German Institute for Development Evaluation

German aid from a partner perspective (Phase II)


Following on from the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the international aid effectiveness debate has cast the spotlight above all on the role of partners, particularly in terms of the ‘ownership principle’ (i.e. partners set and implement their political agenda independently) and the ‘alignment principle’ (i.e. development partners gear their support towards strategies, institutions and partners’ procedures). But how do partners ‘on the ground’ from governments, non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector actually perceive development cooperation, especially German development cooperation? How do they assess the German contribution in relation to the usefulness of the information provided or its influence on the implementation of individual initiatives?

This study is based on the evaluative study ‘German Aid from a Partner Perspective – Experience-based Perceptions from AidData’s 2014 Reform Efforts Survey’ conducted by AidData and DEval in 2016 (Faust, Leiderer, Masaki, & Parks, 2016), which took the first global survey of partners ‘on the ground’ by AidData (the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey) as a starting point. AidData’s survey asked partners to describe their perception of development cooperation with individual OECD/DAC partner countries and had 6,731 participants in 126 developing countries. In the area of German development cooperation, 1,227 individuals (961 from governments, 195 from civil society and 71 from the private sector) from 116 developing countries were included in the analysis. All participants stated that they had interacted with at least one German development cooperation institution (embassy, GIZ, KfW) ‘on the ground’ between 2004 and 2013.

From the point of view of German DC, some of the findings of the first study were surprising. For example, with the exception of the environmental sector, German DC was not seen to offer any sectoral comparative advantage over other DAC donors. Furthermore, it was established that partners on the ground rarely differentiated between the roles of the actors in the German DC system (embassies and governmental implementing organisations). The analysis also indicated that large-scale bilateral donors with a comprehensive portfolio of partner countries such as Germany were perceived as less influential and useful than some small donors that focused on specific sectors and themes.


The object of this second evaluative study, which was again conducted together with AidData, is how Germany and other donors are viewed by actors in the partner countries of development cooperation and the factors underlying the perceived comparative strengths and weaknesses of individual donors, particularly Germany, by international comparison.

Goals and potential research issues

The study has three goals. The data collected in the second survey were to be used to once again portray how actors in partner countries perceive German development cooperation, to compare this perception with that of other OECD development partners and multilateral donors and, finally, provide an explanation where possible. Specifically, this means that the following issues could be examined:

- How do partners on the ground assess individual OECD development partners, multilateral donors and Germany in particular in relation to their influence on decisions to pursue individual policy initiatives and provide useful support for implementing these initiatives?

- In which specific sectors and/or regions were the perceptions of partners particularly strong or weak?

- How do the findings on how German actors are perceived compare with other bilateral and multilateral development partners? What are the comparative strengths and/or weaknesses of German development cooperation?

- What influencing factors could explain the findings?

Furthermore, case studies are to be conducted in order to encourage reflection on the findings, with the help of selected stakeholders on the ground, and identify further results regarding potential mechanisms. This allows the findings of the survey to be better placed in context based on feedback from individuals on the ground and to identify potential mechanisms. More specifically, the following question could be answered in this regard:

- How were particularly strong or weak results in a sector or region or with a particular actor achieved? What are the underlying causal mechanisms for differences in the perception of partners?

The aim here is to compile recommendations for selected DC actors on this Basis.


The study described here is initially being conducted as a desk study based on the findings of the previous study, taking AidData’s second survey (2017 Reform Efforts Survey) as a starting point. Selected country studies are then being carried out to supplement the data collected.

There were 3,303 participants in the 2017 Reform Efforts Survey. The focus was on partners’ perceptions of how partner countries influence the pursuit of individual (policy) initiatives or the usefulness of support provided in terms of implementation. In a first step, the data collected in the 2017 Reform Efforts Survey are to be analysed with a similar approach to the one used in the previous study (Faust, Leiderer, Masaki, & Parks, 2016). Unlike in the first study however, specific potential influencing factors for German development cooperation are to be included in the analysis, in order to gain a deeper insight into possible explanatory factors (such as the allocation of funding or the assignment of personnel). In the second step, the quantitative findings are to be used to identify country cases, based on selected research issues. Interviews (to name just one example) are to be conducted with diverse stakeholders in these countries in order to examine the findings of the quantitative survey and identify how these findings may be interpreted. This approach will also facilitate additional findings on German development cooperation from the perspective of individual partners (the micro level) and thus provide further information on potential causal mechanisms.


The evaluative study is currently in the data collection phase.

As at: August 2018