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Whither the public? A critical policy analysis of the UK government’s building public support for international development policy

Arrondelle, Donna; (2018) Whither the public? A critical policy analysis of the UK government’s building public support for international development policy. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

The past two decades have seen tremendous efforts by International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and the UK government to increase UK public support for international development. Yet hopes of increasing support for development have not materialised. When measured, poll data indicates that levels of public support have barely shifted, from 1999 to present, remaining around 70% (OECD, 2003; TNS UK, 2010). The most recent polling asserts that UK public concern for global poverty has significantly declined, from 70% in 2011 to 46% in 2014 (Bond, 2016). Findings also demonstrate that levels of support are not commensurate with increased awareness (Glennie et al., 2012; Hudson and van Heerde-Hudson, 2012; Lindstrom and Henson, 2010). This suggests a significant disconnect between public support and public understanding, and the public awareness campaign agendas of INGOs, and the UK government’s policy endeavours to build public support. This thesis is an attempt towards understanding part of this disconnect by focusing on the UK Department for International Development's (DFID) policy endeavours towards public support. My research conducts a critical policy analysis, employing a discourse analytical approach, departing from the existing attitudinal data approaches. Specifically, I apply Bacchi's (2009) ‘What's the Problem Represented to Be' (WPR) framework, together with Foucault's governmentality insights. I look at two time periods, 1997-2003, following the establishment of DFID, and 2010-2015 under the Con-Lib Coalition government's leadership and examine how public support is constructed as a ‘problem', as a means of shedding light on possible reasons for the lack of increased public support. The findings show that public support is constructed as a ‘problem' meriting attention in three main ways: as a ‘problem' of public ignorance; of public accountability; and of emotions. The analysis reveals strikingly, that a number of the discourses operating that comprise the ‘problem of public support' target DFID policy workers, rather than ‘the public'. In fact, the actual public remain out of sight. I demonstrate how this construction of public support as a ‘problem' is an extension of governmental power, which serves to among other things, depoliticise development objects, ‘recipients' and ‘donors', and reinforce existing inequalities, rather than challenge them. In turn, this means these three components of problematisation legitimise the role of DFID. My findings show that these problematisations of public support promoted in DFID's work, if embodied, at best, may stifle public support, and at worst, may reduce it. Therefore, these problematistions require urgent attention if future efforts at building public support are to ‘succeed'.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Whither the public? A critical policy analysis of the UK government’s building public support for international development policy
Event: UCL
Language: English
Keywords: building public support, political communication, global poverty, public engagement, international development, Foucault
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10056302
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