International influences on national policies and development


The Marshall Plan served as a good example of what international influences through donor aid can achieve. For example, from 1948 to 1952, the United States of America spent over US$ 13 million to rebuild Europe and this contributed to economic recovery and peace (Moyo, 2010). Also, Moyo (2010: p. 37) evidences how donor aid has been used to stabilize the economic outlook of countries making them less reliant on donor funding a factor that makes these countries to be referred to as, “International Development Association (IDA) graduates” with examples such as “Chile, China, Colombia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland.” Some of the key success factors of these countries have been the ability to embrace wider and larger scale driven activities thus lowering poverty by improving living standards for citizens. While aid may contribute to improved development in one way or another, it is not without influence to national politics. International influences on national politics and development can either be based on influence of international donor agencies and the aid they give to developing countries as well as the role of non-state development partners in developing countries.

The conditionalities around aid and its influences can be explained using several pointers. In some instances, international influences affect the recipient countries norms, traditions, customs, rules and laws. The case of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a good example of the likely tensions that exist between when a donor recipient (African country) proposes a bill due to unacceptable cultural norms that are otherwise perceived acceptable in western cultures because they promote ‘universal’ human rights. In this Uganda example, UKAID among other donors threatened aid cuts to Uganda due to differing views on the Bill. An interesting read on this is available via . Despite widespread comments on challenges of tying aid with human rights which may have brought the Uganda incidence into the limelight, truth be told, donor conditionalities may continue to rock many recipient countries. Neumayer (2003), states that human rights tend to have a greater role when it comes to multilateral aid but donors rarely use this for decision making on aid allocation. However, Lebovic and Voeten (2009), through statistical analysis, conclude that there is a correlation between poor human rights performance using UNHCR resolutions and large reductions from World Bank and multilateral loan commitments although this is not the case for bilateral aid.

Given my development experience in both East Africa and now the Horn of Africa, it is evident that there are international influences on national politics and development. For example, Kenya, in a bid to become a middle-income country, formulated Vision 2030 which is its key National Development Plan guiding the implementation of development along social, economic and political pillars. Launched in 2008 by the then sitting president, Mwai Kibaki, the vision lays ambitious objectives to be met. However, despite the desire to achieve the goals set out in this document, Kenya lacks all the financial resources required to realise the envisioned log term development. In 2012, Kenya sought to invite investors to support some of its key programs. This was tied with the London 2012 Olympics. While Kenya continues to pursue discussions of support to these programs, possible donors may not want to entirely support the initiatives as they are but customise them to the donors needs. For more details, read through these documents on Vision 2030

Kenya_VISION_2030-final October_2007

Definitely, not all countries have been able to withstand the donor pressure hence some recipient countries have had to realign their development policies, plans and goals to those of donors so as to retain donor funding. The cartoon below is a good way of demonstrating unequal powers in aid politics where donor agencies have an upper hand at the negotiating table.

It was only an idea

Another prominent way in which international influences national politics and development is through the role of aid in geopolitics. Geopolitics is about relationships between two different countries. Also, geopolitics helps us to understand how politics and aid contributes to relationships between countries as well as how this relationship relates with the poverty cycle, debt crises/donor dependency in developing countries. Geopolitics has come into sharp focus more recently due to the rapid change in development funding capacities and growing economies evidenced by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Arica (BRICS). The negotiating table between the BRICS and traditional donors (US and UK) now seems to be changing. As highlighted by Duncan Green in his Oxfam blog titled, “The BRICS Bank gathers momentum: another sign of the world’s shifting power balance”, available on, the BRICS are in 2013 and 2014 scheduled to discuss progress in the opening a new international bank focusing on infrastructure and sustainable development with funding to a tune of USD 50 billion. Already, most massive investments in developing countries are now funded through the BRICS. China especially has made massive infrastructural investments in Africa in the last three years. I remember watching a televised interview on Poverty on BBC late last year in which the president of Equatorial Guinea said that he preferred funding from China because it had fewer donor conditionalities which he considered more favourable than other traditional western donor agencies. However, Power and Mohan (2010) caution that China’s drive to investment in Africa could be driven by access to natural resources such as energy and raw materials which were similar interests in colonial and post-colonial Western donors.

