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People Power: What Do We Know About Empowered Citizens and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)

Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.

Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?

These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’

Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.

A Matter of Trust: Governance and Service Delivery in the Time of Ebola

Hana Brixi's picture
WHO team are preparing to remove dead bodies of people who died from Ebola.
"WHO logistician Jose and team are preparing to remove dead bodies of people who died from Ebola." Source: WHO

Why do people  sick with the Ebola virus in West Africa avoid public hospitals?  Or, why do children not learn basic skills in schools despite significant public investment in education? 

In response to such situations, development specialists typically call for sector-wide reforms. And the design of such reforms draws on sector policy analysis and on the assessment of service delivery arrangements and capacity. Increasingly, since the 2004 World Development Report, sector reforms also seek to make teachers, health professionals and other service providers accountable to citizens and communities.

How Much Cement Do I Export? And Other Weighty Questions

Amir Fouad's picture

WITS is how World Bank economists and users like you can answer tough questions on trade.For client countries of the World Bank, there is no shortage of interest in—or desire for—information on trade flows and market access. Improving trade performance is a critical component of many client countries’ development strategies, and trade data hold the key to understanding how countries are faring in the quest to eliminate trade barriers, increase competitiveness, and turn improved market access into actual trade flows.

But the trade data arena is large and complex, full of topical jargon, different nomenclatures and coding systems, availability constraints, and potentially complicated indicators. For newcomers, trade data navigation can be particularly challenging, which belies the immense value and richness in the wealth of information that has become available and accessible over the past few years.

Enter the World Integrated Trade Solution, or WITS.

Mindanao, Philippines: Building people who will build the nation

Hana Kabagani's picture

Available in: Español | عربي

Noranna busy at work: A true-blooded Moro, she is among the many witnesses to the struggle around her. As a child, she saw how conflict affected the lives of the people in their community in Maguindanao – lack of social services, slow development progress and displaced families.

In Mindanao, southern Philippines, the decades-long search for long lasting peace has been hindered by many challenges and natural calamities. This has led to a situation where young professionals are learning a type of development work that deals with the effects of various conflicts. 

The Bangsamoro Development Agency or BDA, provides more than work opportunities for residents of Mindanao. Bangsamoro basically means “Moro nation,” a term currently used to describe the Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao – its peoples, culture and ethnic groups. 
 

Remittances: a Reconstruction and Development Tool

Soheyla Mahmoudi's picture

 a reconstruction and development tool © Gates Foundation

In post conflict countries, those who have made it out of the country are keenly aware that the livelihoods of those left behind vitally depend on remittance transfers. While concerns have been expressed about the possibility that remittances may stoke conflict, the majority view is that Diaspora support from abroad can contribute to democracy. It has been clearly established that private remittances are of central importance for restoring stability by enhancing human security in strife-torn societies. As in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, due to the predominantly informal nature of remittance delivery mechanisms, the magnitude of remittances to the economies of these regions has been under-estimated.

#8 from 2013: Today’s Grimfographic: How Many People Die a Violent Death, Where and How?

Duncan Green's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts from 2013
This post was originally published on July 31, 2013


From Action on Armed Violence using data from the Geneva Declaration’s Global Burden of Armed Violence report (whose link seems to be down at the moment). Key points to note:

Only one in 8 violent deaths occur in the ‘conflict settings’ so beloved of news coverage. Most of the rest are ‘intentional homicides’ committed in gun and drug-plagued (but supposedly non-conflict) countries like El Salvador (at 62 deaths per 100,000 people, the world’s most violent ‘peaceful’ country). People often claim the death toll in El Salvador is now worse than during its 1980s civil war, but the numbers don’t seem to add up – 70,000 died over about 12 years in that war, whereas the current carnage kills ‘only’ about 3,600 a year. Latin America remains the world’s homicide hotspot.

Total global death toll is 526,000. That’s a shocking one a minute, but less than half the deaths from road accidents (which I imagine have a similar victim demographic).

But things can improve.  The murder rate in El Salvador has halved since the data for this report was gathered, thanks to a truce struck between the country’s two main street gangs.

