The Globalization of Foreign Aid: Developing Consensus, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

The Globalization of Foreign Aid

Developing Consensus, 1st Edition

By Liam Swiss


174 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-12-05
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Why do aid agencies from wealthy donor countries with diverse domestic political and economic contexts arrive at very similar positions on a wide array of aid policies and priorities? This book suggests that this homogenization of policy represents the effects of common processes of globalization manifest in the aid sector. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative analysis of policy adoption, the book argues that we need to examine macro-level globalizing influences at the same time as understanding the micro-level social processes at work within aid agencies, in order to adequately explain the so-called ‘emerging global consensus’ that constitutes the globalization of aid.

The book explores how global influences on aid agencies in Canada, Sweden, and the United States are mediated through micro-level processes. Using a mixed-methods approach, the book combines cross-national statistical analysis at the global level with two comparative case studies which look at the adoption of common policy priorities in the fields of gender and security. The Globalization of Foreign Aid will be useful to researchers of foreign aid, development, international relations and globalization, as well as to the aid policy community.


"This long-awaited book provides a compelling account of why foreign aid donors engage in herd behaviour and how the process plays out in specific cases. In it, Liam Swiss makes a very insightful and nuanced contribution to the literature on foreign aid and policy diffusion."Stephen Brown, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

"Based on sustained personal and professional experience, Liam Swiss provides a meticulous analysis of the many forces that produce convergence in international development policy, norms and priorities. Swiss manages the rare combination of compelling detail, clarity, and theoretical innovation."Emma Mawdsley, Reader in Human Geography, University of Cambridge, UK

"Combining mixed-methods research with his insights as a former international aid worker, Swiss offers a compelling explanation of how donors get stuck in inflexible approaches to development. This books gives us a glimpse into both the dark side of global consensus, and how to break free of it."Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, USA

"This book is an indispensable contribution to our understanding of how aid works. Swiss deftly explores the challenges faced by the development industry today and blazes new trails into the global politics of bilateral assistance. I know of no other comparative study of aid agencies that takes a sociological approach as sophisticated as this."Jeffrey T. Jackson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Mississippi, USA, and author of The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action

Table of Contents

PART I: Emerging Global Consensus?

1. The Globalization of Foreign Aid?

2. Global Influences and the Diffusion of Aid Priorities

PART II: Donors Think Alike?

3. The Donors: Canada, Sweden, and the United States

4. Women and Gender: World Society and Bureaucrat Agency

5. Security Sector Reform: Catalytic Policy Processes and Donor Autonomy

PART III: Globalization’s Influence on Aid Agencies

6. Processes of Globalization: Linking Micro and Macro

7. The Globalization of Aid: Conclusions on Consensus

About the Author

Liam Swiss is Associate Professor of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Canada.

About the Series

Routledge Global Cooperation Series

The Routledge Global Cooperation series develops innovative approaches to understanding, explaining and answering one of the most pressing questions of our time – how can cooperation in a culturally diverse world of nine billion people succeed?

We are rapidly approaching our planet’s limits, with trends such as advancing climate change and the destruction of biological diversity jeopardising our natural life support systems. Accelerated globalisation processes lead to an ever growing interconnectedness of markets, states, societies, and individuals. Many of today's problems cannot be solved by nation states alone. Intensified cooperation at the local, national, international, and global level is needed to tackle current and looming global crises.

This interdisciplinary series welcomes proposals from a wide range of disciplines such as international relations and global governance, environment and sustainability, development studies, international law, history, political theory or economy which develop theoretical, analytical, and normative approaches concerning pressing global cooperation questions. We favour books that take an interdisciplinary approach and appeal to an international readership comprised of scholars and postgraduate students.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (

Tobias Debiel, Claus Leggewie and Dirk Messner are Co-Directors of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Their research areas are, among others, Global Governance, Climate Change, Peacebuilding and Cultural Diversity of Global Citizenship. The three Co-Directors are, at the same time, based in their home institutions, which participate in the Centre, namely the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE, Messner) in Bonn, the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF, Debiel) in Duisburg and The Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI, Leggewie) in Essen.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Intergovernmental Organizations
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries