Democratic Dilemmas at Devex World

Fragile States

Democratic Dilemmas at Devex World

Posted on: 15th June 2016

Devex World brings together people from the private and public sector as well as NGOs, who are aiming to create solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Dan Hymowitz introduced the session by explaining why it was important for them, as people dedicated to international development, to understand the role of governments. 

“Too often as international partners we think we know what developing country governments should do, but we fail to see the whole picture. Democratic Dilemmas forces us to walk in the shoes of presidents facing the toughest decisions,” he explained.

Split into groups the attendees played the role of presidents and ministers and were challenged with no-clear-win decisions that the leaders of some of our partner countries have faced. Some became presidents who were forced to choose between two different road building plans. Others became ministers trying to convince the president that their option was the correct one. 

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 The debates were lively, because each plan would connect different areas and support a particular set of development goals, while de facto side-lining others. Different groups reached different conclusions on where roads were most urgently needed and why, giving them an insight into the complex process of government and the need for prioritisation. Reflecting on the experience, some participants said:

“It was a really effective way of showing how governments need to balance development and the political calculations that governments have to make when making policy.”

Frank Page Cooperative Capacity Partners 

“Democratic Dilemmas definitely left the audience thinking through the impact of political decisions on efforts to secure development.” 

Stephanie Eichmann Manager of Global Membership, Devex


The work described here was carried out by the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, it is now being continued by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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