Synthesis: The Recurring Politics of Success?

An important finding from the case studies is that the robustness of the evidence linking aspects of politics to outcomes should not be overstated. While progress in each case is validated by rigorous impact evaluation, the relationship between these outcomes and the pervasive forms of politics operating at different levels is more often implied than proven. Notwithstanding these caveats, a number of themes about the forms of politics that underpin success recur across the case studies, suggesting there is some merit in pursuing them as lines of enquiry in future research.

Periods of Crisis and Adjustment

Overall, the case studies support the theory that major sectoral reforms are often instigated and designed in the wake of periods of major crisis or political upheaval, during which time the normal rules of the game are thrown into flux (Batley 2004, p. 39). This finding is demonstrated most clearly in the case study on Indonesia, where the community-driven development mode of provision gained momentum after the economic crisis and the fall of Suharto, which weakened the appeal of a centralized state. In the aftermath of crisis, determined leaders may seize the opportunity to frame services as nation-building projects, as indicated in the case of Rwanda, where improvements in health were seen as an important pillar of reconstruction following the genocide. Similarly, in Ethiopia, commitment to education was envisaged and actively promoted as a means of generating good citizenship as part of a wider programme of nation-building. This supports the view that 'political junctures' (e.g. elections, moments of crisis, post-colonial settlements) can persuade regimes to renegotiate the social contract between state and citizens (Hickey 2006).

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