2011: Volume 42
The major global crises of the past four years have collectively had a dramatic impact on people's lives and livelihoods – but have they also had a large impact on core ideas underlying mainstream development?
This is the question addressed by the Reimaging Development initiative in this issue of the IDS Bulletin. IDS researchers, students and partners build a more grounded view of the crises' effects and bring in new ideas emerging from different sectors in their wake. They also ask, 'What are the enablers and barriers to reimagining?' The articles in this issue are think pieces, often reflecting on very specific events, from thevarious sites in the initiative.
Overall the analysis illustrates how difficult it is to get away from 'business as usual'. While human kind has made great advances in reducing poverty and diseaseand in promoting freedoms over the past 50 years, the work is only part done. Still too many people lack justice, rights and material wellbeing and they must not be forgotten. The issue suggests that we must keep challenging our assumptionsand theories of change about development. Because ideas, institutions and interests are rarely aligned we must be ready to advance human wellbeing whenthey are. This means building reimagining into our everyday work and into our professional relationships by investing in processes that support wild ideas, horizon scanning and reflective practice. In the future, we must not confine reimagining to key moments, however important they may seem.
This IDS Bulletin takes one element of a bigger debate - the future of cereal seed systems in Africa - and examines some of the challenges, dilemmas, prospects and possibilities for the future, deploying an explicitly critical analytical lens to look at the political economy of seed systems in Africa's Green Revolution.
It asks: ‘What interests frame the dominant narratives driving this policy agenda? What alternatives are excluded as a consequence? Who gains and who loses? And what processes of agrarian change are promoted as a result?'
As calls for a ‘Uniquely African Green Revolution' gain momentum, a focus on seeds and seed systems is rising up the agricultural policy agenda. Much of the debate stresses the technological or market dimensions, with substantial investments being made in seed improvement and the development of both public and private sector delivery systems. But this misses out the political economy of policy processes behind this agenda: whose interests are being served?
This IDS Bulletin, with its central emphasis on cereal seed systems, focuses on the under-addressed political-economic dimensions that have hindered the emergence and spread of lasting improvements in agricultural productivity. It examines how the new Green Revolution in Africa is unfolding in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, highlighting both the diversity of experiences and the common challenges and pitfalls. Moving beyond the generic hype of much policy discussion, the articles in this collection draw out historical lessons, as well as contemporary experiences from the field.
The issue builds on a collaborative research project carried out during 2009-11 under the auspices of the Future Agricultures Consortium, a partnership of African and UK researchers working on African agricultural policy issues.
Despite the inherently political nature of international negotiations on climate change, much of the theory, debate, evidence-gathering and implementation linking climate change and development assume a largely apolitical and linear policy process. As the issue continues to dominate agendas, it is timely to propose a new political economy of climate change and development in which explicit attention is given to the way that ideas, power and resources are conceptualised, negotiated and implemented by different groups at different scales.
We argue that in balancing effectiveness, efficiency and equity, climate change initiatives must explicitly recognise the political economy of their inputs, processes and outcomes. Political economy is defined here as the processes by which ideas, power and resources are conceptualised, negotiated and implemented by different groups at different scales. In applying this definition to climate change and development, we broaden the analysis from state-focused environmental politics to encompass interactions between the state, non-state actors. The growing importance of climate change in the development arena and the frequent assumption of linear policymaking and apolitical, techno-managerial solutions make the development of a new political economy emphasis vital to determining efficient, equitable and effective responses.
At the heart of current policy thinking about Africa there is a significant knowledge gap concerning governance and development. This IDS Bulletin concentrates on what can be done about that, drawing on the initial experience of a new research venture, the Africa Power and Politics Programme. The APPP is committed to discovering forms of governance that work better for development than those prescribed by the current ‘good governance' orthodoxy. It aims to do so chiefly by examining the range of post-colonial experience in sub-Saharan Africa focusing especially on under-appreciated patterns of difference in institutions and outcomes. A central challenge has been operationalising the working hypothesis that institutions function better when they ‘work with the grain' of the society which hosts them.
Governance reform in Africa has lost its way; the results of efforts to improve how African countries are ruled remain seriously insufficient (not only the episodes dominating media coverage, but also the everyday exercise of power). Below the apex of the national political systems and behind the headlines, in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa most of the time, governance is failing to work for development. Despite some economic growth, vital investments needed for this to be sustained and transformative don't take place. The better-off solve their livelihood problems privately, while for the majority life remains harsh, troubled and short.
The institutions that will work best for public goods provision and development in the African context are ones that have a local problem-solving character and build on relevant components of the available cultural repertoire.
This IDS Bulletin questions what the intersection of global, local and national politics means for policy and practice in the realm of religion and gender. It brings together scholars, scholar-activists and development practitioners to share their analyses of the critical challenges and opportunities that are transforming their realities today. A workshop at IDS in September 2010 took the debates further, leading to a series of interventions, shared in this issue.
One of the clear messages that emerged from both the workshop and these articles is that the current scholarly approach to the study of gender and religion is wanting - because it is locked in a binary framework of secularism vs religion, modernity vs tradition and moderates vs extremists. We need new lenses to engage with the complexities of the politics of gender, which means the deconstruction of the old, and greater conceptual clarity over what is meant by the religious and the secular.
This issue responds to the themes of religion, politics and women's equality in relation to the so-called ‘Muslim world'. Post-9/11 the international community has adopted a dual approach of fighting terrorism while also promoting a ‘religious' approach in its dealings with ‘the Muslim community'. Religion has also become an entry point in development policy and practice in the light of the entrenchment of neoliberal policies and the rise of identity politics as faith-based actors have been brought to centre stage. Some Western donors have also espoused an agenda of engaging with Muslim leaders while adopting a religious framework for advancing human rights in ‘Muslim communities'.