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  • Development Cooperation and Emerging Powers: new partners or old patterns ed. by Sachin Chaturvedi, Thomas Fues and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos
  • Alexander O’Riordan (bio)
Sachin Chaturvedi, Thomas Fues and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos (eds) (2012) Development Cooperation and Emerging Powers: new partners or old patterns. London: Zed Books

Development Cooperation and Emerging Powers (2012) is a well-written, dense trove of information and analysis about the role of emerging powers in the development cooperation space. The book includes five well-researched case studies on emerging ‘Southern powers’ of Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Mexico and particularly how these countries are positioning themselves as international donors or development partners, as they prefer to be called. The underlying question is whether emerging powers such as South Africa are doing anything different in development cooperation to what ‘traditional donors’ do. On the one hand the book calls attention to whether emerging powers are doomed to repeat the mistakes of traditional donors and on the other, provides a compelling background to suggest that emerging powers are earnest in their attempts to differentiate themselves from perceived failures of the aid industry.

The first of the three sections in the book focuses on the history and evolution of ‘South-South cooperation’ and its relationship with the normative practices manufactured by ‘traditional donors’ through the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. The second section explores the experiences of traditional donors and touches on key themes in the ongoing debate on aid effectiveness. The third section contributes the most to the existing literature by focusing on somewhat difficult to come by information on how Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Mexico are approaching their respective roles in the international development cooperation architecture. [End Page 78]

The analysis of the country cases makes this a valuable resource although the value is somewhat eroded by excluding such vitally important actors such as Russia, emerging eastern European powers like Poland and the Czech Republic and the increasingly influential Gulf States like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In this regard, the book is strongly framed by a bias towards emerging donors and is influenced by a post-colonial narrative. The potentially problematic presumption is that Euro-Atlantic development cooperation is somehow more self-interested than development cooperation financed by emerging donors.

The foundation of the analysis thus follows a narrative that emerging powers are seeking to differentiate themselves from ‘traditional donors’ by adopting the moniker of ‘development partners’. The rationale is that emerging powers want to use development cooperation as a force for good in a way that assumes traditional donors do not. Unfortunately, this is a problematic assumption for a number of reasons, not least of which is because it accepts too much of donor discourse at face value. As the authors point out, the term ‘development partner’ is equally used by traditional donors as it is by emerging actors but the self-interested reasons why both traditional and emerging donors assert this label is not unpacked. Furthermore, the real world politics that drive how ‘development partners’ that have no money divvy up donor funding is almost entirely ignored. Vitally the book misses the politics behind how the UN system in its rapacious pursuit of donor funding uses the ‘development partner’ moniker because it lets them influence where donors allocate their funds. When donors agree to call themselves development partners then those development partners that have no money of their own (such as the bulk of the UN agencies) get to participate and influence how donors allocate their funds. In this regard, the book could have done more to critically engage with the stake that the UN and World Bank have in a narrative of ‘South-South’ cooperation and how this relates to the internal political and economic interests of these organisations.

Following this line, then, the book also has a mistaken bias towards focusing too much on the politics of donor coordination at the international level. This misses the fact that the ground battle is how power is in play in coordination at the national level in beneficiary countries. If the book had focused on coordination at the national level it may have noted, for example, that in countries like Jamaica...


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pp. 78-81
Launched on MUSE
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