This rapid literature review considers donor engagement with newly elected governments in aid recipient countries. It sought to focus on the immediate period after a new administration is elected and takes office. However, despite the importance of donor-government engagement, few studies were located during the timeframe of this review that focuses on how donors should engage newly elected governments on development priorities. The small number of studies that consider this issue largely detail challenges for donors, as opposed to lessons learned or best practice.
Reports and strategies released by donors tend to emphasis positive elements of their relationships with aid recipient countries during a government transition period. For example, the 2019-2024 USAID Liberia strategy states that the US has enjoyed a “long and enduring relationship with Liberia” which has “remained strong…into the George Weah Administration” (USAID, 2019: 4). As such, few details on the nature of the relationship or how it is maintained are given.
Very few academic or grey literature studies consider how donors should engage newly elected governments. There is a body of studies related to how donors should engage prior to and during
elections, but they do not seem to cover the post-election period. Similarly, studies focused on conflict and peacebuilding in conflict-affected and fragile states seem to focus on the modalities
or architecture for donor support including multi-donor trust funds and fora for donors and recipient states to meet, but not explicitly for newly elected governments.
Despite the extremely limited evidence base, this review draws on a small number of case studies and reports written by donor government research services which touch on the challenges for engaging newly elected governments. This report includes evidence from six aid recipient countries, including examples from conflict-affected or fragile states, with varying levels of aid dependency. Country selection was partly driven by the limited evidence base, although the report sought to focus on presidential systems with a recent election.
The evidence base for this report largely focused on the challenges donors face in engaging newly elected governments, although there are a small number of lessons learned. Key findings
- New administrations may have negative or hostile attitudes toward international assistance. For example, in Egypt, the immediate post-Mubarak administration expressed negative opinions about foreign assistance. In Liberia, the new Weah administration was sceptical of international support.
- There is sometimes a lack of clarity around a new administration’s development agenda, posing challenges for donor alignment. In 2017 Somalia, the new President inherited a National Development Plan developed under the previous administration. In contrast, in Liberia, the new Weah administration released its own development plan, but 9 months after the new administration took office.
- Donors should avoid being perceived as partisan. In the run-up to the 2013 Presidential election in Kenya, comments by the international community were seen as anti-Kenyatta, who won the election. This created challenges for engagement.
- In contrast, in Zimbabwe, sensitivity to perceptions in a highly polarised political environment was critical in establishing successful engagement with the Government of National Unity.
- It is important for donors to understand a country’s political economy, and where applicable draw on conflict analysis. In South Sudan, power struggles within the Government sharpened along regional and tribal lines raising the prospect of local outbreaks of violence escalating into civil conflict. In Zimbabwe, understanding the political economy and the particular challenges facing senior government officials was critical for successful engagement. This included an in-depth understanding of the priorities, processes and players in each of the sectors.
- The capacity and will of the incoming administration and the wider government apparatus can pose challenges for engagement. In South Sudan, the new administration lacked the political will to engage in donor coordination and little capacity to oversee donors. The technical ability of line ministries was also low. In Liberia, limited political will and capacity affected engagement as donor officials had to build relationships with new staff who were not familiar with donor engagement.