Dan Banik and Simone Dietrich discuss the strategies adopted by donor agencies to minimize risk in aid projects, how and why some donors bypass local authorities, the politics of aid within donor countries and how donor agencies typically brand their aid abroad.
Simone Dietrich is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Geneva. Her research interests are in International Development, international and comparative political economy and democratization. She is a member of the EGAP network that promotes rigorous knowledge accumulation, innovation, and evidence-based policy across development domains. Prior to her academic career, she was development practitioner in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In her new book States, Markets and Foreign Aid, Simone explores why some donors (e.g. US, UK, Sweden) systematically bypass local authorities in recipient countries while implementing aid projects, while others (such as Germany, France, and Japan) tend to engage and work closely with local authorities. She argues that ideological orientations about the role of the state in donor countries shape the structure of foreign aid bureaucracies and, therefore, influence current aid delivery patterns and how donors approach international development.
Professor Dan Banik, University of Oslo, Twitter: @danbanik @GlobalDevPod
In Pursuit of Development
Banik Congrats on your new book Simone and welcome to the show.
Dietrich Thank you very much Dan, I am really excited to be part of your program.
Banik Over the years you have been studying foreign aid, you have been studying donor decision making, and how effective aid is in terms of achieving different goals in developing country settings. So, let's begin with a very general question here, in relation to foreign aid, Simone, what do you think actually works well?
Dietrich Overtime, since the aid effectiveness debate started, it has evolved considerably, so if we look at the variety of aid projects and the kind of projects and programs that donors have pursued over the past 20-30 years, there are particular types of projects where there really is no question about whether they have been good for people. So, if you think, for example, about the global alliance on vaccines and immunisations, it has been a tremendous success in saving people’s lives, the United States PEPFAR program has been a key to saving lives by putting millions of people on antiretroviral treatment in an effort to contain the HIV AIDS pandemic. So, it is clearly undeniable that aid has contributed to development, and particularly so in programs that are in the global health sector, I would argue.
Banik Staying on this issue of success, because this is something that a lot of people are interested in, aid agencies, academics, policy makers, there is this pressure to document success and in that situation of course, aid officials at headquarters and also on the ground typically use different types of measures to measure what really is working. Here, I have noted over the years, what one donor considers to be effective, may not be considered by other donors to be effective; so, I am particularly interested in hearing your views on what do you think characterises the aid effectiveness debate at the moment? What do you think donor agencies should be doing more of? What should they be prioritising more of in relation to this aid effectiveness agenda?
Dietrich Again, a very good question. The empirical evidence and let me approach this topic by looking a little bit at what the empirical evidence says, when we think about the early stages of the aid effectiveness debate that we had between the late 1990s and early 2000s, development economists produced nearly 40 studies on aid and growth and with a few exceptions, all show a positive relationship between aid and growth. There are some qualifications about the robustness of the results but overall, the evidence is there and that indicates a positive relationship. But what the problem is, what people have been responding to when it comes to these findings is that these findings don't suggest that foreign aid alone will lift a country out of poverty and I think this is where the critics come in and, they really try to shed light on what doesn't work in foreign aid. Now, I am somebody who believes that we shouldn't overestimate aid and what it can achieve, but I am also not prepared to be an aid critic and argue that because aid may have negative consequences on governance in particular situations, that we should eliminate it. There is this new generation of political scientists and development economists, myself included, that are trying to approach this question about aid effectiveness from a more nuanced perspective that tries to get at the mechanisms that link aid to outcomes that scholars are interested in and that go beyond the aid growth regressions and that really shed a light on how aid, not only shapes more specific development outcomes, but how it also shapes political dynamics in recipient countries. Part of that new generation of scholars, and you are also included in that camp, I would argue, is that there is a recognition that it is not just what is going on in recipient countries that accounts for whether aid is effective or not, but there is a move towards really trying to understand the extent to which donor practices and their approaches to international development can actually contribute to, or sometimes harm and undermine effective aid. Today we have new data sets that capture variations in donor practices such as the QuODA by the Centre for Global Development that tried to measure donor good practices, and there are efforts, here is where my book comes in, States Markets and Foreign Aid, that tries to understand how domestic politics shapes how donor’s approach development aboard; how it constrains them and how it then influences development on the ground in recipient countries. I think a key of the aid effectiveness puzzle in trying to enter this debate on aid effectiveness is to really drill down on the mechanisms that connects aid with developmental outcomes that we care about; one could look at social sector aid and infant mortality rates, instead of doing a big aid and growth regression, we are narrowing the causal story, we are trying to examine smaller bits of the pie, of the development pie and we try to understand donors, not just as agents that can freely choose whatever they like to pick in the world of development ideas or the strategic objectives that they might have in recipient governments, but that they are also constrained by their domestic politics. So, understanding and drilling down to the origins to why it is that donors give aid the way they do helps us understand what motivates them, what makes up the mandate of their organisation, and explains to us why they do aid the way they do.
