BRICS, the southern model, and the evolving landscape of development assistance: Toward a new taxonomy

Published date01 October 2019
AuthorValeria Lauria,Corrado Fumagalli
Date01 October 2019
BRICS, the southern model, and the evolving landscape of
development assistance: Toward a new taxonomy
Valeria Lauria
|Corrado Fumagalli
Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy
International Institute of Social Studies (ISS),
The Erasmus University Rotterdam, The
Agenda for International Development (Aid),
Rome, Italy
LUISS University, Rome, Italy
Valeria Lauria, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna,
Pisa, Italy.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of categories and labels to account for
the expansion of forms of cooperation beyond the membership of the Development
Assistance Committee. Such hype has led to the construction of the socalled
southern model as the archetype of development cooperation coming from non
Development Assistance Committee countries that are somehow committed to the
principles of the SouthSouth cooperation. The present article challenges the idea
of a southern model by providing an analysis of drivers, tools, and modality of
development assistance.
aid architecture, BRICS, emerging donors,SouthSouth cooperation, taxonomy
For a long time, the NorthSouth divide was a trope of the literature
on development assistance and aid (Corbridge, 1986; Esteves &
Assunção, 2014). Much more than a straightforward geographical par-
tition, the NorthSouth divide encompassed a chain of interconnected
socioeconomic and political claims that sustained a global landscape of
normalized hierarchies with a quasiontological status (Ballard, 2013;
Dogra, 2012).
Despite its name, the North encompassed all economically
developed countries (Western Europe, the United States, Canada,
Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), which, from their own self
defined perspective, were altruistic sources of material assistance,
good ideas, and universal knowledge (Kapoor, 2008; Kothari, 2005).
And the South (all African countries, Latin America, Asia, and the
Middle East) was a disciplinary subject(Mawdsley, 2017: 108)
marked by enduring vulnerability, poverty, needs, and perhaps,
political instability.
Over the years, the line between aid recipientsand donorshas
become blurrier and blurrier (Zimmermann & Smith, 2011). Brazil,
Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) have taken the lead in
a widespread pluralization of development assistance. This process
has involved a number of other countries such that the old catego-
riesfor example, North and South, recipients and donors, and new
and traditional donorsseem obsolete and unable to capture the
present and the future of development cooperation.
Recently, significant efforts have been made to improve categories
to capture development assistance (De Renzio & Seifert, 2014;
Manning, 2006; Waltz & Ramachandran, 2011; Zimmermann & Smith,
2011). Scholars have examined the complex and increasing heteroge-
neity of the international aid landscape, leading to a proliferation of
classification systems and country categories. Often, the NorthSouth
divide has been a central explanatory tool to account for the expan-
sion of forms of cooperation beyond the membership of the Develop-
ment Assistance Committee (DAC). This has led to the construction of
the socalled southern model as the archetype of development coop-
eration coming from nonDAC countries. The idea that there is such a
thing like a homogenous southern model is far from being widely
accepted and taken for granted (e.g., Scoones, Amanor, Favareto, &
Qi, 2016; Sidaway, 2012). And reality is far more complex than
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
© 2019 The Authors Public Administration and Development Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Received: 29 November 2017 Revised: 28 November 2018 Accepted: 4 March 2019
DOI: 10.1002/pad.1851
Public Admin Dev. 2019;39:215230.
simplified characterization. However, in the literature on the architec-
ture of development assistance, the rhetorical power of the idea of a
homogenous south remains popular across scholars (De Renzio & Sei-
fert, 2014: 1863, 1864; Eyben & Savage, 2013; Mawdsley, 2017;
Semrau & Thiele, 2017) and practitioners (e.g., Conference of South-
ern Providers 2013; G77, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 1015; UNDCF,
2013; UNDP 2009, 2013; UNOSSC, 2016: 14; 2017).
In this context, the present article aims to contribute to ongoing
debates on the changing landscapes of development assistance by
focusing on the donors from the south. Within this context, BRICS
countries are generally recognized as leaders of the southern model
(De Renzio & Seifert, 2014; Manning, 2006; Waltz & Ramachandran,
2011; Zimmermann & Smith, 2011). For this reason, the present paper
investigates Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in parallel to
other countries that are clustered under the key heading of South
South cooperation (SSC). Several contributions have already stressed
the difference between DAC and BRICS (among others, see Dreher,
Fuchs, & Nunnenkamp, 2013; Gray & Gills, 2016; Li & Carey, 2014;
Xing & Augustin, 2016; Shaw, 2016).
