Dr Ricardo Soares de Oliveira receives ESRC award in collaboration with Oxfam America

Congratulations to Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, who has received a ESRC Impact Acceleration Account award for a collaborative project entitled ‘Practical Political Economy for Resource Governance Reform’.  This project is a collaboration with Ian Gary, Associate Policy Director, Accountable Development Finance, Oxfam America.

More than 15 years into the natural resource governance reform effort, many of the problems that remain in resource-dependent countries are political, rather than technical, in nature. Governments now have the knowledge about “the right things to do” with their extractive industry (EI) sector – or the opportunity to learn – but few put this knowledge into practice. Problems are instead framed as “technical capacity gaps” that need external assistance. Yet governments can fill these gaps if they define them as political priorities. Many aid donors now understand the political nature of their enterprise and commission political economy analysis to inform their strategies and programs. But too often the results of these studies are downplayed or ignored because they are unpalatable. Many NGOs and civil society groups are also uncomfortable with addressing political and power issues because of the sources of their funding, their desire to not “rock the boat” or other factors. This project will identify ways to mainstream these political economy insights into the work of international development advocacy NGOs and local civil society organizations. Our assumption is that this will lead to better campaign planning and increased policy impact. The ultimate goal is that governments foster better policies to increase the benefit of EI projects.

Oxfam’s global Extractive Industries Program now operates in more than 30 countries with an annual budget of more than US$6 million. Oxfam is actively working to address the political economy and power dynamics in resource-dependent countries and has commissioned political economy (PE) research in several countries. Yet much PE analysis tends to focus on explaining why things are the way that they are (“who gets what and why”), rather than clearly articulating how to change things. While PE studies can be useful, there is a gap between what researchers produce and what NGO staff and partners need to have for real policy influence.

The purpose of this project is to decisively address these shortcomings via a KE collaboration between Oxfam America and DPIR.

This project runs from 15 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.