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5. Comparative Advantages: With Whom and Where Does Denmark Enjoy Influence?

Denmark appears to perform relatively well across our three experience- and perceptions-based measures of performance: agenda-setting influence, usefulness of advice, and helpfulness in implementation. However, do these trends hold true across different stakeholder groups, sectors, and geographical regions? To what extent is Denmark’s actual performance in line with the country’s development cooperation strategy and perceived comparative advantage?

In the remainder of this section, we analyse the unique characteristics and attributes of those groups where Denmark appears to enjoy the greatest favourability and influence based upon responses to the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey. We identify three patterns about the groups with which Danish development partners have an apparent comparative advantage.

5.1 Host governments view Denmark’s performance more favourably than do CSOs and development partners.

Even though host government officials overall were less familiar with Danish development partners than anticipated (see section 2), those that have worked with Denmark appear to view its performance in a positive light. On all three measures, host government officials perceive Denmark as performing relatively better than the average DAC bilateral development partner (Figure 9). This favourability rating is not unique to Denmark, however. Other European bilateral development partners such as Finland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Ireland, also received high marks from host government survey participants on at least one or more performance dimensions (Custer et al, 2015).

Engagement does not necessarily translate into favourability. While survey participants from CSO, private sector, and development partners were on average more likely to work directly with Denmark than expected (see section 2), they rate the usefulness of Danish policy advice and agenda-setting influence nearly on par with the average DAC bilateral partner. Denmark does fare slightly better among these stakeholder groups than the average DAC bilateral when it comes to perceived helpfulness in reform implementation (see Figure 9).[17]

With this baseline in mind, it will be instructive to monitor whether and how these reported experiences and perceptions change in future years in response to Denmark’s more recent emphasis on engagement with CSOs/NGOs in efforts to address the issues of democracy, human rights, and development. The Strategy for Danish Support to Civil Society, which was published in 2008, has provided a new guideline for promoting Danish cooperation with local CSOs/NGOs (Danida 2014). As Denmark now explicitly aims to bolster “a strong and independent civil society which fights for the most vulnerable and marginalised people” in low- and middle-income countries, there has also been a greater emphasis on financial support and capacity building geared towards local CSOs (Danida 2012). Denmark also aims to engage the private sector in efforts for development and poverty reduction, as exemplified by Danida’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme launched in 2004.[18]

Figure 9: Governments perceive Denmark as more useful, influential and helpful than CSOs and development partners

Figure 9 Notes: Error bars indicate +/- one standard error. The usefulness of policy advice is measured on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 indicating “almost never”, 2 “less than half the time”, 3 “about half the time”, 4 “more than half the time”, and 5 “almost always.” Agenda-setting influence and helpfulness in reform implementation are both measured based on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 indicating the least influence/helpfulness and 5 the utmost influence/helpfulness.

5.2 Denmark’s policy advice is seen as particularly useful to those working in private sector development and the social sectors.

Survey participants belonged to one of five policy clusters: macroeconomic, social, private sector development, environment, and governance.[19] Overall, Denmark did better than the average DAC bilateral partner on each of the three measures of policy influence, across all policy clusters.[20] However, survey participants with a specialisation in private sector development perceived Denmark to be particularly useful in providing policy advice (4.166) and influential in shaping the reform agenda (3.106) compared to other policy clusters. This finding appears to be somewhat consistent with Denmark’s strategic shift in 2009 towards greater emphasis on private sector development.

Survey participants working in social policy also viewed Denmark’s performance favourably, particularly with regard to the helpfulness of Danish development partners in implementing reforms (3.821). See Figure 10.

Figure 10: Denmark is perceived as most useful by respondents in private sector development and social sectors

Figure 10 Notes: Error bars indicate +/- one standard error. The usefulness of policy advice is measured on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 indicating “almost never”, 2 “less than half the time”, 3 “about half the time”, 4 “more than half the time”, and 5 “almost always.” Agenda-setting influence and helpfulness in reform implementation are both measured based on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 indicating the least influence/helpfulness and 5 the utmost influence/helpfulness.

This positive reception among policymakers and practitioners in the social policy space is to be expected, as supporting social progress is one of Denmark’s strategic priority areas and the focus of substantial budget support and multilateral interventions (Danida, 2012). Well-designed social safety nets, social protection, promoting the right to sexual and reproductive health, and fighting HIV/AIDS are particularly prominent in Denmark’s development cooperation strategy.

