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Researchers: Dr Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (with Ian Gary, Associate Policy Director – Accountable Development Finance, Oxfam America)

Funder: ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant

Revenues from oil, gas or mineral resources have the potential to transform a country and the lives of its citizens, by reducing poverty and increasing prosperity. But it is rare that countries and their citizens benefit from their natural resources. Why?

Many of the problems that remain in resource-dependent countries are political, rather than technical. Problems are often framed as “technical capacity gaps” that need external assistance. Yet governments can fill these gaps if they define them as political priorities.

Aid donors increasingly understand the political nature of their work but often downplay or sidestep political questions because they are difficult to address. NGOs and civil society groups can be uncomfortable addressing political and power issues because they don’t wish to “rock the boat” and risk their sources of funding.

Political economy research can help to illuminate and address many of these difficult political issues. This project identifies ways that insights from political economy can be used in the work of NGOs and local civil society organizations who are seeking to reform the governance of extractive industries.

With a global Extractive Industries Program which now operates in more than 30 countries, Oxfam is working to address negative power dynamics in resource-dependent countries and has commissioned political economy research in several cases.

However, this research often explains why things are the way that they are (“who gets what and why”), rather than clearly articulating how to create change. There is a clear gap between what researchers produce and what NGO staff and partners need.

This project will work with Oxfam America to address these shortcomings, and to bring insights from political economy to bear in ways which can influence policy and produce change.

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