Reshaping Institutional Settings
The institutions theme focuses on understanding the prevailing political, economic and ecological processes in the Mekong Region and beyond – specifically, the incentives, relationships, distribution and contestation of power between different groups and individuals – which, together, greatly impact on development outcomes. It therefore links most closely to the knowledge & capacity theme.
Our research is anticipated to support more effective and politically feasible strategies, as well as more realistic expectations of what may be achieved, over what timescales, and with what risks. Its ultimate influence will depend on the extent to which recommended changes in development practice and institutional incentives are adopted. M-POWER is focused on exploring and developing a new generation of operationally relevant tools at the sector and program level, which offers good possibilities for transcending the gap between analysis and action, thereby ensuring meaningful change in government, donor and developer practice.
Our thesis is that effective development interventions require a sound understanding of a region and country’s political ecology and political economy. This is especially so because the achievement of pro-poor development, social justice and gender balance is intrinsically linked to good politics. The graphic below presents a framework for understanding the linkages between political ecology and resource development. Central to political ecology is power and the way in which it is articulated and used, and how it manifests itself across an ecological landscape.
The political economy analyses conducted under this theme will focus attention on informal institutions, and cultural and social practices, which often explain why formal institutions do not work as intended. Such analysis generally cautions against relying on technical fixes, and assuming that formal institutions can be made to work through the transfer of ‘international best practice’ or ‘one size fits all’ solutions. It can help identify where change is most likely to occur and which types of reform will have the greatest pro-poor impact given prevailing interests and local conditions. These analyses will complement conventional governance assessments by providing a deeper level of understanding about power, state capability, accountability and responsiveness, as well as levels of resilience.
Linking political ecology and resource development (adapted from Geheb, 2010)