2.2.3 The Political and Institutional Context

Facts/messages: The institutional analysis should describe national governing rules of group behaviour and interaction within the political, economic and social spheres of life. This analysis assumes that these rules, whether they are formally constructed or informally embedded in cultural practices, mediate and distort the expected impacts of policy reform. The political analysis should look at the structure of power relations and the interests of the various stakeholders affecting decision-making and thus policies and programmes. This analysis must recognize the political interests that underpin the various areas of policy debate and economic reform, hence challenging assumptions about the nature of policy-making. Looking at the various political areas helps to provide a detailed picture of a specific situation: the relationship between state and society, the political system and culture, including agents of change and development paradigms, politics and gender, economic policy and the political framework of markets, as well as international integration.

Highlight the governance environment within the country as a determining factor of sustainable human development and address such issues as legality (formal regulations); legitimacy and representativity; efficacy, efficiency and transparency of public functions and the promotion of citizen participation, within a rights-based framework. If possible, underscore the existence of mechanisms for building consensus and the degree of citizen participation in relevant areas. It is important at this point to bring in a discussion about the existence of universal and/or targeted policies and their connections with the exercise of rights, as well as current decentralization policies that may exist in the country and the framework within which they operate. Here it is also necessary to demonstrate the existing legal and institutional framework, such as the existence of a population policy, as well as specific laws in areas that relate to SRH, gender, ageing, etc. A further goal is to highlight the existence and performance of institutions and specialized organizations that oversee the application of the population policy and those policies related with other relevant areas such as the observance of the rights of citizens and the existence of an Ombudsman and other forums for the enforcement of rights. Also address the existence of institutions in the country that deal with the various issues mentioned above.

Methodology: Textual analysis of relevant documents. Use of governance indicators that measure single or multiple elements of governance, studies on existing laws, national policies and the relationship between these and international agreements. For governance indicators see: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Governance Indicators: a User’s Guide, the World Bank, and others. Indicators should be pro-poor and gender sensitive. Indicators include: petitions to international human rights organizations. The Development Centre of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides in its publication Uses and Abuses of Governance Indicators a guide through the multitude of indicators.

Public opinion studies help to shed light on the political and institutional context, allowing the user to monitor the evolution of public opinion in countries, and providing material for the preparation of texts, decision-making and evaluation. Several of the sites listed below allow the user to browse variable indexes, look into the wording of questions, and generate frequencies, cross-tabulations and graphs of each question by country or by variable.

Interest Group Analysis (IGA) is a method for collecting information to improve policy and programme implementation and results-based management. It is intended to compliment the stakeholder analysis by addressing questions about why progress on certain indicators has been so slow, who is influencing issues in a positive or negative direction and how more support can be leveraged for achieving desired results. As a form of political analysis, it guides the identification and analysis of key players (organizations, groups, and individuals) with a variety of positions and a range of influences on various development issues. It prioritizes critical players at different levels and helps develop political strategies for engaging with them. These strategies are aimed at leveraging support of key interest groups for improving policy implementation and achieving programme results.

Another example is the Governance Questionnaire (GQ) by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (German Society for Technical Cooperation) or GTZ that has been developed to enable development practitioners and decision makers to systematically analyse the political and institutional framework of a given country, as well as the actors and processes of a governance system. With this analysis tool key obstacles in a political reform process can be identified, thus allowing targeting of specific entry points for the improvement of governance.

Primary Source:

  • Specialized questionnaires and surveys available in the country.

Secondary Sources: Public opinion studies available from:


21  Website of The World Bank. Last accessed: 12 August 2010. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTSOCIALDEV/0,,contentMDK:21185535~menuPK:3291419~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:3177395,00.html.
22  UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Social Development, The World Bank (2005). Tools for Institutional, Political and Social Analysis (TIPS) A Sourcebook Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA).
23  Website of GTZ. Last accessed 12 August 2010. http://www.gtz.de/governance/
24  Using these indicators in the UNDAFs, CCAs and other national planning and development co-operation documents would be in line with the principles of enhancing local ownership and fostering national stakeholder consensus.
25  Christiane Arndt, Charles Oman (2006). Uses and abuses of governance indicators. Paris, OECD Development Centre.