International Development: Changes and Challenges for Beneficiary Countries

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International development is a field that has undergone a metamorphosis since its adoption. This paper will examine the changes in development and the four pressing challenges for beneficiary countries moving forward. Initially, it’s important to examine our historical trajectory and where we’re headed. There has been a transition from the differing perspectives of modernization, dependency, and world systems, each with its unique policy implications. For instance, the modernization theory emerged in the aftermath of World War II, with the ascendance of the United States as a superpower.

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This perspective primarily assumes that Third World Countries are deemed backward and in desperate need of modernization. It revolves around the traditional modernization perspective that offers an internal explanation for Third World problems (like traditional culture, lack of investment), perceives the relationship between third world countries and western countries as advantageous, maintains a hopeful outlook that third world countries will modernize, and advocates for increased linkages to address the “backwardness” of Third World Countries (Alvin, 1990, p. 108).

The dependency school appeared in response to severe criticisms. This school interprets development from a third-world perspective and argues that development should encompass more than economic output; it should also improve living standards. It considers the effects of colonialism and foreign domination, power dynamics between wealthy and poor countries, the establishment of the export sector, and debt repayment conditions that perpetuate underdevelopment. Moreover, it lobbies for reduced linkages with western countries, which are considered more harmful, backs a self-reliance model, and generally exhibits a pessimistic outlook (Alvin, 1990, p. 108). The world system suggests that the world and political economy fall into four main categories–core, periphery, semi-periphery, and external (Fordham University, 1997).

Next, in terms of future development trajectories, we should consider concepts of human security and development, sustainable development, freedoms, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Emas (2015) introduces the concept of sustainable development, stating that development entails the long-term stability of the economy and environment. According to this definition, preserving resources for future generations and maintaining a healthy environment—such as clean air and water—is essential (Emas, 2015). Most importantly, the notions of human development and universal rights—precisely women’s equality—were embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). A critical shift recognized that development is not just economic (GDP) but is integral to enhancing people’s economic, working, health, education, and overall well-being (Lentfer, 2017).

As a result, a transformative viewpoint has emerged that dispenses with classifying countries, viewing all nations as continuously undergoing development (Ferholz, 2016). Sen conceives of development as a means by which freedoms are fully realized and expanded for people to enjoy (Sen, 1999). Therefore, according to Sen, successful development necessitates the fulfillment of five instrumental freedoms: political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security (Sen, 1999, p.38).

The four major challenges that beneficiary countries will face moving forward are governance, corruption, donor-driven Aid, and the politicization of Aid. First, governance is exercised through laws, norms, language, and power at the formal or informal levels, through state or other forms of organization (100 questions for 2015 development agenda). It plays a role in cooperation and coordination among different actors, which ensures the protection of rights and political participation of social groups, including those that are marginalized – women, youth, indigenous communities, and remote tribes. Furthermore, governance can serve as a means to effectively engage citizens, ensure proper infrastructures are established, and promote gender equality by encouraging women’s political and economic participation. Lastly, good governance can be an important tool for capacity building, accountability, and shaping development in local communities.

Corruption, weak policies, and fragile institutions in recipient countries present a significant challenge. Corruption is defined as illegal behavior or dishonest dealings by those in positions of power (Merriam-Webster, 2018). The negative effects of corruption usually appear in essential areas such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, decreased economic activity, and the environment. A striking statistic illuminates this: “Businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.2 trillion in bribes each year, and the poor pay the highest percentage of their income in bribes” (World Bank, 2017).

Of equal importance is the fact that the most profitable forms of corruption are facilitated by Western financial institutions and private firms that accept laundered money and conduct transactions (World Bank, 2017). This implies that Western institutions are often complicit in maintaining corruption systems. Therefore, decreased corruption can build public trust and improve both political value, ensuring fair institutions and elections, and economic value via increased individual earnings and economic growth (Battersby & Roy, 2017).

The politics of Aid is a subject that has seemingly received minimal attention, yet has profound implications for beneficiary countries. Aid objectives have shifted from initiating development to advancing the interests of the donors (Bermeo, 2017). For instance, Nikki Haley proposed aid cuts to Palestine’s $300 million budget which provides schooling for half a million children (Lynch, 2018). This came after the Palestinian president accused the US president of bias regarding the location of Jerusalem. “Donors are increasingly focusing their aid on countries that have more migrants, in order to reduce spillover,” according to Bermeo. However, this approach may have dire consequences, as the countries least favored are often those with the most need. This can lead to increased inequalities, poverty, and armed conflicts, which create vicious cycles of increased spillovers and more migration (Bermeo, 2017).

The Politics of Aid revisited: ownership remains weak in many aid countries as a result of policies dominated by donors due to supply-side and demand-side politics (Hanaan & Warmerdam, 2015, p. 260). This is problematic where beneficiary countries that are dependent on aid inflows can find themselves in a tough position for public services and goods, and a reduction in aid can reduce the political legitimacy of the government (Hanaan & Warmerdam, 2015, p. 261). “A study found that the aid may weaken governance because aid inflows reduce the need for governments to tax the governed or enlist their cooperation” (Hanaan & Warmerdam, 2015, p. 262). Moreover, the aid inflows have become incorporated into the day-to-day politics in some countries. This is detrimental since aid does not lead to development, has limited capacity building, and creates an imbalance between the donors and beneficiaries (Hanaan & Warmerdam, 2015, p. 261).

Thirdly, donor-driven aid programs and accountability have to be addressed to improve aid effectiveness moving forward. “According to a World Bank handbook, even though there are billions of dollars spent on development assistance, there is little known about the actual impacts on the poor” (Cohen & Easterly, 2009, p. 7). Certain resolutions must be made, including making aid more predictable to enable countries to plan, and untying aid, which makes it more burdensome and costly (OECD, 2015). “Aid is often wasted on conditions that recipient countries must use overpriced goods and services from donor countries.” Beneficiary countries have to be involved in developmental affairs and processes, including aid, because projects that are designed and implemented by donors do not address the root causes of under-development (OECD, 2015).

It’s essential to ensure that aid received is used for projects and policies that are outlined by the developing countries. Furthermore, it increases governments’ accountability to their parliaments and citizens, rather than to donors. Countries can focus on genuine local needs and priorities, leading to sustainable development (OECD, 2015). Lastly, donors and beneficiaries must be accountable to the citizens they represent. “To make this feasible, the beneficiary countries must have the technical capacity, strong institutions, and political power to implement policies and procedures for the management of aid, along with strong central leadership and continued dialogue” (OECD, 2015).


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International Development: Changes and Challenges for Beneficiary Countries. (2023, Mar 21). Retrieved from