Power and Fragility: Governance Programming in Fragile Contexts: A Programme Resource | Governance | Oxfam

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'Power and Fragility: Governance Programming in Fragile Contexts' is based on work by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS)and brings together power and political economy analysis, and other research, undertaken in Rwanda, Myanmar, Yemen and Angola – in order to draw broader lessons for Oxfam for work on governance and citizenship in fragile contexts. The guide is written for Oxfam Country Directors and Programme Managers and aims to provide practical support in the design and management of governance programmes. It may also be of interest to the wider development community. 'Power and Fragility' provides guidance on how to identify where power lies, both 'within' and 'without' the state (ie armed actors, religious groups, economic interest), and points to the need for continued analysis across all levels of governance (local, regional, national) to identify entry points, windows of opportunity, and strategies for change.
  POWER AND FRAGILITY: GOVERNANCE PROGRAMMING IN FRAGILE CONTEXTS   A programme resource  Introduction This guide is based on work by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to bring together power and political economy analysis, and other research, undertaken in four countries – in order to draw broader lessons for Oxfam for work on governance and citizenship in fragile contexts. The guide is written for Oxfam Country Directors and Programme Managers and aims to provide practical support in the design and management of governance programmes. It may also be of interest to staff in other INGOs, and the wider development world. Power analysis The research combined two types of analysis to provide a deeper and more useful analysis of power in fragile or ‘hybrid’ states (states displaying elements of both authoritarian and democratic governance): Political economy analysis,  which considers how ‘economic, social, and cultural systems interact with the political system to affect people’s lives ‘on the ground’ and the competing rules of the game in formal and informal institutions. Power analysis,  which draws on John Gaventa’s three categories of power: ‘visible’, ‘hidden’, and ‘invisible’ (http://www.powercube.net). ‘Visible’ power refers here to who is seen to ‘win and lose in [public] arenas’, and may come with a particular formal role, for example being a prime minister or other government minister, and thus being able to control certain decisions or resources. ‘Hidden power’ may be used by vested interests to control decisions or resources ‘backstage’; here power may come from being an influential relative or powerful civil servant close to the prime minister or other power-holder, or from holding business interests. Further, the exercise of power may also be ‘invisible’ even to those over whom power is exercised: women may not participate in meetings or put themselves forward for formal elected roles even if they are legally entitled to – because of their own and others’ deeply-held assumptions about how they should behave. Methodology IDS’s research was conducted in 2011 and focused on Yemen, Angola, Myanmar, and Rwanda. The research methodology included: ã An assessment of Oxfam’s work in these countries, based on interviews with staff and partners. ã Power and political economy analysis conducted around each country context.ã Other desk research, including a review of recent academic literature.The research was viewed as a starting point to identify entry points to governance work in fragile contexts, and provide guidance for Oxfam’s work. It was not considered exhaustive or definitive, and Oxfam continues to develop its work and thinking in this area. Working to create accountable governance structures in fragile contexts such as Afghanistan poses many challenges. Photo: Reuters 2  Background: power within and without the state The particular strength that detailed power and political economy analysis brings to programme work in fragile contexts is that it allows Oxfam to investigate the nuances of where power lies – and thus to identify opportunities for, and barriers to, change and influence in places where the situation significantly constrains more usual ways of working.The state – even an authoritarian or hybrid state – will not hold a monolithic grip on power. In most states, political power is distributed unevenly and is held not only by the formal institutions of government (local, provincial, and national), but also by other actors, groups, and institutions – both within and without the state. Sometimes this power will be invisible or hidden, and will only be made visible to Oxfam with rigorous investigation, additional sources of information, and detailed power analysis. Hybrid states It is not helpful to see states as entirely ‘authoritarian’ or ‘democratic’, or necessarily in transition between the two; and to consider a state democratic at the moment of first elections may not reflect the reality of its governance. Many formerly authoritarian states will actually be hybrid states, where the population still experiences high levels of state control or repression and where the prospects for substantive democracy are uncertain. Nevertheless, there may be formal or informal opportunities for influence in such countries.Hybrid states may include countries where there has been a formal transition to democracy but there are still pockets of resistance (for example Myanmar) or where, despite a formal democracy, the state still functions in a highly authoritarian way, for example