Donors and Governance in Southern Africa. The Case of Zambia, with Zimbabwe as a Counterpoint – DPRN Seven
Introduction: On donors and governance 
A key change in development policy since the early 1990s has been donors’ shift towards a principal concern with governance. Earlier, donors’ policy and practice had been mainly focused on filling gaps in knowledge, capital or foreign exchange. This implied that development was fundamentally a mechanical, technical undertaking. Gradually, however, development policy is being seen more and more as a political enterprise. Issues such as the division of power between the elite and society at large, basic freedoms and economic inclusiveness are at least as important for societal and economic development as technical considerations.
This concern with governance has given rise to a considerable body of literature that has a paradoxical tendency to de-politicise the debate. A reason for this is that politics traditionally does not fit into the non-political mandate of international organisations. Also, declaring a political interest seems to clash with the altruistic rhetoric of the development community. Nevertheless, recent evaluations and analyses have begun to explicitly address the political nature of both the environment in which donors intervene as well as the political influence donors have in processes of change. As an example the Swedish development agency (Sida) commissioned explicit political evaluations of conditional lending, program aid or ownership. The British Department for International Development (DfID) has had a series of studies carried out on ‘Drivers of Change’ and Netherlands embassies have undertaken Strategic Corruption and Governance Analyses that aim to look ‘behind the façade’ at what drives political and bureaucratic behaviour. These analyses see aid as an influence on local society that is, in turn, shaped by the local political process. This thus explicitly links aid effectiveness to the quality of governance. Read more