Other international influences to national politics and development may be evidenced by international non-state actors such as philanthropic organisations or even the recent focus of Diaspora investments in their home countries. This form of aid especially through the Diaspora community, The Gates foundation, Faith based organisations and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) has substantially increased in the last ten years but sometimes goes unnoticed. Rogers (2011), reflects on these efforts and highlights the fact that these efforts sometimes focus on a small number of institutions and do not necessarily target the poorest communities. In some contexts where people are in dire need of basic needs, for example fragile states, this type of private aid so to speak sometimes promote the culture of handouts which undermines the role of the state and sustainable development. It is important to strike a balance between accountability of aid so that this does not negatively influence national politics and development as well as learn from past mistakes.


In conclusion, international influences should be as clear as possible so as not to leave negotiating parties (especially the aid recipient who are at greater obligation) guessing. The cartoon below can be used symbolically to demonstrate how there can be different aid recipient views to donor aid depending on your position on the negotiation table.

Elephant image

-Duncan, G. Oxfam blog titled, “The BRICS Bank gathers momentum: another sign of the world’s shifting power balance”. Available online on [Accessed on 20th May 2013].
-Lebovic, E. and Voeten, E. (2009), ‘The Cost of Shame: International Organizations and Foreign Aid in the Punishing of Human Rights Violators’, Journal of Peace Research, 46(1), pp.79-97.
-Morgan, J. (2012). Uganda to officially pass ‘Kill The Gays’ bill. 12th November 2012. [Available Online] on [Accessed on 30th May 2013].
-Moyo, D. (2010) Dead Aid. Why Aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.
-Neumayer, E. (2003), ‘Is Respect for Human Rights Rewarded? An Analysis of Total Bilateral and Multilateral Aid Flows’, Human Rights Quarterly, 25(2) pp.510-527.
-Power, M. and G. Mohan (2010), ‘Towards a critical geopolitics of China’s engagement with African development’, Geopolitics 15(3) pp.462–495.

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The role of the state in development politics


‘The state’ has various connotations. The re-known definition by Weber is one that sees the state as a monopoly over territory/boundaries and legitimate utilization of force within its very own boundaries. Others such as Midgal (2004:p.16) define the state as, “a field of power marked by the use and threat of violence” while Chandran (2008) in a paper titled A definition of the state available on views the state as an association or entity that is political. While all these views can be seen as mere definitions of the term state, they actually imply the role of the state a role that has not only just started but evolved over time.

The history of the state and its role dates back to modernisation theory. At the time, the US was viewed as the model of a modern state and all other states were viewed secondary due to the fact that they were more traditionally run and heavily reliant on agriculture. However, with the modernisation theory, the US influenced formation of modernised states in Europe and supported industrialisation. In countries that were colonised, states were formed through principles of colonisation and decolonisation where structures for the state were inherited from one regime to another. During these processes, the state was viewed as a leading agent into modernisation, an avenue for aid channelling and a change agent for influencing the economy and society (Rutan, 1991; Batley, 2006 and Mackintosh, 1992). However, the heavy focus that had been bestowed upon the state faded away in the 1970’s and 1980’s due to its ineffectiveness, restrictiveness, invasive or unresponsive nature (Mackintosh, 1992). In fact, neo-liberalism took force and brought to the fore the state as a part of the problem of development. Mackintosh (1992) discusses in detail how the state became “unresponsive but invasive as well as inefficient but restrictive. Mackintosh (1992:p. 63) provides the following characteristics of unresponsive but invasive state: “Restricts freedom and imposes its view of how people should live, reduces people’s control over their private lives and rosters dependency rather than encouraging self-reliance.” For inefficient states, Mackintosh (1992) attributes these to private interests occasioned by monopolies and bureaucracies and resource wastage due to income earning sought for individual purposes. These attributes in the end render a state ineffective.

