Like it or not: coercive power is essential to development

By Erwin van Veen, Lead Levant Research Programme, Senior Research Fellow, Conflict Research Unit at Clingendael

Understanding the political economy of coercion is essential to achieving developmental gains in countries at the lower end of stability and institutional performance. Surprisingly, this matter rarely features on the development agenda, which means the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals continues to suffer in such countries.

If national development is defined as the long-term, collective pursuit of the highest level of wellbeing for the greatest number of citizens, it is a deeply political and highly contested process by default. That is in part because all these components are subject to varying definitions. What is the collective? What is wellbeing? Who is a citizen and what are their rights? Different countries offer starkly different answers to such questions. But beyond definitions, there are also more commonplace reasons for development being such a political undertaking.

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Democracy is a public good. What is the development community doing about it?

By Anthony Smith, CEO of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD)

Democracy has been undervalued by the development community. I understand why – I am a child of decolonisation and its political economy of liberation, and my introduction to international development was through the target-driven Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But I have come down firmly on the side of Amartya Sen’s view on the timing of democracy.  He said: “A country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fit through democracy.” For too long, some in the donor community have been ambivalent about this, wanting proof that development goals would be reached faster in democracies than in autocracies and implying that democracy could wait. For too many of us, the politics of our partner country was just a factor to be navigated around to avoid disrupting our programmes.

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Post-COVID-19 Development and Global Governance: The Emerging Role of Science and Technology

By Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


The current COVID-19 crisis has triggered important discussions highlighting the role of science, technology and innovation (STI). It has also revealed a number of gaps and shortcomings in terms of global governance. In this context, it is worth looking more closely at the specific issue of biological threats post-COVID-19, as well as related challenges in terms of governance.

Today, in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, over 300 scientists are working on 120 efforts for vaccine development across globally convened platforms. Fortunately, internationally and at regional and national levels, there is a consensus on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI). Most OECD countries have stepped up international collaboration to face the crisis, through new programmes and by increasing spending on STI. Regarding non-OECD countries, UNCTAD has emphasised the need for more support to international collaboration in this area: “A global pandemic is a textbook example of a critical problem where the sum of isolated efforts by national governments provides much inferior outcomes than international collaboration. The positive externalities of STI investments in such a situation could be huge and decisive in the effort to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the international community are not left behind”. Other international actors like the G7 Ministers for Science and Technology, UNESCO, The World Academy of Sciences, etc. have also repeatedly acknowledged the crucial role of STI in tackling the crisis, calling for increased co-operation.

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Resetting the state for the post-COVID digital age

By Carlos Santiso, Director for Digital Innovation in Government of the Development Bank of Latin America and Member of the Global Future Council on Transparency and Anticorruption of the World Economic Forum


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


glob-digital-colorsIn Brazil and elsewhere, the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the digital transformation of governments and govtech start-ups are becoming unexpected allies in the race to digital resilience.

Press reset and fast forward

The COVID-19 crisis is putting our global digital resilience to the test. It has revealed the importance of a country’s digital infrastructure as the backbone of the economy, not just as an enabler of the tech economy. Digitally advanced governments, such as Estonia, have been able to put their entire bureaucracies in remote mode in a matter of days, without major disruption. And some early evidence even suggests that their productivity increased during lockdown.

With the crisis, the costs of not going digital have largely surpassed the risks of doing so. Countries and cities lagging behind have realised the necessity to boost their digital resilience and accelerate their digital transformation. Spain, for example, adopted an ambitious plan to inject 70 billion euro into in its digital transformation over the next five years, with a Digital Spain 2025 agenda comprising 10 priorities and 48 measures. In the case of Brazil, the country was already taking steps towards the digital transformation of its public sector before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The crisis is accelerating this transformation.  Continue reading

Africa is the continent of the future. Are democracy and governance up to the challenge?

By Nathalie Delapalme, Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

doug-linstedt-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

Africa is the world’s youngest continent with around 60% of the population currently under age 25. Between now and 2100, basically two generations only, Africa’s youth population is expected to increase by more than 180%, while Europe’s and Asia’s will shrink by more than 21% and by almost 28%, respectively. By the end of the century, Africa’s youth population will reach 1.3 billion people, double the expected total population of Europe, and will represent almost half of the world’s youth.

If Africa is the continent of the future, youth is the future of the African continent. Undoubtedly, the ability to offer them sound prospects is a key challenge that will shape the future of our shared world. Youth is Africa’s biggest resource. Its eagerness, dynamism, creativity, energy, and ability to make the best use of innovation can drive political, economic and cultural transformation on the continent, provided it is properly harnessed and challenged.

But we are at a tipping point. Too many young people on the continent feel both devoid of proper economic prospects and robbed of political ownership, often still held by leaders who are two or three generations older than their average population. Continue reading

A 4th level of government in Africa? Multi-level governance and metropolitan urbanisation

By Nicolas Ronderos, Economic Development Consultant

BWO_038In Togo, Lomé’s growth beyond its administrative borders makes delivering services and coordinating with adjacent localities difficult. A new metropolitan urban planning framework is being developed to address this issue. In April of this year the central government approved a plan for Grand Lomé that seeks to address urban, housing, transport and social services issues at the agglomeration level. The Grand Lomé plan seeks to coordinate among local urbanisation plans by providing an overall governance framework that enables coherence among local policies within the agglomeration and with other actors. [1]  Continue reading

Instituciones, Gobernabilidad y Desarrollo

Por Danilo Astori, Ministro de Economía y Finanzas de  Uruguay

En la reflexión y la acción acerca de los caminos que conducen a niveles cada vez más altos de desarrollo económico y social, la cadena que nace en las fortalezas institucionales de la sociedad, e incluye como eslabones a la transparencia, la rendición de cuentas y la gobernabilidad, asume una importancia crucial. En tiempos como los actuales, en los que la volatilidad y la incertidumbre, así como los problemas de gobernanza afectan al mundo en su conjunto, es relevante detenerse a examinar el papel a jugar por los conceptos antes señalados.
Es claro que el que refiere al desarrollo económico y social de una sociedad se encuentra íntimamente asociado al de proyecto nacional, entendiendo por tal el que se define como una verdadera cuestión de Estado, definida y ubicada por encima de los partidos políticos y otras organizaciones sociales, así como la de la alternancia de unos y otras en el poder. Continue reading

Appeasement Politics of Delhi’s Urban Governance

By Shailaja Chandra, Former Permanent Secretary of the Government of India and former Chief Secretary, Delhi; Former Executive Director, National Population Stabilisation Fund, India

Delhi is among the world’s top ten most populous cities with 18 million people. United Nations projections for 2025 predict that it will rank third, overtaking Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Dhaka, New York and Shanghai. Colossal challenges confront the city’s development, and finding money is the least of those problems. Delhi garners more resources than any other city in India, has the highest per capita income and wages, and boasts more private vehicles than the three metropolitans of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined. In early 2015, the new city government slashed the power tariff in half and provided 20 000 litres of free water for all residents — clearly affordable measures. Continue reading