Political commitment to reform: Civil service reform in Swaziland

William Mccourt, Willy McCourt

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Lack of political commitment has been seen as a principal reason for the failure of development programs, and is the pretext for calls for "selectivity" in the allocation of donor aid. A new model of commitment is proposed, and applied to a case study of civil service reform in Swaziland. The failure of repeated reform attempts there is indeed due to a lack of commitment that has its roots in Swaziland's unusual political system, in which 'traditional' rulers have effective power. Prospects for reform therefore depend either on fundamental political change, or on engaging with those rulers' fear that reform represents a threat to their interests. Applying the model of commitment to the case study highlights the importance of a political analysis, and suggests constructive forms of engagement with uncommitted governments that go beyond the minimal involvement that the selectivity approach advocates. The model may represent a tool for predicting, and helping to generate, a government's commitment to a given policy proposal. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1031
Number of pages16
JournalWorld Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • Africa
  • Civil service reform
  • Political commitment
  • Selectivity
  • Swaziland

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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