Banik Let's focus on what donors do in recipient countries. It turns out, as you write about in this excellent book of yours, that an important focus for many donors is to minimise risk, they wish to somehow minimise the risk of funds going astray, there is corruption that needs to be combated, they want to make sure that the projects will not encounter difficult implementation challenges, that somehow the project goals, however lofty they are, will be met, and that, if there are any glaring failures, they want to avoid these because obviously they will be criticised back home. In this respect, over the years, I have noticed that one common feature among many donor agencies is to support organisation’s projects, etc, that already have a certain standing, they are of a certain size, organisations with a track record, it could be civil society organisations and others. While this is not a bad thing to support these organisations with a track record, with a big bureaucracy, with fancy buildings etc, I often find there is less willingness to support a small rural organisation that is doing innovative work. But since this organisation does not have the organisational capacity to generate fancy reports, to get their accounts audited, to properly somehow document their success, they may not receive donor funding. While they may be doing great work, these small rural innovative organisations are really struggling to attract donor interest, and they are struggling to get resources to fund their activity. In terms of this tendency of donors to minimise risk, do you think there is an excessive focus sometimes by donors to minimise risk, that in turn, prevents aid policies from being perhaps more bold, more daring, more path breaking?
Dietrich I absolutely agree with this position, maybe we can sort of talk it through and think about why they are so obsessed with risk and how that influences these decisions. We can never forget that donor governments are accountable, they are accountable to taxpayers, aid agencies are accountable to or scrutinised by the congress and the media, so, rather than thinking of aid agencies as black boxes we should think of them as agents, and agents that are accountable to principles, and where principles set up particular structures and rules that will allow the principles to hold the agents accountable. So, we often in foreign aid think about principle agent relationships when it comes to the donor and the recipient government, but in reality, a lot of the donor practices need to be understood in this principle agent framework where it is actually the aid agency that is held accountable for what they are doing. I would even argue, and this is true from I would say across the board, that compared to domestic policy, foreign aid is even more heavily scrutinised because it involves sending money abroad, so, in order to justify grants sent to what can be highly corrupt countries, there needs to be these mechanisms in place, and I think it is a good thing to promote accountability in this setting, to ensure that the bureaucracy responds to its principle. So, that said, these rules and practices, and more importantly the kind of accountability structures that are in place to ensure that aid agencies go out and do good things with aid, I would say, varies across donor countries. So, to all donor agencies, aid capture by elites is a bad thing, we have all heard of anecdotes where aid has been associated with the constructions of mansions or the purchase of private plans, and a recent study by World Bank Anderson et al. documents that, maybe you have seen it, that aid disbursements to highly aid dependent countries coincides with sharp increases in bank deposits.
Banik Indeed, one of my colleagues here in Oslo was part of that study.
Dietrich Oh wonderful. Yes, so, these financial sectors are known for being secretive in private wealth management, and so, clearly from an accountability perspective, these are things that are bad, trying to work around the risks of aid capture is important. Now, you have mentioned tendencies or standard operating procedure that tend to favour organisations with which the agency has lost any context. Again, the fact that contracts have succeed in the past, or that one has a trusting relationship with a particular contractor or NGOs works in favour, in addition to the fact that aid agencies need to push out money, and they more easily do so in setting where they know who they are dealing with, and what to expect when it comes to the implementation. But of course, the downside of this is that it is a fairly risk averse approach is averse in terms of fiduciary risk that comes with allocating millions into different countries all year long across many years. There is also results risk that encourages aid officials to work with familiar faces and with familiar organisations and then sort of miss the innovative potential that smaller organisations can have in the world of aid.
