Tribute to Adrian Leftwich

(Written by Steve Hogg on behalf of the Developmental Leadership Program, DLP, one of the partners behind this blog)

It is with profound sadness that the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) team advises colleagues of the death of Adrian Leftwich, DLP’s inspirational Director of Research, on 2 April 2013.

As a highly regarded political scientist, through his work with DLP and its predecessors, and at the University of York, Adrian has influenced development thinking internationally. His DLP work contributed significantly to both UK and Australian development thinking, policies and programs. His impact can also be seen with stakeholders such as the international Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and through his influential books, such as “States of Development: On the Primacy of Politics in Development” cited as “…above all a call for an appreciation of the profoundly political nature of development” (Rita Abrahamsen, International Affairs).

We’re confident that Adrian achieved his ambition to challenge and influence international aid orthodoxy: across the board, international aid agencies now recognise and better understand the centrality and complexity of politics in development, the political dynamics of economic growth, and role of local power and leaderships in legitimate institutional change. Adrian’s work contributed to these achievements in no small measure.

In October 2012, just before his diagnosis with lung cancer, Adrian wrote “I do want to say that working on this DLP stuff for the past 5 years or more has been the best and most fascinating experience of my life.” DLP plans to mark Adrian’s legacy in a number of ways, including a conference later in 2013. In order to share the many tributes to Adrian’s life, work, and generosity that have flooded in, we have set up a space for tributes both personal and professional, beginning with some words from his children. We welcome contributions by email. See:

Our thoughts and support are with Adrian’s two wonderful children, Maddy and Ben.

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How to operationalise ‘good fit’

By David Booth

In the Copenhagen Joint Statement, we ended by advocating a ‘good fit’ approach to institutional reform in Africa. We didn’t go very far into what that might mean. Now, one of the five programmes that authored the statement, APPP, has provided some further pointers in its final synthesis report (Governance as a Collective Action Problem).

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Economic growth and leadership succession

By Tim Kelsall

In recent days there has been fevered speculation across the internet about the fate of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and the leadership struggle liable to follow his (as yet unconfirmed) demise (for an excellent overview seeé-lefort/ethiopia-after-meles). The way this struggle plays out will have profound implications for the fortunes of a country with one of Africa’s largest populations, and fastest growing economies.

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Developmental leadership

By Adrian Leftwich

The recent interesting discussion on this blog about democracy and development in Africa is a spur to another issue – tucked away towards the end of the Joint Statement: the question of leadership. (By the way, the new President of Malawi said in a recent interview with The Guardian that at a critical point in the transfer of power to her as Vice President, as required in the Constitution, which was being threatened by opponents in the Cabinet, she made sure in a phone call to the head of the army that he would support her. One might think through the implications of that for democratic theory and practice…). I digress.

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Democracy’s mixed blessings

By Eveness Zuze and David Booth

African countries need economic transformation. They need it not just to raise general living standards but to create conditions in which people can enjoy social and political freedoms, including the right to choose their rulers. Economic advance and political progress are clearly linked in this sense.

As the Joint Statement argued, however, whether liberal-democratic political constitutions are good for economic transformation is a much more complicated matter. One reason is that constitutions don’t shape people’s behaviour – similar constitutions have very different effects depending on countries’ economic and social structures.

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Good Governance vs. collective action

It’s time for donors to get out of their addiction to Good Governance! No country has ever implemented the current donor-promoted Good Governance agenda before embarking on social and economic development. This was true for rich countries before they became rich, and it is true for the rapidly ‘catching up’ countries of Asia today. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are no exception.

They are therefore not helped to get out of poverty by donor insistence on prior achievement of Good Governance, meaning adoption of the institutional ‘best practices’ that emerged in much richer countries only at a later stage in their development.

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