How does citizen engagement affect economic development? What if politics was not a barrier but a pathway to good governance? ‘Making Politics Work for Development: Harnessing Transparency and Citizen Engagement’, a World Bank report, looks at how to align citizen engagement and economic development.
Conflicting interests, corruption and ideological differences can result in government failure to adopt and implement sound, evidence-based policy. Development work has traditionally worked towards finding ways around such barriers. This World Bank report presents evidence for a fundamental shift in this approach. It calls for development practitioners to confront political obstruction by understanding and targeting political behaviour. Citizen engagement and transparency hold the key.
Previous innovations in the field have focused on social accountability in the face of political problems: citizens solving public sector service delivery problems through collective action. This is in contrast to the long term goal of political accountability, where political leaders and public officials are answerable to citizens. This report shows how citizens’ political engagement is closely tied to the functioning of political leaders, public officials, and service providers. An example offered by the report suggests political behavior that supports corrupt elections can affect accountability from service providers.
‘Making Politics Work for Development’ looks at how the quality of political engagement can be improved by instruments of transparency, such as the media. It calls for the strengthening of institutions that act as checks and balances for political accountability. The report presents a typology of political incentives and behaviors: questions on what to do when faced with political barriers to development, and options for policy actors to fix government failures. The lessons cater to policy actors in government, civil society, and development agencies.