Banik You've written this really interesting, relevant book, very timely book, Simone, States Markets and Foreign Aid, and in this book of course, you explore why donors promote and practice very different approaches to international development. A crucial feature here is institutional bypass, something my Malawian colleague, Michael Chasukwa and I have actually studied in Malawi; how donors tend to typically bypass, not all donors, some, tend to bypass the local administrative structure in the hope of minimising risk, sometimes also justifying it in term of ensuring more effective delivery of services, we found earmarked funding specialised procurement procedures, and numerous so called project management units are some of the mechanisms that donors have used to circumvent involving national institutions. We concluded in this study, Michael and I, that such bypass practices of bypassing local administrative and national administrative structures may, in the short term, achieve certain gains. It may show a donor to be very successful, make a donor very visible, but the long-term impact is much more uncertain and that there are some serious problems of bypassing local institutions because on the one hand you could have the fragmentation of aid and the lack of donor coordination, but you also have the general weakening of policy space and the domestic capacity to formulate and implement development policy is often compromised. In your work, in your book, I found it really fascinating to see how certain donors systematically bypass local authorities while others don't. So, while some are bypassing, others are actually actively working with the local administrative and political entities even though the donors are facing very similar conditions. So, tell us, tell our listeners, how bypass works in practice, in the countries that you have studied, the countries that these donors that you have studies are active in, how do these donors, Simone, initiate the bypass? How do they then communicate the decision to bypass local authorities? And finally, Simone, how do they actually justify this decision to bypass?
Dietrich Yeah, that is an excellent set of questions that really go to the heart of what I am trying to do. In your introduction just now, or in your description, you raised a range of issues, including trade-offs of these competing, or let's call them for the moment, different approaches of development, where we have one tactic which one could call bypass, and the other one, here would be engagement with the government in the implementation of aid. Of course, it is not an either-or decision, donors engage in both ways, but they position them predominantly on one versus the other, often under very similar recipient country conditions and international economic conditions. So, distinguishing between these two approaches, of course, requires a definition; when we think of bypass we think of aid bureaucracy, or aid officials delegating the implementation of projects to non-state entities, this could be a foreign NGO, a foreign NGO/local NGO collaboration, it could also be an international organisation like a trust fund like you yourself have studied in Mozambique, or it could be a private for profit actor like Chemonics in the U.S context which have risen to prominence in the aid delivery sector over the more recent period. So, what matters in that definition of bypass is that donors do not engage the recipient government in the implementation of foreign aid, but that they select NGOs and hold them directly accountable for what it is that they want to achieve. So, imagine now a world where risk of aid capture is high, we could go to Haiti, we could go to Sri Lanka, and we could say, you know, there is a weak, fragile government where there is a very high risk that aid gets captured by intended corruption or simply falls prey to lack of absorptive capacity, in such an environment it may be a right strategy to try the implementation of aid to work around national structures. Now, if we not get into a world where there is less risk, where the recipient government promises the kind of monitoring system that is able and capable of taking charge of the implementation of activities, here, I am thinking of, for example, the training of statistical capacity in the ministry of finance where they have mechanisms in place that allow donors to contribute to effective capacity building without having to worry about these funds going to waste, and they can do that by keeping in touch with the recipient government and by engaging with the recipient government. So, we now have these two types of approaches, and as you said in the introduction to this mini section, is that donors really vary in the degree to which they pursue one or the other. We could pick the United States as an example or the United Kingdom, but also Scandinavian donors that are more likely to take the bypass route, and I argue, and on the other hand, sorry there are donors like Germany or France for example, that choose to promote more government engagement. I argue in the book that the origin of the tendency to do one over the other in similar conditions is shaped, in part, by the overarching governing philosophy that donors adopted at the time when the aid bureaucracy was created. So, in other ways, in short, the way that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan thought about the world as they embraced the new liberal doctrine in the 1970s, early 80s which comprehensively restructured the public sector still shapes what the US and the UK are doing in developing countries today.
