climate change and social development, and includes evidence of their interactions, lessons, approaches and tools. It considers climate change impacts and climate-relevant interventions in the following areas: five sectors: agriculture and food security, health, water, energy, and low-carbon transport; three ...» more

State-society relations and citizenship

2° ATO Belo Horizonte

State-society relations, citizenship and socio-political cohesion are areas of great importance to statebuilding and peacebuilding and are crucial to an integrated approach. State-society relations are defined by DFID as ‘interactions between state institutions and societal groups to negotiate how public authority is exercised and how it can be influenced by people. They are ...» more

Fragile states

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This Topic Guide introduces some of the best literature on state fragility and the challenge of aid effectiveness and lessons learned from international engagement in these contexts. It highlights the major debates in the international development and academic community on understanding and responding to fragile situations. It is intended primarily as a reference guide for ...» more

Disability inclusion

Access Bangladesh Foundation supports an association of former beggars turned street vendors

This topic guide summarises some of the most rigorous available evidence on the key debates and challenges of disability inclusion in development and humanitarian response. Disability does not necessary imply limited wellbeing and poverty. Yet there is growing evidence that the estimated one billion people with disabilities face attitudinal, physical and institutional ...» more

Social development and human development

Charlotte Kesl / World Bank (A school in Colombia)

This Topic Guide aims to answer the question ‘What is the interaction between social development issues and human development outcomes?’ An individual’s right to lead a long and healthy life, to be educated and to enjoy a decent standard of living cannot be realised without addressing social development issues. This is because these issues determine individuals’ access to ...» more

State-business relations

Seoul, by Travel Oriented (Flickr)

State-business relations in low income countries are seen as a key determinant of inclusive growth and of structural transformation – shifts in economic structure to more productive activities and sectors. Effective state-business relations can boost economic growth by increasing the rate and the productivity of investment. State-business relations can take the form of ...» more

The social impact of private sector development

Coffee Pickers in Timor-Leste

The private sector can have a transformational impact on peoples’ lives as a creator of jobs and producer of goods and services that poor people use. Donor agencies are paying increasing attention to how private sector development can be leveraged to support poverty reduction and sustainable, equitable and inclusive economic growth. Making use of social development thinking is ...» more

Social exclusion

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This publication aims to introduce some of the best literature on the definitions, understandings, causes, and impact of social exclusion, as well as how exclusion can be measured and addressed by governments, civil society actors and international organisations. The guide was written by Seema Khan (GSDRC), in close collaboration with Professor Frances Stewart (Centre for ...» more

The legitimacy of states and armed non-state actors

Somalia (UN Photo/Stuart Price)

Legitimacy is a crucial aspect of all power relations. Without legitimacy, power is exerted through coercion; with legitimacy, power can be exerted through voluntary or quasi-voluntary compliance. Legitimacy lies at the core of state-citizen relationships and thus of the whole state-building agenda. This Topic Guide explores the meaning of legitimacy in relation to state and ...» more

Public sector institutional reform

Tonga

The public sector is the single most important investment instrument for the state, and improving the way it is managed is critical for development outcomes including service delivery, social protection and private sector regulation. Public sector governance reform involves institutional reform – that is, changing the rules and norms that govern public sector activity. How can ...» more

Gender and conflict

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What do we know about the role of gender inequality in producing or exacerbating the structural causes of violence and conflict, and about the multi-layered effects of violence and conflict on gender relations? What do we know about how to support gender equality in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCAS)? This Topic Guide introduces the research evidence. ...» more

Human rights

UN Human Rights Council, Geneva

This topic guide provides an introduction to the interactions and links between human rights and international development. 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 ...» more

Inclusive growth

Woman in small shop Ghana

Absolute poverty has fallen substantially over the last 30 years, with most of this reduction attributable to rapid economic growth in developing countries. Yet growth often does not meet the needs of the poor. Economic growth in the absence of measures to ensure the sustained equitable distribution of its benefits has frequently perpetuated the concentration of wealth in the ...» more

Tax reform

TaxReform_TAF_Sri_Lanka_2011_Karl-Grobl_The-Asia-Foundation

Tax reform can reduce tax evasion and avoidance, and allow for more efficient and fair tax collection that can finance public goods and services. It can make revenue levels more sustainable, and can promote future independence from foreign aid and natural resource revenues. There is increasing recognition of taxation’s role in state-building, in addition to greater ...» more