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Interim Institutions and the Development Process: Opening Spaces for Reform in Cambodia and Indonesia


  • Daniel Adler
  • Caroline Sage
  • Michael Woolcock


While there is broad agreement among scholars and practitioners on the importance of ‘good governance’, ‘the rule of law’ and ‘effective institutions’ for ensuring positive development outcomes, we have a much poorer understanding of how such goals should be realised. Whether informed by modernisation theory, Marxist perspectives or neoclassical assumptions, the prevailing imperatives guiding the work of development actors—from international agencies to national line ministries and local non-government organisations—tend to produce reforms that encourage (and in some cases actively require) rapid, linear, technically driven transitions to pre-determined end-state institutional forms deemed to be global ‘best practice’. Drawing on two very different cases from Indonesia and Cambodia, we outline an alternative, more process-oriented approach that focuses on building ‘interim institutions’—that is, formal or informal institutions conceived of in terms of their potential to engage with and incrementally transform the political economies within which they exist. Successful interim institutional approaches, we suggest, are hybrid in their nature; they are based on local knowledge but promote principles of rule-based, transparent and accountable decision making towards an end-state which emerges through a process of equitable political contestation (‘good struggles’), and is thus largely unknowable ex ante. A key goal of development assistance strategies should be to support the emergence of interim institutions which can both facilitate and be transformed by such contests.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Adler & Caroline Sage & Michael Woolcock, 2009. "Interim Institutions and the Development Process: Opening Spaces for Reform in Cambodia and Indonesia," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 8609, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:8609

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew McNee, 2012. "Rethinking Health Sector Wide Approaches through the lens of Aid Effectiveness," Development Policy Centre Discussion Papers 1214, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    2. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. DiCaprio, Alisa, 2013. "The Demand Side of Social Protection: Lessons from Cambodia’s Labor Rights Experience," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 108-119.
    4. Andrews, Matt & Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 234-244.
    5. Frauke de Weijer, 2013. "A Capable State in Afghanistan," CID Working Papers 59, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    6. Frauke de Weijer, 2013. "A Capable State in Afghanistan: A Building Without a Foundation?," Working Papers id:5452, eSocialSciences.
    7. Woolcock, Michael, 2014. "Engaging with Fragile and Conflict-Affected States," Working Paper Series rwp14-038, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    8. DiCaprio, Alisa, 2011. "The Demand Side of Social Protection," WIDER Working Paper Series 081, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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