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  1. SOAS Research Online
  2. How Politics and Institutions Shape Poverty and Inequality

Examples from DFID partner states in India demonstrate the relationship between political representation and poverty: A programme of political decentralisation in Madhya Pradesh MP failed to challenge the entrenched power of village chiefs.


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Formal democratic structures have been undermined by informal power relations. Andhra Pradesh AP adopted a populist approach with limited decentralisation.

But while political strategies have worked in favour of the poor in AP, they were less able to do so in MP. This analysis has implications for power in the context of poverty reduction strategies PRSs : Poor people have a better chance of political representation if their interests become politicised.

SOAS Research Online

Decentralisation can empower local elites to capture resources from the poor. A strong centre that can resist these forces is a necessary precondition for decentralisation. This also suggests that democracy and poverty reduction are not necessarily mutually supportive. The poor are rarely served well by weak governments that secure votes in the short term through patronage and violent identity politics.

A focus on power reveals contradictions in policy frameworks. Sector reform attempts to order public institutions in prescribed terms whereas a rights-based approach can end up violating these institutional norms. The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entided to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.


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  6. Power, rights, and poverty: concepts and connections.
  7. Let us look at two of them. Consider, first, the concept of power elaborated by Talcott Parsons [26, 21, 28, 29]. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want. While the terms ""power"" and ""rights"" are increasingly incorporated into the language of development agencies, they have yet to fully permeate the practice of poverty reduction.

    Acknowledging that this partly results from a lack of clarity over the concepts of power and rights and partly from questions of how to operationalize these ideas, the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development co-sponsored a series of short papers for focusing on enhancing understanding of the relationships between power, rights, and poverty reductions.

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    How Politics and Institutions Shape Poverty and Inequality

    Following discussion during a two-day working meeting, this publication brings together the edited papers, along with a selection of supplementary materials. A first series of papers addresses competing definitions and conceptual issues around power and rights, illustrating these with experiences observing and applying the concepts in practice in different countries.

    The Power of Choice: The Life and Ideas of Milton Friedman - Full Video

    Following this, papers address topics aimed at helping development practitioners to apply these concepts to their work. Part II contains the supplemental materials, including a summary of the major theoretical conceptualizations of power, and an overview of the literature on power and rights.

    Empowerment in Practice : From Analysis to Implementation

    Prepared by leading thinkers on the topics of power and rights these materials offer both development professionals and students of development studies succinct summaries of the relationship between theory and practice.