Banik I find it quite fascinating you mention Scandinavia, but that is not my understanding of how say Norwegian Norad does, and I found it quite interesting that Sweden is characterised as bypassing in your book, whereas Germany isn't. You could switch this around, because in Malawi, Germany could be seen as bypassing and not Sweden. You were saying this earlier that maybe one donor would perhaps be able to adopt both strategies at the same time, that you could, in one sector bypass, whereas work with the local authorities more closely in another sector, is that possible? What is it about Sweden? I find that quite intriguing because I wouldn't associate Sweden to adopt a bypass kind of tactic, you know, the US and UK, I wouldn't mind thinking of them as bypassing, but not Sweden. So, can you say a bit more about the Swedish case?
Dietrich Sure, so again I think that donors don't just do one or the other, they try to do both, but they have a propensity to do one more than the other. We can have a conversation about which one is better, which is not what the book is all about, but they essentially, and this is sort of the story or argument that I am trying to put forth, is that their domestic structures inform whether they are more likely to bypass or engage under similar conditions. You asked about Sweden and maybe this serves to actually develop the argument or the causal mechanism behind it. So, Sweden is a good example where we see paradigmatic changes in the organisation of the political economy. If, in particular, we focus on bureaucratic structures, that with financial crisis and economic crisis in the 1980s, early 1990s, really comprehensively reorganised the bureaucratic structures to organise accountability more at the level of the individual, to ensure that the bureaucracy would be more streamlined, because this was viewed, at the time, as the solution to deal with globalisation, and to deal with these existing challenges, internationally challenges. So, organising the public sector in the new liberal image didn't just apply, as I argue, in a document in the area of foreign aid, but it really applies across the board. If you look at the Swedish education system, housing situations, or care for the elderly, we have a system where there is a state that is there and provides the means, but then, it is really up to individual choice when it comes to choosing which home or which school people select into or want to send their kids to. So, this idea about individual choice has really shaped the way that society is run and that individuals make decisions when it comes to services and selecting homes and for seniors and children. What I argue is that the beliefs that are motivating this transformational change are in fact part of the neo liberal play book, that we still have a state that is willing to fund, so Sweden is different to the US and the UK in that regard, but how service delivery comes about or how it is delivered is different. So that is how I think of the foreign aid context; you can still have a very generous government, and Sweden really prides itself with giving a lot of effort in the area of foreign aid, but then the way that this gets delivered across countries is driven by these playbooks that comes straight out of the private sector that introduce very short time horizons when it comes to the measurement of success that requires donors and aid agencies to stay on top and focus on short term results over more long term gains in development. As we know, in some cases, even failed projects turn out to be hugely successful down the road because, for development or for projects to really play out in some instances, much longer time horizons are needed to understand their impact and how they have affected development.
Banik The long term perspective is often highlighted in these aid debates so every-time a new government comes, a new party comes to power, there is this tendency, not in all countries, in some countries, to chop and cut down on what the previous country was doing and loan something else. In some of the recent work I am doing now with my doctoral student Nicholai Hegertun, we find that in Norway the politics that characterise aid is quite interesting in the sense that no new government actually cuts down on anything, they just pile on new stuff, so there is a continuation rather than stopping something. So, that in a way, many would say is positive, but on the other hand it also leads to an increase in the aid budget, and some would say a lack of priority that one really has to keep updating the project portfolio more regularly. It was interesting what you said about the playbooks, the neo liberal, managerial playbooks that some of these aid agencies use. Obviously, these playbooks and the political culture of aid agencies that has developed over many years, Simone, are of course shaped by national politics so you have different political parties showing different support. You see this in Norway, that left leaning political parties are more positive to use the rhetoric of solidarity with the world's poorest, they may be willing to even mention this in their election manifestos, they talk about this during election campaigns, and not to say that right wing parties are not interested in aid, but maybe they are interested in different versions, maybe they couch their support in terms of support for the private sector, using businesses, that somehow we have to make a case for aid to also serve our national interest in donor countries. There is that traditional left-right divide, how do you think those kinds of domestic politics, the priorities of political parties, how do they, in turn, shape the aid agencies? Do you think these aid agencies are susceptible to these changes in governments or is there, you find, aid agencies have a political culture that is so deeply entrenched, that the change of government really does not have an immediate change in the way the playbook works?