What remains evident for me is that challenges in the role of the state continue to manifest today. In Africa for example, the state has been accused of corruption through misappropriation of funds or simply outright embezzlement of funds. Moyo (2010) quotes two examples where Zaire’s former president (Mobutu) is said to have plundered approximately US$ 5 billion given as aid to improve the livelihoods of his populace while one of Nigeria’s former president (Abacha) stashed aid in Swiss bank accounts with US$ 700 million. Ngonyo (2010) points out how the Kenyan government embezzled Education bilateral funding worth Kes. 103 million (approximately US$ 1.2 million) leading to discontinued funding in 2010 by Department for International Development (DFID). While some of these funds may have been forcefully recovered, what remains true is that the state had a role to play in these instances. Also, in other countries such as Afghanistan and Mexico, there has been evidence of the role of the state or its agents in shadow economies such as those promoting drugs as well as the trade of natural resources like timber in Cambodia and minerals such as diamonds in conflict prone in Sierra, Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Global Witness presents a detailed explanation of this via

Dealing with these challenges is indeed no walk in the park. Mackintosh (1992) discusses several neo-liberal ways in which states can be reformed such as through cutting back on employment, reduction in good and service provision, privatisation, contracting out of services, increased costs of state services, spending less on social services and introducing competitive processes such as tendering, creating autonomous agencies, decentralisation and devolution. As part of radical change, the reform agenda also included Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in the 1980’s which failed a factor that has been widely attributed to poor governance.

The political regime in a country influences the state and its role. As evidenced by (Fritz and Menocal, 2006), if the state is not able to cater effectively for its citizenry then there is likely to be evidence of various types of states such as weak (qualified by limited decision making and implementing capacity), fragile (low decision making and implementing capacity) and failed states (collapsed decision-making and implementing capacity with complete disintegration which has been true in Somalia for over 20 years although now changing slowly).

From my personal experience, the role of the state has been compromised by lack of shared vision between its leaders, institutions and citizens. Also, various leaders drive their own agenda which quickly fades away with the entry of another regime. Some leaders in African countries have been accused of overstaying in power by tampering with the consitution and making terms open ended. Others, simply rig elections to remain in power. In incidences of this nature, the role of the state is totally manipulated and controlled by the leaders in their favour.

It is no doubt that civil society and private sector growth has blossomed following donor funding of proposals that depict the ineffective and inefficient role of the state. In most instances, this type of donor funding has resulted to uncoordinated development and duplication of resources. To redress this, donor agencies should support efforts that demonstrate synergies and complementarity, mutual working relationships between the state, civil society, private sector and citizenry. Indeed, none of these institutions can replace the state. Working in Somalia at the moment presents an excellent opportunity for me to be engaged in various development consortia involving the Government line ministries, local NGOs, International NGOs and the local communities. I am quite happy that in the last two years, there has been a shift in mind sets among donors to support this way of working which is likely to realize better sustainability of development initiatives.

-Batley, R. (2006), “The Changing Role of the State in Development”, In Alam, M. & Nickson, A. (Eds.), Managing Change in Local Governance. London, Commonwealth Secretariat 11-24.
-Chandran (2008). A Definition of the State. Department of Government. London School of Economics, London. Presented at a conference on Dominations and Powers: The Nature of the State, University of Wisconsin, Madison, March 29, 2008. Available on Accessed on 30th May 2013
-Mackintosh, M. (1992) “Questioning the Sate”. In Wuyts, M.;Mackintosh, M. & Hewitt, T. (Eds.) Development Policy and Public Action. Oxford, Oxford University Press 61-89.
-Migdal, J. (2004) State in Society: Studying how states and societies transform and constitute one another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
-Moyo, D. (2010) Dead Aid. Why Aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.
-Ngonyo, A. (2010) Corruption in Kenya’s Education System: Need for Anticipatory Planning Strategies. London: Institute of Education, University of London.
-Ruttan, V. (1991) What Happened to Political Development? Economic Development and Cultural Change, 39: (2): 265-292.

