The role of elected politicians in donor-led social protection: Insights from Zambia

Maria Klara Kuss*, Anne Gerstenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Elected politicians sit at the interface between the state and the citizens and play a critical role in shaping the social contract. This article presents rare insights into the participation of elected politicians in donor-led social protection policy processes in Africa. Taking the case of Zambia, it uncovers the assigned and de facto roles and perceptions of Members of Parliament (MPs) in social cash transfers policy processes. The analysis reveals the agency of MPs, despite intense efforts of donors to influence and control them. Specifically, it demonstrates that donors' advocacy and learning initiatives largely failed to influence their views and values of social justice which underpin state-society relations. Instead, MPs learned about the policy narratives of donors, enabling them to strategically employ those narratives to sustain donor relations. The article suggests that for donor-led social protection to modify state-society relations, MPs' active participation, full support, and deliberation are indispensable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-931
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Issue number6
Early online date1 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • donor politics
  • elected politicians
  • policy learning
  • social cash transfers
  • social protection
  • values of social justice
  • Zambia


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