Similarly, the literature about
how BRICS countries differ from one another is vibrant (e.g., Bond &
Garcia, 2015; Gu, Chen, & Haibin, 2016; Xiaoyun & Carey, 2016).
Together with other countries from the south and the north, Brazil,
Russia, India, China, and South Africa have been also objected of dif-
ferent kinds of comparative analysis (e.g., Thakur, 2014; White,
2013). Yet comparative assessments between BRICS countries and
other developing countries have often clustered around their practices
in specific geographical areas or policy agendas. This paper aims to
contribute to such a discussion by offering a comprehensive analysis
of BRICS's development assistance visàvis other donors usually
grouped under the southern modellabel. In so doing, we shall pro-
ceed as follows. First, we provide an overview of how donor analyses
have evolved in their discussion of the NorthSouth divide. Second,
we clarify our methodology. Third, we assess countries in the sample
through the lenses of drivers, tools, and modality of development
assistance. Finally, we demonstrate that the southern model fails to
provide a fully descriptive picture of the changing landscape of devel-
opment assistance.
This section aims to account for the variety of articulation and
rearticulation of the NorthSouth divide over the past 20 years. For
a long time, the NorthSouth narrative pictured a world of two
groups, where resources and knowledge flowed in one direction: from
the north (the donor) to the south (the recipient). This imaginary divide
omitted the counterflows of people, resources, and ideas from the
developing to the developed countries and between developing coun-
tries (Silvey & Rankin, 2011).
A process leading to some differentiation within the group of
developing countries started to take place when the sharp division
between rich and poor countries began to blunt. The last two decades
have seen a number of countries from the south achieve doubledigit
growth rates, rise to middleincome status, and create distinctive
models of development assistance (Sumner, 2016). Simultaneously,
unprecedented pluralism in development financing, aid, models of
development, and partnerships has contributed to strengthening the
widespread belief of a rise of the southin the aid landscape (Chin
& Quadir, 2012; Mawdsley, Savage, & Kim, 2013; ).
Pluralism in development financing, aid, models of development,
and partnerships also has contributed to disseminating the belief in a
challenge to the traditional order of development assistance through-
out the community of development pundits and scholars. People
started reframing old categories to capture the new landscape of
development assistance, and attention shifted to the (re)generation
of SSC. When coined at the historic Bandung Conference of 1955,
the SSC brand was used as an expression of solidarity, complementar-
ity, and lack of hierarchy among developing countries (Abdenur &
Fonseca, 2013).
In this context, the emerging donorscategory gained prominence
in academic and policy discourses. Despite much hype for the idea
that some countries from the Global South were starting to play an
important role in providing development assistance, the emerging
donors category epitomized a relatively misleading discourse. South-
ern providers were neither new donors nor emerging actors, as they
had been engaged in various forms of assistance for decades
(Manning, 2006: 372; Mawdsley, 2012).
Against this oversimplifying discourse, experts have started chal-
lenging the emerging donors category by comparing and contrasting
different forms of development assistance. Academic literature (e.g.,
Manning, 2006; Kim & Lightfoot, 2011; Zimmermann & Smith, 2011)
and policymakers (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development. [OECD]) have accepted the divide between DAC and
nonDAC as a way to describe some providers of development assis-
tance, or as a way to refine the evocative, but imprecise, distinction
between traditional and emerging donors (Manning, 2006).
The nonDAC label works essentially ex negativo. However, by
starting with the practices and conceptual tools developed and
streamlined by DAC donors, scholars who apply this category to the
study of development assistance tend to hide the internal fractures,
differences, and complexities of donors outside the OECD DAC. In
response to this perspective, several experts have started stressing
internal differences (De Renzio & Seifert, 2014; Manning, 2006; Waltz
Semrau and Thiele (2017) argue that nonDAC donors are not as different from DAC donors
regarding their aid motives as one might suspect. Within the DAC itself, scholars have noticed
significant differences between longstanding members and those that joined the forum more
recently (Doucouliagos & Manning, 2009).
Specifically, in the literature, the DAC label applies to countries that are members of OECD
DAC. DAC is a bilateral forum for providers of development cooperation(OECD, 2016: 1).
According to the OECD (2016), qua members of the DAC, countries pledge to implement
DAC recommendations, guidelines, and reference documents in formulating national develop-
ment cooperation policies. They also agree to submit a regular peer review of their develop-
ment cooperation. Moreover, members of the DAC should submit official development
assistance statistics and information describing their aid efforts and policies annually (2016).

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