A key lesson from the past six decades of international development cooperation is that country ownership is essential for foreign aid to effectively support the domestic reform efforts of lowand middle-income countries. International development actors often seek to support their partner countries by helping to shape reform agendas, by offering policy advice, and by providing reform implementation support.
- Specifically, how do these domestic actors in low- and middleincome evaluate the policy influence and performance of their bilateral and multilateral development partners?
- What do they regard as the comparative strengths and weaknesses of different development partners?
- These questions are of particular significance to Germany, as its development cooperation system is often criticised for being overly complex and lacking a strong partner country orientation.
A new study jointly undertaken by DEval and AidData seeks to answer these questions. It draws upon insights from 4,500 host government officials, civil society leaders, and private sector representatives in 126 low- and middle-income countries who participated in the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey – a survey conducted by a group of researchers at the College of William and Mary in the summer of 2014. It is also the first to systematically evaluate German official development actors – namely, German embassies, GIZ (GTZ), and KfW – from a partner country perspective.
Existing studies do not reveal much about the performance of German development partners from the perspective of the decision-makers in low-income and middle-income countries whom they seek to influence and assist.
Overall, German development cooperation enjoys a comparativelyhigh level of visibility in its partner countries. GIZ’s above-average performance in the provision of useful policy advice is a positive and encouraging result, given that this implementing agency assigns a high level of priority to supporting partner country reform processes through analytical and advisory services.
The country’s above-average performance in the environmental sector is also encouraging, as it reflects the growing importance of this core competency in German development cooperation. However, on balance, the overall results about the perceived
From a partner perspective the respective roles and responsibilities of German actors were rather unclear, which casts some doubt upon the justification for the current structure of the German development cooperation system.
The results of this study are also sobering in that Germany is generally regarded as a middling performer with respect to the perceived utility of the reform implementation support it provides. This finding should be carefully evaluated, as German development cooperation’s strong field presence in partner countries and widely-touted implementation expertise mean that better results could reasonably have been expected.