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Fragmentation or Pluralism? The organisation of development cooperation revisited

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International development cooperation is characterised by a diversification of goals, approaches and a proliferation of actor constellations. While these fundamental changes of the development cooperation landscape have been reflected in the aid- and development – effectiveness processes, the international development community – and especially aid-receiving countries – continues to struggle with their implications.

Critics have long argued that this proliferation of actors and approaches has led to a fragmented development cooperation landscape in many aid-dependent countries. This carries important unintended consequences in terms of higher transaction costs for those on both sides of relations; conflicting concepts and policies; efficiency losses; and neglected sectors and countries. Proponents point towards the potential of a diverse development landscape for mutual learning, innovation and competitive selection among the different providers for development assistance. Fragmentation also frequently goes hand in hand with donors’ needs for individual visibility coupled with an endeavour to retain full control over the aid-allocation process, which further perpetuates fragmentation. Managing such opportunities and risks is the challenge on the ground.

Our director Komali Yenneti attended a conference addressing these issues held at German Development Institute (DIE), Bonn from 10 – 11 October 2013. The purpose of the conference was to explore fragmentation and pluralism of development cooperation, both at the theoretical and practical levels. By bringing together a diverse group of presenters and participants from the academic and policy communities from both developing and developed countries, the conference  explored the issues of fragmentation and pluralism from a variety of perspectives, focusing in particular on concepts, measurements, the political economy of development co-operation causing the emergence and persistence of fragmentation, actor, modalities and instruments, and practical experiences in the attempt to overcome fragmentation and/or to manage diversity, says Yenneti.