The evidence is now overwhelming that most of the binding constraints in development are about institutions and institutional change. At the various interlocking levels of the development process in developing nations, the prevailing institutions the formal and informal rules underpinning behavior undermine optimal use of the available financial and human resources. Institutions that might enable people to act decisively in their collective long-term interests are either missing or distorted.

The way institutions work in practice is shaped by the underlying distribution of economic, social and political power by the nature of the underlying elite bargain or political settlement. Both power structures and institutions can change, as people at different levels of society find ways of overcoming normally prohibitive collective action problems. This is why the change processes matter. Progressive institutional change is the core of what development is about. AREA (African Refugees Aid) seeks to promote that.

Official development agencies know this. They are aware that the impact they have on the institutions of a Country are more important than all other dimensions of their engagement. Typically, however, they have considerable difficulty acting in light of that knowledge. This is partly because of the continued enthusiasm for a financing-gap concept of aid, focusing attention on the scale of resource transfers to poor

countries. Efforts are measured in terms of funds raised and disbursed, not institutional changes facilitated. But there is another reason too. The work of helping poor countries and their citizens to overcome institutional blockages to development is genuinely hard and poorly understood. It is particularly challenging for organizations originally set up.



  • Community and Learning Participatory Initiatives
  • Vocational Training Programmes
  • Peace Advocacy Projects [Workshops & Publications]
  • Training of Mediators and Political Educators for African Communities