Politicising or depoliticising aid? The political economy of political economy analysis

15 May 2013
Conference

Chair

Paul Jackson, University of Birmingham

Discussant

David Hudson

Speakers

Heather Marquette, University of Birmingham

Jonathan Fisher, University of Birmingham

Wil Hout, Erasmus University Rotterdam, International Institute of Social Studies

David Hulme, University of Manchester UK

Laura M. Routley, Newcastle University

Alina Rocha Menocal, Overseas Development Institute

Description

‘Politics matters’: this sentiment has increasingly come to accrue normative dimensions across the international development community in the last decade. Development ministers, heads of donor agencies and other government officials have, since the mid-2000s, demonstrated a growing recognition in their public statements and policy papers that understanding the politics of developing countries is integral to the success or failure of their own development interventions – regardless of focus or scope.

The incorporation of ‘politics’ into the design and practice of development, however, has not been as smooth as this rhetoric might suggest. The commissioning and use of political economy analyses (PEA) by donor agencies has been widespread for years but has largely failed to gain traction at the operational level.

This panel explored why this diffusion of politics and development has been so problematic, looking particularly at questions of organizational incentives, inter- and intra-donor dynamics, the sensitive nature of PEA work and the supposed tenacity of an ‘anti-politics’, technicalised mentality at the heart of many development institutions.