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A Prototypical Case in the Making? Challenging Comparative Perspectives on French Aid


  • Gordon D Cumming

    () (MLANG, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Cardiff University)


Abstract The comparative literature presents a mixed picture of French development assistance, with qualitative studies portraying this as a ‘deviant’ case while variable-led analyses view it as broadly ‘representative’. Both sets of studies ignore the possibility that French aid might be ‘prototypical’, laying down ideas and practices for other donors. Drawing upon a conceptual framework and over twenty interviews, this article challenges these comparative perspectives and paves the way for wider consideration of French ideas on international development. It argues that French assistance has undergone ‘mainstreaming’ and developed prototypical features since Prime Minister Jospin’s reforms of the late 1990s. It attributes these prototypical characteristics to France’s continuing ambivalence towards international aid norms, its more strategic approach to promoting French ideas and the emergence of a more propitious intellectual climate for those ideas. It concludes by reconciling different perspectives on French assistance and exploring the implications of these findings for Northern aid.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon D Cumming, 2017. "A Prototypical Case in the Making? Challenging Comparative Perspectives on French Aid," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 29(1), pages 19-36, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:29:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_ejdr.2015.62
    DOI: 10.1057/ejdr.2015.62

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wilson, Ernest III, 1993. "French support for structural adjustment programs in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 331-347, March.
    2. David Dollar & Craig Burnside, 2000. "Aid, Policies, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 847-868, September.
    3. Ghosh, Anirban & Kharas, Homi, 2011. "The Money Trail: Ranking Donor Transparency in Foreign Aid," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 1918-1929.
    4. Kilby, Christopher, 2011. "What Determines the Size of Aid Projects?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 1981-1994.
    5. Knack, Stephen & Rogers, F. Halsey & Eubank, Nicholas, 2011. "Aid Quality and Donor Rankings," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 1907-1917.
    6. Easterly, William & Williamson, Claudia R., 2011. "Rhetoric versus Reality: The Best and Worst of Aid Agency Practices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 1930-1949.
    7. Clist, Paul, 2011. "25Years of Aid Allocation Practice: Whither Selectivity?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 1724-1734.
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    More about this item


    development; Africa; aid; France; blending; effectiveness;


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