Anti-discrimination policies and programmes in low-and middle-income countries

Research reports and studies
June 2016
Rachel Marcus, Anna Mdee and Ella Page

In the quest to ‘leave no one behind’, to what extent can anti-discrimination and affirmative action policies and programmes create more inclusive societies? What is the evidence that such actions reduce discrimination and improve the outcomes for marginalised groups?

As result of the first phase of the evaluating anti-discrimination measures, this report presents the findings of a rigorous review of evidence on anti-discrimination and affirmative action policies and legislation in low- and middle-income countries. It focuses on three areas: political participation, education and labour markets.

This report is based on the idea that reductions in marginalisation and therefore greater inclusion will come from reshaping institutions to reduce structural exclusion, changing discriminatory social norms and building the capacities of marginalised groups.

One of the main conclusions of this literature review is that the making and shaping of categories is political. The use of some categories as the basis for affirmative action can create competition between groups and reinforce differences. Categories evolve over time and can create new domensions of inclusion and exclusion. 

Another finding is that there is limited evidence on the link between anti-discrimination policies and improved outcomes, such as reduction in poverty or improved well-being. There is a need to pay attention to different social groups across different sectors and contexts.