Dietrich That's a very interesting question, in the sense that, what you are introducing here is a new political actor if you will. Before we talked about aid agencies and bureaucrats, and we understand them as insulated from the executive, or this is what 101bureaucracy in the Bavarian spirit would argue. But now, you are introducing political parties that assume positions of power and that have their own views about how aid should be done. The way I think about it is that donors are on these trajectories which are spelled out by these rule books that were imposed at the time of the creation of the aid bureaucracy that can be reformed, as in the case of the UK and the US in the 70s, 80s and onward, but before these neo liberal reforms really dismantled the aid bureaucracy, in the US and UK, aid was very statist, it had much more of a government-to-government logic ingrained. So, I believe that once you are on a particular trajectory, then the rule books are going to constrain officials to stay on the rule book and stay on message, but when parties come in, and here I am thinking of Andrew Mitchell in the UK coming in a few years ago, and in Sweden, Gunilla Carlsson, assuming important positions in development from conservative parties, they placed even more emphasis on the neo liberal playbook. They required more indicators, they required more bean counting to ensure that their more critical constituents who really worry about aid going to waste are not feeling worried about their tax payer money. We are seeing marginal shifts in these periods, there is clear opposition to aid given to budget support, because it is the least ear marked, the most fungible type of aid if you will, and so, we at the margins, we will find that changes in a political party will also change the practices a little bit, but the trajectory stays. If we want to bring this to very contemporary politics at the moment, Samantha Power at USAID is really trying very hard to shift the USAID more, or open it more, to government-to-government engagement. But of course, the vested interests and the rule books make this very difficult, so, unless she expends a lot of political capital to whip people behind her, or she actually promotes meaningful structural change, it is not clear whether these ideas of doing more government-to-government engagement, particularly in fragile contexts like Afghanistan where we just saw that donors were there but they didn’t manage to build a functioning government, that in these hotspots just doing contractual aid and doing it without integrating the government can be dangerous. So, political parties matter, political ideology matters, but in my particular case, I think it matters more at the margins because they expand or hone more onto the rule books than really causing aid officials to change their thinking.
Banik In this context of course I believe that political parties or whichever government is in power, whichever political coalition comes to power, the goal they often have, one of the most important things they wish to do through aid, at least in some of these generous donor countries, is to brand their country, to use aid as a foreign policy tool, whether Samantha Power is doing it, whether any foreign minister any development minister is doing it. You know, we could talk about my own country Norway, we are a small country but we are generous, we gave 1% of GNI in aid and lately, I have seen that there is much more of a clear articulation of what this aid can do for us; to brand Norway as a generous donor, as supporting innovating programs, as supporting innovating ideas. So, political parties are interested, and governments are interested in using whatever they do, this generosity, to promote a nice narrative of their country, the solidarity narrative, that we are not interested in you scratching our backs, we actually have very good noble intentions. Even though, increasingly, I feel that many of these traditional donors are also making very explicit demands in the sense that, you know, making the private sector crucial, saying that involving our own private sector in these projects is also good because it is going to generate investments and income. So, in your study, and I know you have been studying this also apart from the book you have also written about this, in terms of branding aid abroad, Simone, how does this branding actually take place and who do you think, among some of the countries you've been studying, who do you think actually brands their aid best?
