What I’m reading this month: May 2019 version

Tube journeys (blogs/policy briefs/podcasts)

Explain ZA, State capture: three reasons why no one is in jail yet

This short video from South Africa looks to explain to the general public why they’ve not seen any ‘big names’ convicted of corruption since President Ramaphosa came to power, but why we shouldn’t lose hope just yet. For folks at the recent DFID Governance Advisors’ professional development conference, you’ll notice how reason #3 reflects Sam Hickey’s comment on why state capacity/capability still matters.

Transparency & Accountability Initiative, What is the cutting edge of governance programming? Prompts sparked by DFID’s new governance position paper

TAI kicked off an interesting debate on twitter with this blog reflecting on the GPP. The contributors to the blog welcome the emphasis on inclusion and growth, and they’re happy to see long-standing priorities – such as anti-corruption, illicit financial flows and transparency – retained as areas of significant strategic importance. The focus on context-specific initiatives resonates, though there are some cautious words about whether or not DFID will be able to match this with action.

Southern Rail journeys (papers/journal articles/longer thought pieces)

 Lee Jones & Jinghan Zeng, Understanding China’s ‘Belt & Road Initiative’: beyond ‘grand strategy’ to a state transformation analysis

This article is a welcome, fresh take on the BRI, that eschews a ‘grand strategy’ lens to situate it in the growing literature around the transformation of China’s state from top-down and highly centralised to one that’s much less capable of grand action as the result of ongoing processes of fragmentation, decentralisation and internationalisation. Rather than BRI being a grand strategy reflecting China’s    desire to dominate the international order, the authors use open source material and interviews to paint a more complex picture of competing interests attached to BRI, with some worrying results, including some ‘highly dubious projects’ that are already failing or creating negative externalities.

 Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, All that glitters is not gold: The political economy of randomized evaluations in development

RCTs seem to be the marmite of methodologies: people seem to either love them or hate them, with nuance in the debates around their use often being lost. Here’s an article that looks at the political economy behind their rise in evaluation circles. The authors argue that the increased use of RCTs is a methodological advance, but this has come at a price. They argue that RCTs are an (outmoded) positivist method with an ‘imperalistic’ nature that isn’t the only – or even the best – way to rigorously identify causal impacts and which can’t tell us anything about the causal mechanisms at work. I look forward to the RCT battles beginning…

Gerasimos Tsourapas, The Syrian refugee crisis and foreign policy decision-making in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey

Rather than seeing host states as hostages to forced migration coming over their borders, Gerasimos’s research looks at how states use migration for their own advantage. He argues that Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are ‘refugee rentier states’, or ‘states seeking to leverage their position as host states of displaced communities for material gain’. Each state uses different tactics, such as bargaining or threats, in order to achieve their own foreign policy goals. The research raises important questions about our understanding of the political impacts of forced displacement and the political economy of migration in general.

Heather’s Lost & Found Bin

 Richard Zussman, Report finds $5 billion laundered through British Columbia real estate in 2018

 Lorenzo Bodrero, The rise and fall of mafia women

Diana Schoder, From RCT to policy: Scaling up RCTs involves countless challenges. One NGO overcame them all

 Allan Gillies, From Bolivian cocaine to Colombia gold, low-level involvement in illicit economies is often driven by poverty and marginalisation

 Arnaldo Pellini & Vanesa Weyrauch, The 4ir [4th Industrial Revolution] is here: Do we need to design development initiatives differently?

 Inge Tvedten & Rachi Picardo, ‘Goats eat where they are tied up’: illicit and habitual corruption in Mozambique

 Caryn Peiffer & Grant Walton, Overcoming collective action problems through anti-corruption messages


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