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Instruments and structures of development cooperationconcluded

Development Cooperation from a Partner Perspective – with a Focus on Germany’s Official Development Cooperation

Germany’s official development cooperation has been supporting policy initiatives in partner countries for a long time. However, little is known about how influential or useful this support is assessed to be by partners. Together with the AidData research lab at the College of William & Mary in the USA, DEval set out to close this knowledge gap. The evaluative study was concluded in 2020.

Overcoming structural barriers to development requires adequately designed and implemented policy initiatives . Supporting these policy initiatives in partner countries is an important goal of development cooperation. Support can be provided in three phases of the process: in agenda-setting, in policy advice during the design phase and in the implementation of approved policy initiatives.

Yet how do government officials, private sector representatives and civil society in the partner countries see the support made by individual donors? What is their specific experience with these various actors, and what strengths and weaknesses do they ascribe to them? It is important to have answers to these questions in order to make development cooperation as effective as possible. This is particularly true for Germany. On the one hand, the volume of support Germany provides makes it one of the largest bilateral donors in international cooperation. On the other hand, the efficiency and partner orientation of Germany’s development cooperation  is regularly called into question.

A cooperation project between AidData and DEval explored the aforementioned questionsdrawing on data from AidData's worldwide 2014 Reform Efforts Survey in which state and civil society actors in low and middle-income countries were surveyed regarding their experiences with donor organisations. For Germany, these included German embassies, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and its predecessor organisation the GTZ, and KfW Development Bank. In a second phase, the analysis was repeated based on AidData’s 2017 Listening to Leaders Survey and qualitative data collected in a number of country case studies, exploring explanatory factors for the reported perceptions.

Key findings from phase I

The respondents in the partner countries regard the GIZ as more useful than the the KfW and German embassies.

This applies both to policy advice, and to agenda-setting and support for the implementation of reform measures. The survey responses did not indicate that partners see any clear division of roles and responsibilities between the German actors in these three areas.

By international comparison, the GIZ's policy advice is perceived as more useful than the donor average.

Respondents did not ascribe special strengths to German development cooperation in particular sectors; the only exception to this was the environmental sector. Overall, respondents from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa rated Germany's influence and performance in policy advice as above average, whereas respondents from Latin America and the Caribbean tended rather to rate it as below average.

Major donors such as Germany with a large number of partner countries are perceived as less influential and useful than some small donors who focus their cooperation on specific sectors or themes.

Large multilateral organisations such as the World Bank or the EU are also perceived as relatively strong. While the multilateral organisations with a large volume of funding receive an above-average rating, bilateral donors with a high volume of funding such as Germany are not automatically perceived as more influential than small donors with a smaller volume of funding.


The evaluation was completed in 2016. This is a summary of the results and recommendations; you can find the complete results and recommendations in the report.

Key findings from phase II

On average, bilateral and multilateral donors are assessed as “quite influential” and “quite helpful” by the surveyed actors in partner countries.

However, clear differences between individual donors are apparent. For instance, multilateral donors are assessed as more influential in agenda setting and more helpful in policy implementation than bilateral donors. The four country case studies indicate that, by and large, donors’ influence in agenda setting and helpfulness in policy implementation are perceived positively.

Actionable factors that are related to how influential and helpful a donor is perceived by partner-country policymakers and practitioners have been identified at three levels.

These levels are (1) strategic decisions about aid allocation and country selection (macro level), (2) donors’ adherence to aid effectiveness principles (meso level), and (3) donor–partner interactions on the ground (micro level).

Germany’s aggregate score is 2.93 for influence and 3.18 for helpfulness on a scale from 1 to 4, placing Germany’s official development cooperation in the range of “quite influential” and “quite helpful”, comparable to donors in a peer group of 13 bilateral and multilateral donors.

Compared to the average scores of this peer group, however, Germany’s aggregate score is on par for helpfulness but below par for influence.

Across policy areas, regions, and stakeholder groups, the aggregate scores for Germany’s helpfulness and influence range between 2.68 and 3.37 and are by and large on par with the peer group average.

Germany’s aggregate scores for influence and helpfulness are below the peer group average only for the policy area “democracy, civil society and public administration"

In general, the actionable factors that were identified as being relevant to the perceived helpfulness and influence of all donors are equally relevant for the case of Germany.

In particular, “adherence to ownership” is found to be positively related to perceived influence in agenda setting.

The survey analysis does not show positive or negative effects for most of the examined Germany specific factors on perceived influence in agenda setting and perceived helpfulness in policy implementation.

Examples of these factors would be the duration of Germany’s official bilateral development assistance and the number of staff abroad.


The evaluation was completed in 2020. This is a summary of the results and recommendations; you can find the complete results and recommendations in the report.

