The Politics of Development and Democracy

Gabu, Guinea-Bissau - April 13, 2014: Polling station, ballot boxes and international election observer in rural Guinea-Bissau during general elections in 2014.

A key area of research for the International Development Department (IDD) is how to fight corruption and strengthen democracy.

Our staff and students look at a range of questions focusing on the Politics of Development, and even published a groundbreaking book on this topic in 2024!

We believe that all development is profoundly influenced by political processes that shape who gets what, when, and how. We study this by focussing on the everyday challenges facing people around the world in accessing the vital resources they need to survive and thrive. This research is done both at the local level and by showing how the design and decisions of global governance institutions shape the way that citizens experience development on the ground.

Important topics include:

  • how the quality – or absence – of democracy shapes the provision of public services.
  • how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.
  • how the structure of political and economic relations between countries, such as trade and finance, impacts development outcomes.
  • how “social bads” such as corruption and serious and organised crime become so entrenched, and what can be done to address them.

Current research projects on these topics include the Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence research programme, funded by the UK government, which aim to help unlock the black box of political will for tackling organised crime, transnational corruption, kleptocracy and illicit finance through research that informs politically feasible, technically sound interventions and strategies.

Another major research programme is the Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics project, in which IDD collaborates with the Westminster Foundation of Democracy, the premier democracy strengthening organization of the United Kingdom, to understand when and how international efforts to strengthen democracy are successful. IDD also plays a major role in the University of Birmingham’s new Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (CEDAR), which exists to bring together researchers, policy makers, civil society groups and activists across borders in a common quest to understand the factors that promote and undermine accountable and representative government.

Research projects

  • The Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (CEDAR)
  • Development Engagement LabDavid Hudson, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Election Observation Research Network (ELECTOR)
  • Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics, with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy


Alderman, Pand Saowanee T. Alexander. ‘Electoral Commissions and Non-Democratic Outcomes: Thailand’s Contentious 2019 Election,’ Politics 43, no.4 (April 2021), 

Alderman, P. ‘Authoritarian Electoral Management: Lessons from Thailand.Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, online first (July 2023).

Cheeseman, N., Lynch, G and J. Willis (2020) The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cheeseman, N., and Dodsworth, S. (2023). Defending Civic Space: When are Campaigns against Repressive Laws Successful?. The Journal of Development Studies, 59(5), 619-636.

Cheeseman, N and C. Peiffer. The Curse of Good Intentions: Why Anti-Corruption Messaging Can Encourage Corruption, American Political Science Review, 116(3): 1018-1095 [with Caryn Peiffer]

Cooley, L. and Mujanović, J. (2014) Changing the rules of the game: Comparing FIFA/UEFA and EU attempts to promote reform of power-sharing institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Global Society 29(1): 42-63

Dasandi, N. and Erez, L. (2017), The Donor’s Dilemma: International Aid and Human Rights ViolationsBritish Journal of Political Science

Dasandi, N. and Esteve, M. (2017) The Politics-Bureaucracy Interface in Developing Countries’, Public Administration and Development, 37(4): 231-245 

Dasandi, N., Hudson, D. and Pegram, T. (2015) “Governance and Institutions” In: Waage, J., and Yap, C. (eds.) Thinking Beyond Sectors for Sustainable Development. London: Ubiquity Press, pp. 63-76

Marquette, H. and Cooley, L. (2015) Corruption and post-conflict reconstruction, in Jackson, P. (ed.) Handbook of International Security and Development, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar: 349-69

Ottmann, M. and Vüllers, J. (2019) Government-Rebel Relations in the Wake of Power-Sharing Peace Agreements. in: C. Hartzell and A. Mehler (eds.), Power-Sharing and Power Relations After Civil War, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Simon, M., Schwartz, C., Hudson, D. and Johnson, S.D. (2018). A data-driven computational model on the effects of immigration policies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(34): E7914-E7923

Waage, J., Yap, C., Bell, S., Levy, C., Mace, G., Pegram, T., Unterhalter, E., Dasandi, N., Hudson, D., Kock, R., Mayhew, S., Marx, C., & Poole, N. (2015). Governing the UN Sustainable Development Goals: interactions, infrastructures, and institutionsThe Lancet Global Health, 3(5): 251-252