However, strategic priorities are not necessarily predictive of favourable performance ratings. One of the four key policy priorities of Danish development strategy is to promote human rights and democracy. To this end, Denmark has been involved in efforts to help establish democratic institutions by supporting elections, the legislature, the judiciary, and civil society groups while also implementing programs to fight against corruption.[21] While democracy, transparency, and anti-corruption are explicit foci in Denmark’s development cooperation strategy, survey participants working in governance found Denmark to be relatively less influential and helpful than their counterparts in other policy clusters such as: private sector development, macroeconomic, and social. Although Denmark’s scores are still consistently above an average DAC bilateral partner in these two performance indicators (agenda-setting influence and helpfulness in reform implementation), it doesn’t appear that Denmark is enjoying as much of a comparative advantage in the governance space as one might expect and may indicate an area where future research is needed to better understand why that might be the case.[22]

5.3 Denmark is perceived most favourably in sub-Saharan Africa, but has less clout in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Danish development partners have deep ties with the African continent: the region is historically the largest recipient of Danish development aid, accounting for 60% of all Danish ODA in 2009 alone (OECD-DAC, 2011b).[23] Given the intensity of Danish development cooperation in the region, it is unsurprising that Denmark’s performance is viewed most favourably in sub-Saharan Africa. Participants from sub-Saharan Africa rated Danish development partners as performing substantially better than the average DAC bilateral partner on all three measures: usefulness of their advice (4.014), agenda-setting influence (3.419), and helpfulness in implementation (3.839).

These patterns are consistent with a strategic focus on the part of Danish development cooperation on sub-Saharan Africa where “the need for development is greatest” (Danida, 2010, p. 11). Denmark has forged long-term development partnerships with a number of African countries (e.g., Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia), which are expected to receive continuous and extensive financial and political support from Danish development agencies (OECD-DAC, 2011b; Danida, 2012).[24]

By contrast, Latin America has received less financial support from and direct engagement with Danish development agencies. Only a handful of countries in Latin America are “priority countries”[25] in the Danish development agenda and only a small fraction of the Danish aid budget is allocated to this region (OECD-DAC, 2011).[26] The geographical variation in Denmark’s performance in effecting reform seems to mimic the regional emphases of the Danish development strategy. The perceptions of participants from Latin America and the Caribbean appear to reflect this, as Denmark scored below an average DAC bilateral development partner in the region across all three indicators of development partner performance (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Denmark is perceived as most useful, influential and helpful in sub-Saharan Africa

Figure 11 Notes: Error bars indicate +/- one standard error. The usefulness of policy advice is measured on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 indicating “almost never”, 2 “less than half the time”, 3 “about half the time”, 4 “more than half the time”, and 5 “almost always.” Agenda-setting influence and helpfulness in reform implementation are both measured based on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 indicating the least influence/helpfulness and 5 the utmost influence/helpfulness.

[17] On the helpfulness in reform implementation indicator, Denmark scored 3.590 and 3.243 among CSO/NGO/private sector representatives and development partners, respectively, which were slightly higher than the mean scores of the average DAC bilateral (3.063 and 3.100).

[18] The PPP has aimed to promote “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in private entities” while assisting efforts to create favorable business environments for greater investment and competitiveness (Kirkemann and Appelquist 2008).

[19] See Table A-3 in the Appendix for a breakdown of which self-identified policy domains make up each policy cluster.

[20] The only exception is “usefulness of policy advice” within the macroeconomic policy cluster.

[21] See more details on the scope of activities Denmark has engaged in to promote human rights and democracy: http://um.dk/en/danida-en/activities/strategic/human-right-demo.

[22] We also found that Denmark is particularly weak in its performance to push for and implement democratic reforms. In Figure A-3 in the Appendix, we show Denmark’s scores on the three indicators (usefulness of policy advice, agenda-setting influence, and helpfulness in reform implementation) by specific issue areas within each policy domain. Survey participants selected up to three specific issues (within their policy domain) on which the government’s policy reforms focused and then evaluated donors’ agenda-setting influence and helpfulness in reform implementation regarding those reforms. Figure A-3 reveals that those who listed democracy as one of the key issue areas found Denmark to be particularly less influential or helpful compared to those who listed other issue areas.

[23] Top recipients include sub-Saharan countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, and Ghana.

[24] Countries are defined as partners if “Denmark engages [with them] with a long term perspective and with political and financial weight” (OECD-DAC 2011, p. 29).

[25] Danida’s Freedom from Poverty, Freedom to Change, a development strategy paper published in 2010, introduced a new definition of partner countries, which were previously referred to as programme countries and later renamed as priority countries in 2013.

[26] In fact, there are only two countries from Latin America that held long-term partnerships with Denmark --Bolivia and Nicaragua. However, Denmark has already decided to phase out of these two countries, further reducing its footprint in the region (OECD-DAC 2011b).

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This page forms part of the publication "Danish Development Cooperation from a Partner Country Perspective – Evaluation Study, September 2016" as chapter 5 of 7.
Version no. 1.0, 2016-10-04
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/evaluation_study_september_2016/index.html