Objectives of the evaluative studies

Phase I

The aim of this study was to examine hypothesis-based questions on perceptions of German aid in the period between 2004 and 2013 from a partner perspective:

• How useful did partners perceive the policy advice delivered by the German actors to be, and did individual and country-specific factors influence this?

• According to the experiences of actors in developing countries, how strong was the influence of the German actors on reform agenda-setting in their countries, and did individual and country-specific factors influence their responses to this?

• How useful did partners see the German actors as being for the implementation of reforms in partner countries, and did individual and country-specific factors affect this?

• Did the German actors have any comparative strengths (or weaknesses) relative to other donors regarding their contributions to agenda-setting, policy advice or implementation support in general, or with respect to specific sectors (e.g. environment, governance, social sectors)?

• In which countries or regions of the world did German development cooperation actors possess specific strengths (or weaknesses) in relation to the perceived usefulness of their policy advice, their influence on the reform agenda or their support for the implementation of reforms?

Phase II:

The second joint evaluative study by DEval and AidData examined the following questions:

Assessments of bilateral and multilateral donors

  • How do partner-country policymakers and practitioners assess donor support at the stages of agenda setting and policy implementation?
  • What factors explain differences in partner-country policymakers’ and practitioners’ assessments of donor support at the stages of agenda setting and policy implementation?

Assessments of Germany’s official development cooperation

  • How do partner-country policymakers and practitioners assess Germany’s support at the stages of agenda setting and policy implementation?
  • What factors explain differences in partner-country policymakers’ and practitioners’ assessments of Germany’s support at the stages of agenda setting and policy implementation


In recent years, economic growth and development in numerous low- and middle-income countries as well as the growth in number of donors expanded the access of partner countries to finance and policy ideas. This is expected to increase the competition between providers of policy ideas and implementation support. Moreover, donors should be aware of how their support is assessed by partner countries because the latter’s policymakers and practitioners can be considered to be some of the most qualified judges of this support.

But how do actors from governments, non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector in partner countries actually see development cooperation in general, and Germany’s official development cooperation in particular? How do they rate donors influence on policy initiatives, or the usefulness of their support for implementing particular policy initiatives?


Phase I

The first phase of this cooperation between AidData and DEval relied on AidData’s 2014 Reform Efforts Survey as the primary source of data, which was conducted by a team of researchers from the College of William & Mary in the summer of 2014 and included the careful construction of a sampling frame of approximately 55,000 senior policymakers and practitioners across five stakeholder groups from 126 low- and middle-income countries and semi-autonomous territories: host government officials, development partner staff, civil society and non-governmental organization (CSO and NGO) leaders, private sector representatives, and independent experts. 6,744 of the individuals who received an invitation to participate in the survey actually participated.

Given that the particular interest in evaluating the perceptions of domestic decision-makers and stakeholders who worked directly with official German development agencies in low- and lower-middle income countries, development partner officials and independent country experts were excluded from the analysis, reducing the sample to 4,455 survey participants. Of these, 1,227 survey participants indicated that they had firsthand experience working with at least one of the three official German development agencies included in the survey questionnaire —German embassies, GIZ/GTZ, or the KfW Development Bank (KfW).

These individuals’ responses were used to measure the perceived performance of official German development agencies in affecting the reform process in low- and middle-income countries based on three indicators:

  • The usefulness of German policy advice provided to in-country policymakers and practitioners;
  • The influence of German development cooperation on a partner government’s decision to pursue reforms; and
  • The helpfulness of German development cooperation during a partner government’s reform implementation efforts.

The analysis examined variation by stakeholder group, region, and policy cluster in order to identify possible comparative strengths and weaknesses of Germany’s development cooperation in the eyes of its partners.

Phase II

Building on the findings from the first study, the second evaluative study was based on analyses of the 2017 Listening to Leaders Survey and supplemented with selected country studies: Almost 2,400 people took part in the 2017 Listening to Leaders Survey. It focused on aspects such as partner-country policymakers and practitioners perceptions of donors' influence on the pursuit of particular policy initiatives or the usefulness of the support for implementing these initiatives. In a first step the data from the 2017 Listening to Leaders Survey were analysed similarly as the data from the previous study but not only for Germany’s official development cooperation but for various international donors. In a second step, country case studies were conducted with various stakeholders, in order to explore how policymakers and practitioners understand the terms “influence” in agenda setting and “helpfulness” in policy implementation. The country case studies also build a richer narrative around the presumed explanatory factors through which donors can become more influential and more helpful, and unearth additional factors that were not identified ahead of the case studies.



Portrait von Dr. Kerstin Guffler
© DEval

Dr Kerstin Guffler

Head of Department: Structures and Processes of Bilateral Cooperation

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-978


Portrait von Dr. Stefan Leiderer
© DEval

Dr Stefan Leiderer

Head of Department: State Fragility, Conflict Prevention and Governance

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-940


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