The paradigm of ‘inclusive liberalism’ that currently characterises international development places a particular emphasis on the responsibility of communities to overcome the often structural problems of poverty and exclusion. Such approaches have become increasingly controversial: on the one hand, it is celebrated by optimists as the most empowering way forward for marginal citizens, and on the other, it is derided as an abrogation of responsibility by development trustees by sceptics. Uganda provides a particularly interesting context to explore these debates, not least because it has become a standard bearer for inclusive liberalism at the same time that regional inequalities within it have become increasingly apparent. Our investigation of the flagship response to deep impoverishment in its northern region, the World Bank-funded Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, offers greater support to the sceptical position, not least because of the ways in which the more pernicious tendencies within inclusive liberalism have converged with the contemporary politics of development in Uganda. This includes a tendency to blame the poorest for their own predicament and a failure to include the North within the regime’s broader social contract.
CPRC Working Paper No. 150, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-906433-53-6, 39 pp.