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Democracy and development politics


“What really is democracy and how does it relate to development politics?” While there is no single answer or consensus in definition and measure of democracy, it remains an important discussion in development politics. As evidenced by Dahl (1989), democracy has to do with elections and this may be further qualified as elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information and associational autonomy. These definitions form a basis for the qualification of democracies into procedural where it is all about elections and also looking at the nature of democracy where it is focused on performance hence the expectations of citizens on the outcomes of democracy. The latter focus on outcomes of democracy helps to better understand political participation, protection of rights and personal freedoms through access to quality judicial services (Menocal, 2007).

Democracy is a concept that has been in discussion for years on end. Huntington (1991) has represented democratisation in the world using three waves implying seasons or timings when a group of countries became democratic around the same time. While Huntington (1991) highlights three waves (first wave in 1828-1926, second wave in 1943-1962, third wave in 1974 to mid 1990’s) he also appreciates that there were reversals, the first from 1922-1942 and the second from 1958-1975). Important to note is that these waves have been defined using the procedural attribute of elections.
Specifically, looking at the democracy wave in Africa brings forth an interesting twist to democracy. This democracy has been associated with increased 1990s multi-party elections, fair elections, as well as the handing over of power from one regime to another peacefully. The Economist in an article entitled Democracy in sub-Saharan Africa: It’s progress, even if it’s patchy; available on, outlines these examples from South Africa and Zambia. However, the article also outlines some challenges with African democracy especially pertaining to the huge expenditure in elections which is rocking the continent yet such expenditure does not necessarily indicate free and fair elections. In addition, some African Presidents (Rwanda and Malawi) have not been able to handle critics of their legacies and this has resulted to harassment, torture and killings of their critics or even expulsion of critics. Other challenges noted with democracy in Africa include the striking the balance between presidentialism and paliamentarism. Simply put, presidentialism has leadership focusing on personal rule, personalised networks and lack of formal legislation or endorsement through parliamentary systems while paliamentarism helps leadership focus greater accountability systems especially to minorities. A quick overview of these concepts is summarised by Chris Blattman’s (2009) in his article, “The rise of presidentialism” available on Clientelism also possesses a challenge in African democracy given that it encourages the ‘dangling of carrots to citizens’ and linking political support to goods and services for citizens which are more often than not basic rights for the citizens. Clientelism has continued to negatively affect the culture of transparency and accountability by promoting corruption and looting of natural resources (Erdmann and Engel, 2006 and Lockwood, 2006). Some of the roots to clientelism in Africa are associated with colonialism and indirect rule which made a clear distinction between leaders and subjects with systems marred by authoritarian coercion and patronage (Lockwood, 2006).

While the challenges mentioned in the paragraph above appear more evident in Africa, it is worth noting that they are also applicable to other contexts such as Latin America and Asia. According to Stokes (2012) in “Brokers, Voters and Clientelism” available on, clientelism may be seen as political distribution of goods which can be done through a combination of formal and informal systems. Cited in this document is the distribution of emergency food aid which was significantly tampered with by Argentine local authorities so as to ensure linkages of the food aid to political votes as well as the housing improvement program in Singapore which was linked to voting and would only benefit those who voted in favour of the regime and punish those who did not.

Measuring democracy poses a challenge in terms of standardization. This is because several measures exist each with its own criteria and scoring system as evidenced by the Freedom House and The Economist Intelligence Unit measure (Democracy Index, 2011). While this essentially discuss the maximalist and minimalist approaches in measuring democracy, for me the simple question is whether perceived democracy in this measures really relates to the increases access to personal freedoms and protection of basic human rights among citizens.

