Debating politics and poverty

Development Policy,Inclusive Economy25 Jul 2007Ellen Lammers

Poverty and politics are inextricably linked. The new Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, Bert Koenders, sees it as one of his main challenges to ‘bring back politics’ into international development cooperation. At a meeting with ministry staff in June 2007, Koenders stated that ‘If we want to make a real difference on the ground in terms of poverty alleviation, and if we want to explore new ways of making aid more effective, we must not shy away from complex issues that concern the messy world of politics’.

In the coming months, The Broker will host an online debate about the thorny questions that surround the issue of politicization. The starting point for the discussion is an article by Kees Koonings (University of Utrecht), entitled Bringing Politics into Poverty: The Political Dimensions of Poverty Alleviation, which can be downloaded here.

Koonings argues that the current notions and strategies for poverty reduction largely ignore the political factors that influence both the existence of poverty and the possibilities for alleviation. Poverty is a matter of social and political exclusion, not simply of scarcity. The domestic political interests in developing countries determine whether pro-poor growth is a real priority. But the political negotiations going on at the international level cannot be underestimated either. According to Koonings, ‘Poverty alleviation may be the stated common ground for international cooperation (as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals), but it is certainly not the only priority within the international community at large – if it is a real priority at all’.

Koonings’ article is the first chapter in an edited volume that was presented to Minister Koenders in June 2007, entitled A Rich Menu for the Poor: Food for Thought on Effective Aid Policies. The 12 articles in this volume – produced by the Effectiveness and Quality Department (DEK) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – explicitly take politics into account by looking at issues such as donor legitimacy, the policy dialogue, the processes ‘behind the façade’, and the role of local elites.

The Broker wishes to contribute to evidence-based policy making by relating innovative research in the areas of development and globalization to ongoing policy discussions. To launch the debate, The Broker has invited renowned scholars, policy makers and practitioners from NGOs and the World Bank to participate. We have already received positive responses from many individuals in Scandinavia, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the US.

To download the article by Kees Koonings, click here.