Dietrich Very interesting question, so, the branding of aid, we can think of it as a tool to promote soft power, or to promote an image of a nation's heart, or solidarity like in the case of Norway that you mentioned. It could also be a classic product of the new liberal play book, if we think about the audience for branding, not to be the intended beneficiaries in recipient countries, but if we think of them as the donor public, or congress or people who are then shown images of American USAID logos or the Union Jack flying over hospitals or marking mugs that are distributed at aid project events. So, branding in my head, or the way I understand it, has potentially two audiences, and depending on which perspective you take, what works best and why a donor’s brand will change depending on political leaning, but also where the audience is. So, let me try and get back to the initial question, what is branding? Branding can take the form of banners at events, flyers, I mentioned logos on top of clinics, soccer balls, backpacks, pins, but we also have audio branding through the radio. Most of the branding is visual and really here the idea is that the image sticks and there are obvious ways of branding, the ones that I just mentioned, but there are also more subtle ways and there are even times when branding is actually harmful or out of the question. I can think of contexts where the US doesn’t want to be seen, or worse, being seen in association with the US actually harms beneficiaries. I remember an anecdote of a colleague who was in Afghanistan at the time and who mentioned this sport program where soccer balls were branded that were then captured by the Taliban and sacked. There were repercussions for the people who participated in these programs and so branding is a way to promote the image. But we have to understand the way that the brand works in the domestic context in recipient countries, and recognise how these environments differ, and at the same time, think about branding as a mechanism for aid bureaucrats or aid officials to generate domestic support among people. Or, if you think about political parties, or conservative parties that are more likely to push for branding mandates, both in the US but also in the UK, or even in Germany, more visibility, more being seen to be doing things, and so, thinking about these audience and why, how, and what the purpose of branding is, helps us navigate some of these questions.
Banik You are absolutely right, there is the domestic audience in the donor country, there may also be the rivalry competition with other donors, you know, one wants to be seen to be doing things more visible, better than others, it could be in a multilateral setting, showing off how generous one is, and thereby getting a seat at a table that is reserved for the big actors. But it could also be, in my view, and I found this in many of the countries that I study in sub–Saharan Africa, there is also a case to be made about the audience in these countries, in the aid recipient countries, and I have had numerous conversations with say diplomats from Norway and other countries and I have asked them, why don’t you actually brand your aid projects more? Norway is very carefully, you will never find a Norad logo here and there, whereas in Malawi and in Zambia and in many other parts, you will see Japanese and Chinese logos on official cars, just like the UN logos. A lot of my students in Malawi and other places would say, we would like to know who is doing what because the government often takes credit for things, but it is often the donors, so it helps us to know who is doing what, and thereby actually hold the government accountable for doing nothing. The counter argument is of course by having this sort of explicit branding, one is undermining the legitimacy of the national government in these countries, so rather than building up and promoting state capacity, one may be undermining it.
Dietrich Yeah, so, we studied this question. We tried to get this question in the field in Bangladesh in the context of a survey experiment, where we not only tried to see the extent to which information or exposure to the USAID logo would shape how the beneficiaries or citizens think about the US but also whether and how it would impact citizen views about their own local or national government. What we found was actually that people who saw the treatment and were being told about US funding, actually thought more positively of their local government. So, this to us, suggested at the time, and we talked to numerous people there in the field to try and understand what initially was a bit of a disconnect with how we had theorised about it, we thought that it would have a negative effect, but here people would argue, or think that local governments would pose in front of these branded hospitals or fields, that they somehow had a say in attracting the donor to come to the region and therefore were rewarded for their implication. Now, whether that was true or not is another question, we didn’t drill down exactly into that, but what it suggests is that even if it is undeserved credit claiming, and they may not have anything to do with where the project or program ends up, they are still benefiting from the local or the branding of international donors, even though that may in some sense, like you started undermine accountability dynamics.
Banik A final set of issues, Simone, the future of aid, I know you have been thinking about it, and your book I think has some very important lessons for donors all over the world. As you are aware, it is not just the traditional aid donors that are dominant at the moment, you have south-south cooperation taking off, you mentioned earlier about vaccines and their alliance etc, here of course, we have a situation now where a lot of these typical aid recipient countries are very unhappy and disappointed with how the global north has not really been very generous in terms of vaccine access and sharing resources. One argument I have been making is that there is now perhaps a stronger case in many of these countries for South-South Cooperation that there is this good will that India and China have generated during the pandemic because of their willingness to share vaccines etc. So, how do you think these traditional donors, Simone, are going to perhaps change some of the ways in which they are doing things? How will these playbooks, you think change in the coming years, given the growing influence of the so-called southern actors like China, India, Brazil, many others, Indonesia, you have the middle east playing an important role. Do you think some of these play books will radically change? Will some of the standards that northern donors were adopting, will they compromise some of those initial standards? How do they keep making themselves look and be relevant in this aid game?
