2013: Volume 44
How do, could and should institutions responsible for security and the management of conflict in Tropical African societies respond to violent conflict? This IDS Bulletin is built on the observation that all governance (especially in Africa) is multileveled and networked – from the village to the international organisation, well beyond what is specified in formal government structures.
Thus the focus must be not only on the ways in which key conflict-management institutions evolve themselves but also on the changing ways in which the networks where they are embedded actually operate. This issue is about post-conflict reconstruction and the rebuilding of shattered states and societies, presenting fieldwork from articles covering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Somalia.
Post-conflict governance systems have become more multileveled and networked than in the immediate post-independence era, and these local systems and the resolution of their problems, are key to the restoration of order. International actors are also central, as their prominence in networks ensures resources for reconstruction and development.
Their presence means that a country's president no longer has the ability to set priorities and control the distribution of resources, and therefore local leaders, professionals, national NGOs and churches can challenge the president over policy and politics in a way that they could not previously. But this IDS Bulletin finds that these new or revitalised networks do not challenge the state as an institution itself – ultimately the key links in these networks are individuals and organisations that are embedded in the state and will not challenge its existence, unity or effectiveness.
2012: Volume 43
Despite increased commitment to evidence-based policy in African agriculture, the profile of certain 'problems', and the imperative to address them quickly through policy and programmes, becomes separated from evidence and understanding. When this happens, policy advocates, policymakers and development planners rely heavily on 'common knowledge', anecdote and narrative to develop and argue policy alternatives.
This is unlikely to result in good policy and development outcomes, particularly when the problems being addressed are associated with complexities such as poverty, livelihoods, agrarian transitions, social justice or sustainability. It is important to ask how common policy responses articulate with ongoing economic, social and political transitions, and with young people's own imperatives, aspirations, strategies and activities.
In March 2012 the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research co-hosted an international conference on 'Young People, Farming and Food' in Accra, Ghana. This conference examined how young people engage with the agri-food sector in Africa and how research findings were being integrated into policy processes. It also explored the dynamics of change in different components of the agri-food sector and the implications for young people.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin are drawn from the conference. They discuss social and economic structures, aspirations, livelihoods, land and policy, and illustrate the multiple dimensions, scales and complex dynamics of the young people and agriculture 'problem' – and why simplistic 'solutions' are likely to fail. It is hoped that this collection will stimulate the research to fill an evidence gap of very significant proportions.
The landscape of research communication in development has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years. The very visible emergence of new technologies has been accompanied by other shifts in the politics and business of development knowledge: the understanding of what constitutes “expert knowledge” in development, a growing emphasis on process over product in development research and new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence.
With the rise of participatory and co-constructed communications have come suggestions that we have neglected the rigour and “hard evidence” needed to influence policy. As some have turned back to grassroots forms of communication such as community radio, they face ambivalence from others struggling to see what is new or innovative about such ‘archaic’ approaches. As such we find ourselves at an interesting juncture, one that this Bulletin aims to explore by drawing on the experiences of practitioners, theorists and community intermediaries from a wide range of disciplines.
The rise of the security sector reform (SSR) concept has recognised and renewed the importance of security forces in democratisation processes and paved the way for a civilianisation of security provision in African states. Security reform has increasingly been seen by international actors as a central matter of democracy with security forces being considered as dedicated to promoting and defending the rule of law and, ultimately, the degree to which political and human rights can be enjoyed equally by all citizens. Transforming such forces into rights-respecting services that provide protection both to the state and to citizens has been one of the most complex challenges, particularly in post-conflict situations where security forces have often perpetuated serious human rights violations.
This IDS Bulletin focuses on both formal and informal governance mechanisms which characterise African security systems. It identifies informal networks and processes which, alongside legally established structures, influence decision-making processes as well as policy implementation. Articles are based on research conducted within the 'Global Uncertainties: Security in an Africa of Networked, Multilevel Governance' programme and address the current state of the security sector in African countries, referring to the analytic models of 'hybridity' to grasp the current realities and the prospects for change in security-related policies. They reaffirm the importance of conducting any analysis of African security governance at multiple levels; show how networks are seen as central in explaining how all the different levels function; and highlight the continuing importance of ethnicity in the legitimation of authority.
Participatory research to achieve social change has a long history of association with development, with recent significant evolutions and innovations in practice. Participatory and Action Research have never been a unified approach to inquiry with questions of vision, aim, and process, and as they extend to more and increasingly diverse contexts, this range of interpretations and approaches will grow.
Contributors to this IDS Bulletin reflect on both the theory and the practice of action research for development and social change, as we engage in it today. They ask questions such as ‘What do our collective understandings and experiences of, and approaches to, action research have in common?’, ‘What can we learn from instances where these differ?’ and ‘What separates these approaches from other forms of social inquiry?’ and reflect on methods to shed light on the practical implications and challenges of doing action research.
Firm conclusions or a single ‘theory of practice’ are not sought, but rather themes such as power, learning, action, and understanding of change are a starting point for further discussion. The authors in this IDS Bulletin all have different histories and relationships to action research, and use different language. Work is variously described as Action Learning, Action Research, Participatory Systemic Inquiry, Participatory Action Research and Systemic Action Research.
Authors have reflected on how their own positionality invariably shaped the aspects of the research process or outcomes while participating with other actors in trying to alter, improve or transform challenging situations, or at least prevent them from getting worse.