Stephen Commins


Associate Director, Global Public Affairs @ UCLA Luskin
Director, International Practice Pathway
Faculty Cluster Leader, Global Environment and Resources
Lecturer in Urban Planning

Home Department: Urban Planning

Areas of Interest

International and Comparative Planning, International Development, Nonprofits and Nongovernmental Organizations




Stephen Commins works in areas of regional and international development, with an emphasis on service delivery and governance in fragile states. Commins was Director of the Development Institute at the UCLA African Studies Center in the 1980s, and then worked as Director of Policy and Planning at World Vision International in the 1990s. Dr. Commins was Senior Human Development Specialist at the World Bank from 1999-2005. His work at the World Bank included “Managing Dimensions of Economic Crisis: Good Practices for Policies and Institutions,” the establishment of the Bank’s children and youth cluster, and a survey of service delivery programs implemented by civil society organizations. Commins was one of the co-authors of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2004, “Making Services Work for Poor People”. Following the Report’s publication in 2003, he managed several initiatives on service delivery in post-conflict countries and the relationships between political reform and improved services. Since leaving the World Bank in 2005, he has continued to work on service delivery programs, including the major study,”Service Delivery in Fragile States: Good Practice for Donors”, for the Fragile States Group of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2006. Currently, he is Strategy Manager, Fragile States, International Medical Corps, and coordinator for the Health and Fragile States Network. His recent work has included “testing the DFID state building” framework in Lao PDR and Cambodia, managing studies on disasters and safety nets for the World Bank in Bangladesh, a co-authored paper on participation, accountability and decentralization in Africa, and producing studies on health systems strengthening in fragile states for World Vision Canada and on sub-national fragility in India and Pakistan for the HLSP Institute. He is currently working on a long term study of livelihoods and post-conflict reconstruction in Pakistan, and the ‘new deal’ on aid for fragile and conflict affected states.

Selected Research

1. World Development Report: Mind and Society. (2015). World Bank. [upcoming]

2.  Babar Shahbaz, Qasim Ali Shah, Abid Q. Suleri, Steve Commins and Akbar Ali Malik.  “Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in north-western Pakistan.” (2012). Secure Livelihoods Research Consurtium/ODI.

3. Annemarie terVeen, Stephen Commins, Jonathan Papoulidis. “From services to systems: Entry points for donors and non‐state partners seeking to strengthen health systems in fragile states.” (2011). World Vision Canada.