There is a growing interest in the ways in which donors can be influenced. While there is some nascent literature on how behavioural insights can be used to influence policymakers (see Helpdesk report, no. 1426), there is very limited research and evidence on the ways in which donors influence other donors. Based on the available literature, this report focuses in large part on descriptive research on influencing multilateral development agencies (much of which is focused on DFID) and on triangular (or trilateral) cooperation, involving emerging donors.
Bilateral donors can attempt to influence multilateral development agencies to adopt particular approaches and to achieve particular development outcomes through various means:
- Financing: Donors have sought to influence multilateral agencies through their financial contributions and the negotiations that occur in advance of funding replenishment.
- Formal structures: Donors can achieve influence through their formal voting shares or seats on the board of multilateral agencies; engagement at board meetings; and negotiation of framework agreements, such as Memorandums of Understanding.
- Strategy: In order to improve the chances of influence, bilateral donors need a clear strategy for their engagement with the multilateral system as a whole.
- Leadership positions and secondments: Influence can come from more informal channels, such as placing senior-level nationals in leadership positions, to influence key decision-makers; and fostering positive relations among staff in different agencies. Relations can improve with consistent engagement and the development of mutual trust.
- Knowledge and thought leadership: Donors considered to be key thought leaders have a greater chance of having a significant impact on the policy and research agenda of multilateral agencies.
- Oversight: Bilateral donors can provide effective oversight of multilateral agencies, as a shareholder and a donor.
Triangular cooperation involves a development partnership between at least one member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance
Committee (OECD-DAC) and one or more providers of South-South cooperation. Trilateral cooperation can foster mutual trust between traditional donors and new donors, and promote
mutual learning and friendly relations. Traditional donors see triangular cooperation as a way to safeguard Northern influence over South-South cooperation, bringing about a convergence of
norms and practices between traditional donors and new donors (Paulo, 2018; Lengfelder, 2016; Kondoh, 2015; Hausmann, 2014). It provides a way for traditional donors to influence and
sensitise new donors to aid effectiveness principles and to foster a shared understanding of development cooperation. If new donors learn aid practices from DAC member countries, they are more likely to adopt a similar regime as the DAC aid model (Kondoh, 2015).
In the case of China-UNDP triangular cooperation, the UNDP has effectively influenced the Chinese government’s thinking as an advisor to the Chinese government on aid cooperation (Zhang, 2017). DFID has also attempted to positively influence China’s engagement with international development through triangular cooperation and investment in technical assistance, training, exchange visits and research studies with China. Alongside establishing a USAID counsellor position in Beijing, the US has engaged directly with China’s top leaders on development cooperation, in order to secure a political commitment from China for specific trilateral projects. In comparison, US and UK models of triangular cooperation with India have a weak government-to-government dimension, centring on leveraging the strengths of India’s non-state actors, civil society organisations and research institutes.
Challenges involved with triangular aid cooperation include: complicated coordination efforts and high transaction costs; fragmentation in development cooperation and in-country strategies;
absence of a shared narrative among all countries involved; inadequate evaluation; and lack of clarity on what indicators to adopt to measure success. Triangular cooperation can also be
challenging if it does not build on an existing, strong partnership. This was the case with Brazil and Canada (Farias, 2015), for example, in contrast to the China-Australia-Papua Guinea’s
malaria project, which built on a natural interest and firmer partnership (Zhang, 2015a).
Capturing, documenting and sharing research and evidence of impact and learning can also be effective in influencing other donors to adopt or replicate particular approaches. In addition,
global goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, have the power to influence policy behaviour and development agendas, serving as incentives for governments and others to mobilise for important objectives.
The mere presence of non-DAC donors can also influence the actions of other donors. An empirical study reveals that the World Bank attaches fewer conditions to its loans in Africa when China is also a donor (Hernandez, 2017). This is most likely in order to maintain its level of involvement in the region despite competition from new donors (Hernandez, 2017).