Inclusive development and the politics of transformation: lessons from Asia

Working and discussion papers
February 2017

Evidence shows that, over the long term, states and societies with more open and inclusive institutions are more peaceful and more resilient, and tend to be better governed. What is less clear, however, is how different countries get there.

This paper, published in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), seeks to address this question by exploring institutional transformation in Asia. It analyses how political systems, and the political settlements and rules of the game that underpin them, have evolved over time in different contexts in Asia, and what lessons emerge from these experiences about prospects for more inclusive development elsewhere. 

A key lesson is that promoting growth and combatting the roots of poverty and inequality is not simply about providing resources and strengthening virtuous institutions based on ideal models of governance. That should be encouraging, as it suggests there may be multiple paths to institutional performance and, ultimately, inclusion. There is room for flexibility in the short to medium term as countries seek to promote growth and more inclusive development, even if confronted with important institutional weaknesses.

What is needed is a more strategic and pragmatic perspective on institutional reform that can help identify and prioritise which governance improvements are most crucial at different stages of growth to enable more inclusive development.

This report is an output of the Development Leadership Program (DLP) and was first published here. Read the related blog: Where do inclusive institutions come from? Lessons from Asia, by Alina Rocha Menocal (Feb 2017)