Political Systems: Topic Guide

This guide considers how political systems evolve, how they can foster democratic and inclusive politics and how they promote poverty reduction


Political systems are the formal and informal political processes by which decisions are made concerning the use, production and distribution of resources in any given society. Formal political institutions can determine the process for electing leaders; the roles and responsibilities of the executive and legislature; the organisation of political representation (through political parties); and the accountability and oversight of the state. Informal and customary political systems, norms and rules can operate within or alongside these formal political institutions. The development of democratic political systems that provide opportunities for all, including the poor, to influence decision-making, is a critical concern for donors.

This guide considers some of the key questions about how political systems evolve, how they can best foster democratic and inclusive politics, and – crucially for development practitioners – under what conditions they most effectively promote poverty reduction . It focuses on strengthening the accountability, responsiveness and effectiveness of political systems and political governance, and includes guidance and case study materials.


Scott, Z.; Mcloughlin, C. Political Systems: Topic Guide. Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 38 pp.

Political Systems: Topic Guide

Published 1 January 2014