Country Concepts and the Rational Actor Trap - Limitations to Strategic Management of International Ngos

25 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2006

See all articles by Dirk Kohnert

Dirk Kohnert

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs

Date Written: 2005


Growing criticism of inefficient development aid demanded new planning instruments of donors, including international NGOs (INGOs). A reorientation from isolated project-planning towards holistic country concepts and the increasing rationality of a result-orientated planning process were seen as answer. However, whether these country concepts - newly introduced by major INGOs too - have increased the efficiency of development cooperation is open to question. Firstly, there have been counteracting external factors, like the globalization of the aid business, that demanded structural changes in the composition of INGO portfolios towards growing short-term humanitarian aid; this was hardly compatible with the requirements of medium-term country planning. Secondly, the underlying vision of rationality as a remedy for the major ills of development aid was in itself a fallacy. A major change in the methodology of planning, closely connected with a shift of emphasis in the approach to development cooperation, away from project planning and service delivery, towards supporting the socio-cultural and political environment of the recipient communities, demands a reorientation of aid management: The most urgent change needed is by donors, away from the blinkers of result-orientated planning towards participative organizational cultures of learning.

Keywords: Foreign aid, aid effectiveness, INGOs, planning policy, development management, participation, Africa, globalization

JEL Classification: F35, L31, L33

Suggested Citation

Kohnert, Dirk, Country Concepts and the Rational Actor Trap - Limitations to Strategic Management of International Ngos (2005). Available at SSRN: or

Dirk Kohnert (Contact Author)

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs ( email )

German Inst. of Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
D-20354 Hamburg


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