Evidence-based Policymaking: Lessons from Uk for Developing Countries

April 2005 to March 2006

"Social science research evidence is central to development and evaluation of policy…" David Blunkett, former Education Secretary*

The idea of using evidence to inform policy is not a new idea. What is new, however, is the emphasis the British government has given to the Evidence-based Policy (EBP) approach since 1997. As part of the Blair government's reforming and modernising agenda, the aim has been to try to shift away from ideologically driven politics and towards rational decision making. The Modernising Government White Paper in 1999 called for policies "that are forward looking and shaped by the evidence rather than a response to short-term pressures; that tackle causes not symptoms".

This matters even more for developing countries. Better utilization of evidence in policy and practice can help save lives, reduce poverty and improve development performance. For example, the Government of Tanzania has used the results of household disease surveys to inform health service reforms that helped reduce infant mortality by 40 per cent. However, the HIV/AIDS crisis has deepened in some countries because governments have ignored the evidence of what causes the disease and how to prevent it spreading. In developing countries, the challenges of evidence-based policy are significantly greater that in the North. Social and political environments are more difficult. Capacity is much more limited and resources are scarcer.

The aim of this work is to identify lessons and approaches from evidence-based policymaking in the UK which may be valuable for progressive policymakers in developing countries. It responds to a repeated call from our partners in the South to understand more about what is happening in the UK regarding evidence-based policy and what can they learn from the UK experience.