EADI/ISS Work in Progress Webinar: China, the EU, and Western aid norms. A case study on Ethiopia, 22 June, 14.00 CET

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22 Jun 2020

The EU’s development policy is being strategically adjusting to respond to the shifting challenges of the international order. In doing so it is argued that this is undermining the EU’s core normative commitment to development. This seminar approaches the topic by exploring the extent to which the shift to ‘partnership’ in EU development rhetoric is a break with the past?

The paper presented is:
China, the EU, and Western aid norms. A case study on Ethiopia
by Mario Esteban and Iliana Olivié

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The aim of this seminar is to provide an arena for ECR/PhD students to receive feedback on their work. The cancellation (for obvious reasons) of various conferences has deprived them of this important feedback element. We invite colleagues to join and participate in the spirit of providing constructive and supportive feedback. If you are interested in presenting please contact the organisers.

Work in Progress Seminar: The EU as a development actor EADI Working Group

China, the EU, and Western aid norms. A case study on Ethiopia

Mario Esteban and Iliana Olivié

The irruption of China in the world scene has been extensively analyzed by academic literature. As for its specific role as a donor and partner to other South countries, a vivid debate has been held on as to what extent China behaves as a ‘rogue donor’ –a predator, particularly in Africa, in search for cheap natural resources in exchange for tied aid– or as a peer partner, with no colonial past –unlike several DAC donors– that liaise with other developing countries on the grounds of horizontality and no interference in domestic affairs.

This is a somehow normative debate: ‘good’ donors follow rules on aid that are pre-established by the international community while ‘bad’ donors elude those norms and shape their own international assistance in accordance with their national political and/or economic interests.

Taking this normative starting point, a relevant question arises which is to what extent China is accepting, rejecting or shaping pre-existing norms in the field of development cooperation. Addressing this general question requires a precise definition of such norms. As our aim is to explore to what extent the East cooperates or fights the West and, more precisely, the EU, in this domain, aid norms should be defined following Western standards. The Aid Effectiveness Agenda (AEA) could be defined as Western and European; something that can be explained in its origin –under a clear North-South pattern of aid relations– and tracked, for instance, in its strong liberal footprint –see, for instance, the importance of the democratic principle or the orientation to results, rather than political processes–.

If the AEA is a sensible arena for exploring cooperation and/or conflict between EU donors and China, the above mentioned general question could be reframed in three more specific questions: (i) Does China accept (follow), rejects (ignore) or re-shapes the AEA?; (ii) Have EU donors changed their attitude as a result of the appearance of China as a relevant donor?; (iii) Has China’s behavior regarding AEA changed as a result of its interaction with Western donors?

The aim of this proposal is to explore these questions through the particular case of a ‘development encounter’ between China and the community of Western traditional donors, with a focus on EU donors. We have chosen Ethiopia for this encounter: an aid darling with a strong presence of China in aid as well as in other fields and a varied presence of traditional donors.

We observe the behavior of donors towards aid effectiveness principles –ownership, inclusive partnership, transparency and accountability, and focus on results–. We aim at assessing to what extent China accepts, rejects or shapes these two principles and whether EU donors’ and China’s behavior regarding these principles has evolved as a result of the co-existence of these two types of donors.

This work is structured as follows. The first section addresses the methodological aspects of our research: we explain (i) the rationale for selecting the AEA as an example of EU aid norms; (ii) our research techniques; and (iii) the features that make Ethiopia a most likely case. In section two, we show our results. Last section concludes.

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