4. Governance and institutions

Coordinator: Eleonora Nillesen

How do we know whether (public) policies or programmes work for societal change and inclusive sustainable development? What is the role of governance structures (markets, networks and hierarchies) and social norms in creating new regulatory frameworks, adopting new technologies or promoting social and behavioural change? Do formal and informal institutions act as complements or substitutes? How can institutions orchestrate international, transnational and national actors in development? Under what conditions do local elites promote or inhibit inclusive development? How can international institutions contribute to the implementation of SDGs and the promotion of peace, democracy, and economic development? The governance and institutions theme tries to get at these questions using state-of-the-art qualitative and quantitative empirical research methods for low and middle-income countries, including fragile and (post)-conflict societies.

Qualitative research within the theme focuses on the role of (inter)national institutional actors in global security, democratisation and migration both from a macro and micro perspective and generates new understandings of phenomena like institutional resilience and adaptation, and the governance of complex policy problems. Quantitative studies in this area cover macro cross country analyses and micro-level studies – the latter having a strong focus on randomised field experiments and rigorous quasi-experimental approaches to draw causal inferences on the impact of programme and policy interventions. We study a broad range of key sectors relevant for development, varying from agriculture, health and education, to finance, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment, democratic governance and violence prevention. The theme also contributes to methodological innovations in the field through the use of (i) new measurement tools to collect more reliable, accurate data; (ii) combine primary survey data with e.g. geo-localised data, country census and administrative data to cross-validate findings at a larger scale and (iii) use available on-line sources, including social media data to complement survey information with unobtrusive observational data.


1. Economics of Knowledge and Innovation
2. Structural Change and Economic Development
3. Economic Complexity and Innovation
4. Governance and institutions
5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Transitions
6. Migration and Development
7. Social Protection
8. Population, Development and Labour Economics


UNU-MERIT