In conclusion, it’s no doubt that People and Politics are central to the democracy debate. True democracy for me means that citizens are able to access personal freedoms and protection of basic human rights as well as quality judicial systems which are not provided on the basis of alliances to political leadership and ethnicity. While I appreciate that Africa is still has a long way to go, I am now feel better placed as a change agent. To start with, for negative clientelism to stop, this has to be discussed more explicitly as part of civic education and leaders and citizens engaging in this behaviour brought to book.


-Blattman, C. (2009). Blog available on 8th January 2009. Accessed on 7th June 2013.
-Dahl, R. (1989). Democracy and its critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
-Erdmann, G. And Engel, U. (2006). “Neopartrimonialism Revisited – Beyond a Catch-All Concept” GIGA Working Papers. No. 16, February, German Institute for Global and Area Studies, Research Program: Legitimacy and Efficiency of Political Systems.
-Huntington, S.P. (1991). The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. United States: University of Oklahoma Press.
-Menocal, A.R. (2007). “Analysing the relationship between democracy and development: Defining basic concepts and assessing key linkages”, Wilton Park Conference on Democracy and Development, Wilton Park.
-Stokes, S., Dunning, T., Nazareno, M. and Brusco, V. (2012). Brokers, Voters and Clientelism. Yale University and Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Available on [Accessed on 7th June 2013].
-The Economist. Democracy Index 20111.
-The Economist. “Democracy in sub-Saharan Africa: It’s progress, even if it’s patchy”. (Oct 1st 2011). Available on Accessed on 7th June 2013.

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The primacy of politics in development and theories of political development


Understanding politics and its relationship with development remains central and crucial to both challenges and successes of development. As a good starting point, understanding the link between politics and development calls for either defining these two terms separately and then combined either as political development or development politics. Development has been defined to mean different things to various people. Some of the commonly referenced definitions are: development as growth (World Bank in WDR 1990), development as freedoms (Sen, 2001) and development as good change (Chambers, 1997). According to Leftwich (2000), defining development cannot be done without looking at it from a political angle and politics is key to understanding development failure or success. Looking at the two terms together forms an interesting combination of political development and development politics. While political development focuses on processes and systems, development politics is more about relationships and more so between the haves and have-nots or better still the rich and poor countries.

The primacy of development also enables us to reflect on the history of politics in theories of development. The modernisation theory has been acknowledged as a development theory that embraced politics as well as the democracy in the western world. This may demonstrated by how the United States proposed a one size fits all approach to development and pushed for this agenda through the Washington Consensus. Although this theory was initially introduced as part of an academic discourse, the modernisation theory is credited for explaining the shift between traditional/agricultural societies to more modern societies characterised by industrialisation (Gilman, 2003; Nickson 2012 and Greig, 2007). This political focus was however replaced by the economics debate 1980s-1990s and in the late 1990s, the political debate in development came back into the limelight as a way of explaining poverty, inequality and featured prominently in discussions on Millennium Development Goals.

Another interesting facet in development politics is the debate about how donors supporting development embrace politics in the development agenda. As stated by Unswoth (2009), politics has either been viewed as part of the problem and not solution and donor agencies struggle with various barriers to politics such as mental models on how development happens, maintaining status quo and balancing between financial and technical support and the short time-frame of some development projects. Despite this, several donors (DFID, World Bank and Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) have now moved on to embrace political analysis in development and this has helped to link social, economic and political research into the development agenda.

Having worked in the development sector with aid agencies for a total of twelve years in East Africa and now in the Horn of Africa, I consider the primacy of politics in the development debate only interesting but mindboggling. I appreciate that politics has not always contributed to development but also political underdevelopment and agree with Hickey (2008) that politics affects poor and marginalised popole in critical ways that leave them more vulnerable and less dignified. In Kenya for example, the 2007 disputed elections led to post-election violence leading to 800-1500 deaths and 180,000-250,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were left in dire need of basic needs and services ( To date and despite several other election pledges, some of these IDPs remain unattended to 5-6years after the elections creating a further disconnect between these citizens and the state as well as widening the gap between the rich and the poor. In Somalia, following the collapse of the central government in 1991 and lack of access to basic needs and services, many Somalis fled to neighbouring countries such as Kenya. For example in 2011, the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya was estimated to have been hosting 400,000 refugees up from its carrying capacity of 90,000 (ACCORD, 2012). Despite this mass exodus of Somalis to either neighbouring countries or emigration to western countries, many Somali families continue to leave in IDP camps or slums in major towns as depicted by the pictures below.

