Denmark has a long history of strong financial support for development cooperation. One of only six countries to achieve the UN official development assistance (ODA) target, Denmark has consistently contributed at or above 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid since 1978 (Development Initiatives, 2013). Yet, development cooperation is about more than financial support. Development partners with outsized influence and impact are those that also provide high-quality advice and help countries design and implement reforms (Altenburg 2007; Custer et al. 2015; Kremer and Clemens 2016). Therefore, with fewer funds available for overseas development efforts, it is increasingly important for Denmark to understand the influence of its development cooperation, exerted not only through the discrete projects and programs that it supports but also through directly engaging in policy dialogue with its partner countries.
The Danish International Development Agency (Danida) regularly undertakes evaluations of its development strategies and programs; however, these are generally not focused on the question of development policy influence. Past efforts to evaluate the performance of Danish development cooperation have relied on cross-country econometric evidence (e.g. Minoiu and Reddy 2010) or on qualitative country case studies conducted by the Evaluation Department in Danida (EVAL). While useful in their own right, such studies do not shed light on whether, when, and how Denmark informs or otherwise influences the policy priorities, processes, and outcomes of its counterpart countries. Nor do they systematically take into account the first-hand experiences and observations of those who Denmark seeks to advise and assist. In this study, we seek to address this knowledge gap.
This study evaluates Denmark’s performance from a partner country perspective. It does so by drawing upon the insights from public, private, and civil society sector leaders in 40 low-income and middle-income countries who participated in the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey and worked directly with Denmark. We use the data from this survey to evaluate Denmark’s performance as a development partner along three dimensions: its influence in shaping the development policy agenda, the usefulness of its policy advice, and the helpfulness of its assistance during the implementation of reforms.
This report has six additional sections. In Section 2, we examine the characteristics of survey participants that do and do not work with Danish development partners. Section 3 assesses the frequency of Denmark’s communication compared to development partner peers and Section 4 compares Denmark’s performance, as reported by survey participants, with development partner peers. In Section 5, we examine Denmark’s areas of comparative advantage in supporting policy change. In Section 6, we dig deeper and examine the circumstances under which Denmark exerts higher and lower levels of development policy influence. Section 7 concludes with a discussion of some of the key themes that emerge from our analysis of the experiences and perspectives of development policymakers and practitioners in Denmark’s partner countries.
 By way of illustration, a 2015 report by the International Development Committee of the U.K. House of Committee notes that for DFID to remain relevant in the post-2015 era it needs “the capacity to broker partnerships, understand how to support and promote enabling environments for private sector-led growth, tackle market failures, and bring knowledge of emerging approaches around the world to policy areas ranging from social protection to green growth and climate resilience.” (House of Commons 2015: 42).
 For example, Danida’s evaluation program for 2015 and 2016 includes: Evaluation of the Strategy for Danish Humanitarian Action 2010-2015; Evaluation of the Danish Engagement in Palestine; Evaluation of the Danish Climate Change Funding for Developing Countries, among others (Danida 2015). See also the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Evaluation of Development Assistance 2012 for a summary of the six evaluations and four evaluation studies conducted in 2012.Top