Politics and governance of social assistance in crises from the bottom up

This paper reviews existing perspectives on the politics and governance of social assistance in crises from the bottom up – from sub-national regions (or states/provinces) down to districts, sub-districts, towns, and villages. It begins by examining recent literature on the politics of social protection, which is mostly based on assessment of political dynamics and relationships in settings that are peaceful and only minimally affected (or unaffected) by conflict-related violence. Key insights from political economy analysis of humanitarian assistance, alongside the ‘political marketplace’ – a more recent concept used to understand governance in fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS) – are introduced to deepen understanding of politics specifically in situations where statehood is both limited and negotiated. The second part of the paper reviews various insights into sub-national and local governance, focusing on the role of non-state actors in provisioning and distribution at the edges of state power, delivery configurations in these settings, and the rationalities of local governance and ‘real implementation’. 

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Better Assistance in Crises (BASIC) Research is a partnership between the Institute of Development StudiesHumanitarian Outcomes and the Centre for International Development Training funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). BASIC Research aims to inform policy and programming on how to help poor and vulnerable people cope better with crises and meet their basic needs. Visit the page to learn more and explore other resources.