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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