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Think tanks in post-conflict contexts: Towards evidence-informed governance reform

Research reports

Written by Nicola Jones, Arnaldo Pellini, Ajoy Datta

The importance of governance in promoting development outcomes has become increasingly recognized over the last two decades. For instance, it is understood that many of the states least likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are fragile states grappling with significant governance challenges, and that tackling poverty and social exclusion cannot be done in isolation from addressing governance deficits. Attention among analysts and donors is growing, yet the assessment of evidence-based policy processes is limited. This is in turn exacerbated by a relative dearth of literature on the knowledge-policy interface in developing country contexts, and especially post-conflict countries. This paper therefore focuses on exploring the role of knowledge in advancing effective governance principles and practices. It pays particular attention to the opportunities and challenges faced by think tanks and policy institutes to shape an evidence-based political culture in post-conflict environments.


The report is based on a desk review of literature on governance and evidence-based policy processes, including think tanks as key actors in the process of knowledge generation and translation


The paper concludes that the dynamics of governance policy in general, and in post-conflict settings in particular, have a number of specific features that should inform the work of actors engaged in the knowledge-policy interface. These dynamics often play out differently depending on the particular justice and governance issue under consideration. This is because governance policy issues encompass both technocratic (e.g. public administration reforms and decentralization) and normative dimensions (e.g. transitional human rights). The findings of this report highlight the pressing need for more attention to the supply and demand for governance evidence. Critical gaps also need to be filled in the understanding of knowledge needs at different stages in the policy cycle and in the sequencing of the production of evidence. Equally important is the need for more attention to the relative contributions of different actors in the processes of knowledge generation and knowledge translation. More attention should be directed to the role of think tanks in the production and communication of policy-relevant and practical governance evidence, in particular within contexts of contested knowledge and competition by various economic interests.



Nicola Jones, Julia Pomeres and Arnaldo Pellini with Ajoy Datta