What Does Social Exclusion Have to Do with the Attacks at Westgate, Nairobi? Asking the Right Questions

Sadaf Lakhani's picture

Elif Yavuz, a former World Bank consultant, was amongst the 68 people who died in the attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September of this year. At the time of her death, Elif was working for the Clinton Foundation. Hers had been a life dedicated to fighting poverty and disease.
 
The horror of what enfolded at Westgate is a reminder of the pervasive threat of insecurity, and at the same time of our efforts to protect lives and preserve human dignity the world over. The massacre raises questions, too. Are we deploying the right tools to help put an end to such violence? And what is the role, if any, that development practitioners can play in preventing them? The recently released World Bank report, Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, provides us with some ideas.
 
The Al-Shabab attack in Nairobi was a tragedy for the victims and their families. Nevertheless, countless numbers of people across the globe die every day in less violent circumstances, and yet just as needlessly – from disease and malnutrition for example.  Consider malaria – the issue on which Elif had been working: the latest data show that more than one million people, the majority of them children under the age of five in Africa, are likely to die of malaria this year. Many of these deaths occur in countries where wealth and opportunity are to be found, but the wealth is concentrated in the hands of only a few, while others are barred from opportunities. The evidence suggests that these inequalities, and the feelings of injustice and powerlessness they engender, have the potential to fuel conflict and tempt people to espouse radical ideologies and resort to violence as a means of addressing injustice.

A Trip to the Sahel Shows New Opportunities

Jim Yong Kim's picture

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — I arrived in the Sahel on a four-country trip thinking of the trouble in the region: drought, hunger, and conflict. I left impressed by the political leadership and the resolve of the people. To learn more, please watch this video blog.

The Possibility of Social Inclusion: Yemen's National Dialogue

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture

Yemen. World Bank photo.“You are a Bangladeshi. Did your country benefit from seceding from Pakistan?” I was recently invited to meet with members of the Yemeni National Dialogue who are debating the future of the state.  The wounds of the past are deep in Yemen’s history – war between the South and the North and conflict within Regions – and not surprisingly the talk of regional secession is present in the discussions. The question drew a murmur in a room full of policy makers and activists from different parts of Yemen.  It had clearly touched a raw nerve.

The National Dialogue is an important moment in Yemen’s rich history.  It has brought together political parties, social groups, women, youth, and regional representation around a dialogue to craft the future of Yemen. Some argue that the process is incomplete and imperfect – not all stakeholders are present; there is a fear of elite capture; and in some parts of the country there is armed conflict. But, despite these challenges it is to Yemen’s credit that it is hoping to forge a state through dialogue – not the typical image of Yemen portrayed in the international press.

Images of War vs Peace

Caroline Jaine's picture

Browsing Facebook back in August, I was greeted with a stark photograph of a young man doing homework under the glow of a newly installed street light in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.  I clicked on the next image: grinning children on a swing.  Next: a policewoman shines out from her patrol on the Old Road; child soldiers hand in weapons in Tubmanburg; and the baby of a returning refugee is handed down from a truck.  There were many more dramatic images on the slide show - shared on the social network by the United Nations Mission in Liberia.  It was titled “10 years of Peace”.  I “liked” it.  It’s rare to see such images of peace.  Each photograph illustrated a powerful back-story of recovery – and together they plotted a credible and inspiring path to peace.  My knowledge of Liberia doubled in five minutes.
 
A month later on International Day of Peace those same images were the subject of discussion at The Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University.  Now framed and hanging in the Centre, it was interesting to gauge people’s reactions.  A small group had assembled and although many of them were African, they also confessed to having no prior knowledge of Liberia.  One touching observation, “This shows Liberians path to peace by Liberians…it is African’s who have made peace here”.  True - although the photographs had been taken by United Nations photographers, the presence of the UN was distinctly low key.  We also had a discussion about images of so-called “peace” being used for propaganda purposes.  As a self-confessed cynic, I fully sympathize, but these set of images felt far more than just PR for the United Nations.


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