Travel Report: Tanner Boisjolie; International Studies; Jakarta, Indonesia & Pretoria, South Africa

November 02, 2015
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With the money I received from the GIRTA, I was able to fund travel to Jakarta, Indonesia and Pretoria, South Africa in order to conduct research in support of my Master’s thesis in SFU's School for International Studies. My work examines the relationships emerging providers of development assistance have constructed with existing aid governance institutions.

Thanks to contacts in the United States Agency for International Development, I was able to arrange interviews with a number of people directly involved in each country’s South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) programs. In each country, I was able to speak with a diverse range of stakeholders, including government officials, representatives of international aid organizations, consultants, and academics.

Prior to traveling, I had intended to compare emerging development donors’ operational standards to those of more “traditional” donors by contrasting Indonesian and South African development assistance with an ideal type based on the OECD’s Aid Effectiveness agreements. Through the interview process, however, I found that information on Indonesian and South African development activities is largely unavailable, as a number of institutional barriers have inhibited each government’s capacity to collect data on their partnership activities.

Further, while Indonesia has declared its intent to follow OECD donorship standards and South Africa has remained reluctant to take such measures, Indonesia has made little progress on implementing reforms necessary to meet these commitments, while South Africa has taken far more decisive steps toward improving the effectiveness of its development assistance.

As a result of these findings, I came to understand emerging donors through the lens of international relations theories that seek to explain the impacts of rising powers on the international system. By employing power transition theory and role theory to the study of emerging donors, I have come to view Indonesia and South Africa as “rising powers” whose development activities take place concurrent to a “status quo” development regime comprised of the OECD-DAC, World Bank, IMF, and other institutions.

The countries’ differing positions toward this regime can in large part be explained by their positions in regional and global power hierarchies, capabilities, institutional memberships, and the level of satisfaction each receives from cooperating with the status quo. Thus, while Indonesia has a larger economy and greater population than South Africa, Jakarta has signaled its intent to work within existing frameworks, while Pretoria, driven by its position of regional leadership and association with the powerful BRICS states, has at times openly challenged the authority of the international aid governance regime.

As more Southern and Eastern powers enter the arena of official development assistance, the dynamics of power transition and role performance will continue to influence their relationships with the status quo, and in large part determine its future viability.

The GIRTA was invaluable toward my research process, and gave me the opportunity to speak directly to key figures in order to better understand South-South Cooperation’s role in development. I am highly grateful to my department, the awards committee, and my supervisor, Dr. John Harriss, for the support they have provided me throughout my thesis process.

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