Dietrich Yeah, I mean you are identifying a really interesting research frontier here, for me personally, but obviously these are really important questions that aid officials are asking themselves. I would love to study this more empirically and think about how these new actors change the ways in which traditional donors do things, or whether or not they brand more or whatever the different means are of donors. For me, what is really interesting is how this growing presence of China shapes decision making about whether donors bypass or engage with the government and whether these escalating international tensions between China and the US over Twain at the moment, or the west in general, require donors to think more strategically about foreign aid as a tool to persuade developing countries to stick to the west, and to believe in the west and its world views. Surely China has its very own vision of what a society should look like, it stands in very stark contrast with the west, but it is very good, and you mentioned vaccine diplomacy, in doing things that communicate that they are there for recipient countries, that they are not just delivering vaccines but they are talking about building up production centres in Africa and clearly there the west has been lagging a bit. But in order to sort of speculate about the future of aid, let me draw a little bit of what I have learned thus far about traditional donors and how they have done aid over time. In particular, the US did not always bypass to the same degree, up until the 1970s when the new liberal reforms really dismantled the bureaucratic or the public sector, the US had a developed aid bureaucracy which assumed many more roles than it does today, that devoted ample time to conduct policy dialogue with recipient governments, be there, influence, shape choices made by national or local authorities, not just in terms of development but also to create this fall work against soviet influence, and one can even argue that, that strategic concern shaped development objectives during the cold war and so, sort of promoted this government-to-government approach. Now, if the US-China relations become more conflictual or concerns over Chinese influence or competition might make the US or western donors more interested again in strengthening government-to-government relations and emphasise more policy dialogue with governments, the problem is, that for some, the capacity is no longer there, can they reignite what has been lost by decades of slimming down and streamlining or cannibalising the public sector. So, to me, here are a few options that might address this increasing influence, it is of course rebuilding aid bureaucratic structures on different rule books, not very likely if we consider how much bashing the public sector has received in countries that have prescribed to new liberal structures, how can you justify rebuilding it, I mentioned Samantha Power, now really struggling to impose or to just promote new reforms that favour government-to-government engagement. So, there are just too many interested and vested interested that have a benefit from the current status quo and that are going to really struggle against fundamental changes to the rule book. Another option is outsourcing policy dialogue to for profit actors, also very difficult to imagine that Chemonics would at all would be up for, even interested in promoting state interests the way the US needs it represented, and that can build up a particular type of governance, they are going to keep doing what they are doing best; they want to implement small projects, specific projects, and show that they did well, they are going to not engage in system building, they are going to be very focused. The third change we might observe is that we see donors coordinating more, so, in my book, I argue that donors that are more orientated around traditional public sector logic have more capacity to engage in state-to-state relations and so, can states or donors agree to coordinate in places where there needs to be more state-to state-relations and those donors should lead the effort. But what of course this requires is a strong type of coordination at the country strategy level, at the implementation levels, and that really requires donors to come out of their national silos and agree on a vision. But if the west agrees that it wants to promote its world view and that it is important to do so, then coordination seems to me, difficult, but a worthy enterprise. Finally, the fourth solution which is the one that is of course most pragmatic, is for donors that want to ensure that people continue to feel their influence, to just double down on the branding of projects, to promote the image. I think this is a cop out of sorts insofar as it doesn't really go to the heart of the matter where influence really sits, it is not the citizens or local governments, but there we are talking about dialogue with national authorities and governments that matter. But in the current context it is the least difficult and it can be accomplished, but what it might do, is that the cop out, or just focusing on branding and going a soft power route can simply undermine the west's approach to China and they are really allowing the Chinese to leave a mark in developing countries in the new liberal way of doing things, essential impedes influence. This would be a reaction to the question, maybe it pitched it all in a more international conflict perspective, but that is the way that I have been thinking about the influence of, in particular, China on the way that donors do things today and in the future.
Banik Simone, it was great fun chatting with you today, thanks so much for coming on my show.
Dietrich Thank you.