with strong dominance of the military in government institutions, violations of human rights, and limited consultation with civil society. Visible political power in hybrid states often coincides with hidden power provided by security forces’ support for government, or arising from government control of economic activities such as resource extraction. Study of democratic transitions shows that democratic consolidation is a long-term process, often with setbacks and no clear outcome. Citizens Power analysis can also throw light on the relationship between the state and particular groups of citizens. Different citizen groups – based around gender, age, disability, race, ethnicity, class etc – will experience different relationships with the state: some groups may see themselves as ‘clients’ in a patronage relationship, in which anything the state provides is a ‘gift’; or they may perceive themselves as citizens with the right to services provided by the state. People’s perceptions of the state may also vary dramatically according to their identity and social positioning. For example, gender-based violence (GBV), stigma related to HIV, and police brutality can be mutually-reinforcing if women who experience GBV are unable to seek redress through the formal justice system – leading to a lack of trust in the political system. Civil society has a key role to play in organising citizens around issues of identity, interest, livelihood etc, thereby amplifying the voice and power of ‘ordinary’ people and acting as an intermediary in the relationship between citizen and state. Armed actors Armed actors may also hold significant power in hybrid states, and where the state is shown to be ineffective or repressive local communities may consider them legitimate sources of power and authority. Examples include: defence units in northern Uganda, militias in South Sudan, para-police militias in Rio de Janeiro, community watch groups in Cape Town, and paramilitaries and rebel governance in Colombia. Oxfam may need to consider engaging with armed actors in contexts where they are shown to be significant power-holders. Myanmar: power in a hybrid state Myanmar is undergoing a period of change. The authoritarian government in place since the 1960s has begun to allow some distribution of formal power, with the establishment of a parliament in 2011. There is scepticism about the depth of political reform, given the history of violence and state surveillance which has long been used to maintain control. However, new legislation gives people the right to organise through trade unions, and to conduct election campaigning. And new laws relating to freedom of the press and allowing peaceful assembly have been drafted. Parliamentary processes are now reported in state media and a degree of consultation has started with civil society on some issues.  As at Aug 2012. 3  Using power and political economy analysis in programming Power analysis (taken here to mean power and political economy analysis) can help Oxfam better understand who holds power, at both local and national level and across various spaces – and what opportunities there are to influence them to achieve change.As discussed above, power analysis can reveal how political power is actually distributed in a country, held not only by different functions, departments, and levels of the state – but also by groups and actors ‘without’ the state. And it can enable Oxfam to understand, for example, where those who wield formal institutional power are there as ‘window-dressing’ for those making decisions from behind the scenes; where those who exercise formal power are doing so jointly with less visible, informal actors; and where actors outside the formal state structure are significant power-holders. Power analysis should be conducted on the basis of information from a wide variety of sources, and must consider the particular needs and experiences of different groups such as women, youth, and minority groups.After conducting a power analysis, the next stage will be to consider how to work with, and influence, targeted power-holders at different levels (those identified as being most able to achieve the change that Oxfam seeks). Each form of power will need to be targeted in the way most likely to influence the power-holder – for example, providing technical advice, citizen mobilisation, using media to promote messages, international advocacy etc. Working at all levels of governance (local, provincial, and national) is more likely to lead to sustainable change than working only at one level: this is particularly true as different levels of governance may be able to act as levers to put pressure on other levels. In order to influence a variety of different types of power-holder at different levels of governance, Oxfam needs to maintain a presence in the formal and ‘invited’ spaces created and controlled by government, while also building relationships with a variety of informal power-holders outside government – and convening spaces for such power-holders to engage with communities. There are clearly risks associated with this approach, for instance being considered by local communities to collaborate with a repressive government, being seen as anti-government by the government, or being associated with factions who lose or abuse power. It is important for Oxfam to assess and manage these risks appropriately. The official launch of Oxfam’s Within and Without the State project in South Sudan, July 2012. The project will build the capacity of CSOs to influence national policy debates and improve governance. Photo: Oxfam 4
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