Enhancing inclusive governance in fragile & (post) conflict-affected settings: An exploration of social norms related practices affecting public authorities

Inclusive governance (IG) can be understood as a means to reducing poverty, empowering poor and marginalized communities, and rendering nations accountable to the needs and interests of their citizens. CARE identifies promoting inclusive governance at the core of its approaches to address “…the underlying causes of poverty and social injustice.” Further, CARE believes that IG is a fundamental right and should be a goal in itself. Yet, the process of developing and implementing IG in fragile and (post) conflict-affected settings (FCAS) faces many challenges as evidenced by, for example, women and other marginalized groups still lagging behind men and more powerful groups worldwide in their inclusion in political processes.

Through the Every Voice Counts (EVC) initiative by CARE Netherlands, social norms have been identified as one of the key determinants of success or failure for IG development initiatives. Isolating key norms and the related practices that influence IG development, as well as the origins and mechanisms for social norm change, can help us understand why current IG interventions may not be as successful as planned as well as mechanisms or leverage points to enhance the effectiveness of these interventions. Social norms impact inclusive governance through guiding the behaviors of powerholders, decisionmakers, and the community. Little research exists on norms from the perspective of supply-side actors: the Public Authorities (PAs), i.e. the bureaucratic and elected representatives of government with the power and resources to build IG. Inquiry from this perspective can shed insight on the social norms that exist within government institutions and those more broadly associated with the FCAS context, local communities, and personal networks that enable or hinder their ability to develop IG.

This study aims to generate insights on the social norms and related practices that influence PAs’ ability to develop IG in FCAS. In this study, IG is measured through four elements: transparency, inclusivity, responsiveness, and accountability. From the perspective of PAs, a systems approach4 is used to identify social norms related to IG development and service delivery to marginalized communities, especially women and youth. Four spheres of influence are researched to identify norms and practices that exist and interact within and across different levels of the system: chrono- (FCAS context), macro- (government system), meso- (local government/community), and micro (individual) levels. The study follows a multiple case study, qualitative research design. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions were conducted in three of CARE’s target countries (Burundi, Somalia, and a third anonymous country) with PAs, country-experts, and CARE country offices, and CSO partners, as well as remotely with content-experts.

Following this research, a discussion paper about the same topic was developed.