Why are politics absent from so many development plans?

Duncan Green’s From Poverty to Power blog has a post today about the lack of politics involved in climate change policy in Africa. Matthew Lockwood, who has expressed frustration about the apolitical thinking in development work and specifically in the Make Poverty History campaign, has a paper about the complete disconnect between climate policy and government and politics in Africa. This is strange, he points out, given the fact that there is massive amounts of research and information on African governance and politics. And the fact that any climate change plan (or any development plan) must obviously take into account the politics of a country or region.

¨Adaptation policy in Africa, as elsewhere, is largely discussed in as an administrative challenge, requiring lots of technical assistance and cash to build up state capacity, but:

‘It is not clear that, at present, a lack of technical capacity in most African countries is the most binding constraint on adaptation policy, especially given the range of donor-funded technical assistance on offer. For technical assistance to be effective, governments have to be really interested in adopting and applying it to public policy. For guides and toolkits to be useful, there has to be demand for them from a policy actor sufficiently senior and sufficiently committed to the public good. There is some evidence to suggest that, with a few exceptions, this demand is not present.’

I wanted to highlight this post because it seems to be true in so many sectors of development and aid work. And oftentimes the only result is frustration from the people providing technical assistance and a waste of resources. Maybe worse:

 ¨Indeed, in some cases, a large increase in climate finance may have a perverse effect, sustaining political systems that undermine the capacity of states to build adaptive capacity. A perspective on adaptation informed by political analysis helps not only to anticipate where particular problems are likely to be encountered, such as specific sectors or locations in a country, but also to point to more effective responses.’

One reason I’ve heard often is that it gets too messy when you involve politics. Really is messy. We can’t just ignore it because it makes it harder.

Paper can be found here

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