PhD defence: Institutional choice and recognition in development

PhD defence

Rebecca Leigh Rutt


This thesis concerns the role of local institutions in fostering development including natural resource management, and how this role is shaped by relations with higher scale institutions such as development agencies and national governments. Specifically, it examines the choice of local institutions by decision-makers in development agencies when implementing their projects and programmes and the framing of decentralization reforms in the context of post-conflict Nepal. Thus, it invokes issues of development and decentralization in the context of post-conflict societies.

The overarching objective of this thesis was to contribute to understanding processes and outcomes of institutional choice and recognition. It employed mixed methods but primarily semi structured interviews in multiple sites across Nepal. In responding to specific objectives, namely to better understand: i) the rationales behind choices of local institutional counterparts, ii) the belonging and citizenship available with local institutions, iii) the dynamics and mutuality of recognition between higher and lower scale institutions, and iv) the social outcomes of choice and recognition, this thesis shows that the way choice is rationalized and recognition constituted in development and decentralization initiatives can have unintended effects on local autonomy, on service delivery, on belonging and on the legitimacy of higher scale institutions. It demonstrates that the unexpected and unintended outcomes of institutional choice and recognition, which may be less tangible than predetermined indicators of success and which are often overlooked in impact evaluations, may be the most important for decision-makers to acknowledge and react to.


Thorsten Treue, Associate professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Christian Lund (chairman), Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Seema Arora-Jonsson, Associate professor, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Kristine Juul, Associate professor, Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change, Roskilde University