Selected evidence on the impact of interventions to support inclusive institutions
Donors support inclusive institutions to promote social inclusion and tackle inequality. These issues are high on the mainstream development agenda because there is now substantial evidence that social exclusion and inequality exacerbate poverty. Accordingly, in 2013 the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda called for development that ‘leaves no-one behind’.
Institutions are the formal and informal rules and norms that structure citizens’ rights, entitlements, opportunities and voice. They shape all human interaction, including in the family, community, and political and economic spheres, influencing how societies develop. The patterns of behaviour generated by institutions can be either positive or negative for development outcomes.
Power holders can shape institutions so that assets and resources are distributed for the benefit of some rather than all groups in society. Institutions can enable or reinforce discrimination through excluding or adversely incorporating people and groups – commonly women, people with disabilities, religious minorities, designated lower ‘castes’, ethnic minorities, and recent migrants – or whole sections of society.
Entry points to strengthen inclusive institutions are multi-sectoral. This guide synthesises key illustrative evidence in five areas: analysing and measuring institutions; rights-based legal frameworks; public sector structures and processes; voice, empowerment and accountability; and preventing harmful practices against women and girls. Emerging lessons on the effectiveness of these interventions indicates a need to:
- Analyse institutions: Analysing whether existing institutions enable or constrain the inclusion of marginalised people and groups can inform development programming.
- Understand power relations and incentives: Technocratic institutional reforms have had disappointing results: real change requires transforming the social, political and economic drivers of exclusion, including power and incentives.
- Understand social norms and behavioural change: Behaviour change interventions can be effective when linked to efforts to tackle the broader structural determinants of exclusive institutions.
- Work with existing institutions: Effective aid supports local change processes. There may however be tension between working with existing institutions and forming new ones to protect and empower marginalised people.
- Work coherently and flexibly: A coherent, cross-sectoral approach supports inclusive institutions across different spheres – family, community, economic, political. Effective aid also works with broad-based coalitions of state and non-state actors, is long-term and flexible, and learns from failure.