IDP camp Bosaso slum

The link between politics and development also continues to be evident in my everyday work life in Somalia. This is well exemplified by the insecurity in Somalia where there are threats of Al Shabaab who have been linked to bombings and suicide attacks in Mogadishu targeting the government premises as well as International Agency convoys. This has continued to deny access to populations in dire need of basic needs and services of the most vulnerable women and children. While peace keeping forces from the African Union (AU) have sought to restore peace this has not been without challenges. In some occasions, the very same peacekeepers have either been accused of trading arms for natural resources and causing harm through sexual abuse of women. The latter formed key discussions in the G8 summit discussions in London held on 10th and 11th April 2013 where similar concerns of sexual violence resonated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as evidenced in Indeed, the article on Getting Somalia Right this time available on presents a good challenge to those involved in development of Somalia. After reading this article, I couldn’t help but ask, are we continuing to do more of the same thing which don’t work and justifying this by using fancy terms? It is no doubt that there is better understanding required on what the Somali community want for Somalia. Civil Society and International Agencies do not need to shy away from politics in Somalia by focusing on peace building, governance, education, natural resource management and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion as well as limited advocacy to influence policy change. Aid agencies do not need to remain non-partisan so as to co-exist with other aid agencies, government, militia groups, private sector and communities all operating in a fragile environment.

To change the status quo, development politics discussions should be introduced with all stakeholders. Personally and in the context of my work, I believe I can integrate the development politics agenda in the analytical tools we use during program design such as stakeholder analysis, problem trees, analysis on the underlying causes of poverty and do no harm approaches. Also, during program reviews, as opposed to only taking stock of deliverables in terms of project inputs, outputs, outcomes and impact, contextual analysis in terms of development politics and taking stalk of what is changing and how this reinforces development or causes underdevelopment should be also be discussed as part of reflective and learning practice. In addition, documenting these experiences for others to learn will be useful given the current sharp focus on Somalia in various summits such as the G8, African Union (AU) and other one-on-one discussions involving Kenya and UK as well as Kenya and Somalia.

-ACCORD (2012). Conflict Trends. Issue 2. 2012. Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping in Africa. Training for Peace
-Chambers, R.(1997). Whose reality counts? Putting the last first. London: Intermediate Publications Technology.
-De Waal, A. (2012). The New York Times. Getting Somalia Right this time. 21st February 2012 [online]. Available on [Accessed on 7th June 2013].
-Greig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging Global Inequality: development Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
-Hickey, S. (2008), The return of politics in development studies I: getting lost within the poverty agenda?, Progress in Development Studies, 8: (4).
-Jones, P. (2013) Congo: We did whatever we wanted, says soldier who raped 53 women. The Guardian. 11th April 2013 [online]. Available on [Accessed on 10th April 2013].
-Leftwich, A. (2000), States of Development: On the Primacy of Politics in Development. Cambridge: Polity Press.
-Gilman, N. (2003) Mandarins of the future. Modernisation Theory in Cold War America, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press.
-Nickson, A. (2012) Modernisation Theory Critical Approaches to Development. Lecture. International Development Department, University of Birmingham.
-Sen (2001). Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press
-The World Bank (1990). World Development Report (WDR):Poverty. World Bank: World Bank and Oxford University Press.
– Unsworth, S. (2009), What’s politics got to do with it?: Why donors find it so hard to come to terms with politics, and why this matters. Journal of International Development, 21: (6): 883-895.

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