BRICS and international development assistance Towards divergence or convergence in development assistance amongst North and South donors?

AuthorYijia Jing,José A. Puppim de Oliveira,Christopher Tapscott
Published date01 October 2019
Date01 October 2019
BRICS and international development assistance Towards
divergence or convergence in development assistance amongst
North and South donors?
The emergence of what some scholars have defined as a new form of
development assistance in the global South has generated significant
academic interest over the course of the past 2 decades (Manning,
2006; Gray & Gills, 2016; Jing, Mendez, and Zheng, 2019). Closely,
but not exclusively, associated with the establishment of the Brazil,
Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) partnership, the posi-
tions on southern assistance advanced in the literature are often dia-
metrically opposed. On the one hand, there are those who welcome
the advent of BRICS as a counterhegemonic initiative intended to
break the geopolitical dominance of the global North and to establish
in its place a more egalitarian and multipolar world order. In this con-
text, the forms of development assistance extended by the BRICS
states and other new donors are seen to differ from the traditional
forms of aid
dispensed by countries operating under the OECD's
Development Assistance Committee (DAC) both in their objectives
and scope. This is evident in their preference to be labelled develop-
ment partners rather than donors and in the fact that few if any con-
ditionalities are attached to the assistance which they provide.
Further distinguishing the southern model from that of the DAC is
the fact that it is seen to combine aid with trade and investment in
recipient countries in ways hitherto unknown in the realm of develop-
ment assistance.
On the other hand, an alternative literature posits that although the
forms of assistance dispensed by the BRICS states do, indeed, differ
from more traditional forms of aid, they are no less hegemonic in their
ambition, and they are ushering in forms of trade and resource extrac-
tion that are as exploitative as those which they ostensibly seek to
replace (Bond, 2016). Suggestive as these opposing debates might
be, however, they are frequently unsubstantiated empirically, and the
positions advanced are often as much ideological as theoretical in
nature. Little attention, in particular, has been focused on the
dynamics of the aid systems that have been adopted by the new
donors, the extent to which their design is shaped by endogenous
and exogenous factors, and the influence that this might have on the
orientation and implementation of their assistance programmes.
The articles in this special edition are intended to extend the debate
on the development assistance agenda in the BRICS countries, in the
extent to which it may be defined as such, though a more nuanced
examination of the governance systems that shape their aid policies,
the design of their funding institutions, and the modalities of their
development assistance. They also assess the degree to which the
new forms of aid do really differ from conventional models of develop-
ment assistance in practice. The articles included can loosely be divided
into two groups: the first examines the trajectory of development assis-
tance provided by individual BRICS states and the governance systems
that have emerged within them over time, whereas the second assesses
the broad design of donor aid amongst states in the South and the
extent to which this might be construed as a distinctive model.
The entry of BRICS onto the IDA landscape was met with optimism by
some scholars and practitioners in the development field and with
scepticism by others. Optimists hoped the BRICS states would intro-
duce new forms of development assistance that would challenge the
dominance of the neoliberal Washington Consensusmodel propa-
gated by traditional multilateral lenders. Others, in contrast, asserted
that, notwithstanding its different departure point, the BRICS assis-
tance model would inevitably face the same problems as those
confronting traditional donors. The BRICS IDA institutions, however,
are still under construction, and they differ from conventional funding
institutions in that the BRICS states, themselves, continue to be recip-
ients of development assistance from DAC countries and multilateral
organizations. Their experience as the recipients of assistance, it is
stated, has enabled them to identify constraints in the way in which
IDA is conventionally dispensed, and this has led to the design of assis-
tance programmes that are better suited to the needs of recipient
The DAC countries of the OECD adopt a definition of ODA (OECD, 2019). However, the
BRICS partners and others states in the South explicitly reject the term aid, because of its
association with the hegemony of the North, and insist that development assistancemore
correctly describes the support which they provide. Moreover, the distinction between aid
and assistance remains at the heart of the ongoing debate, and there is, as yet, little consensus
in the literature on the defining features of southern and northern donors, and this is further
complicated by what is seen to be a convergence in the modalities of support that they pro-
vide. In light of this, the terms development assistance and aid are used interchangeably by
some authors in this volume.
Received: 11 October 2019 Accepted: 11 October 2019
DOI: 10.1002/pad.1871
PublicAdmin Dev. 2019;39:167173. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, 167

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