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August 17, 2022

The KazAID Story

The KazAID Story

Written by: Prachi Agarwal

The ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine has captured the world’s attention. Conversations focusing on the fragility of countries’ sovereignty and security are growing, especially among former soviet republics. Despite threats to sovereignty and security, Kazakhstan, the largest country in central Asia and a former member of the USSR, aspires to be a global superpower. However, the primary challenge to this aspiration lies in ‘promoting increased connectivity while maintaining a freedom of action’. The solution to this challenge may require using foreign aid as an instrument of foreign policy.

Thus, the primary aim of this blog is to describe and highlight pertinent issues for Kazakhstan’s foreign aid practices in the context of using foreign aid. The rationale behind such an endeavour is that KazAID (Kazakhstan’s foreign aid body) remains an under-researched area. KazAID’s establishment was driven by fulfilling Kazakhstan’s security needs and economic aspirations. While the role of foreign aid as a foreign policy instrument of the rich countries may be widely known, KazAID’s story shows that other developing nations could also challenge the existing western hegemony through strategic aid foreign practices.

Contextualising Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has been carefully trying to maintain relations with its largest trading partners - Russia, the United States and China. Kazakhstan believes that Eurasian connectivity could benefit its economic and security interests. Simultaneously, Kazakhstan maintains close ties with Russia and China. Earlier in 2022, when protests broke out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan sought assistance from Russia to quell the growing protests. These protests were guided by the fear that Kazakhstan, too, may be invaded by Russia. These fears are not misguided as being a member of Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU) is getting increasingly costly for Kazakhstan. Critics suggest that while the EaEU mimics the EU’s institutional framework, in practice it is an agency for Russia’s geopolitical interests. Being a member of the EaEU constrains Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and weakens its economy and it may want to leave the EaEu, thus inviting Putin’s wrath. China, too, pursues economic interests in Kazakhstan as its largest trading partner and an emerging source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Such close ties with China and Russia may invite sanctions from the West. Therefore, Kazakhstan maintains a multivectoral foreign policy and foreign aid is a crucial, yet overlooked, aspect Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.

From Aid Recipient to Aid Donor

Kazakhstan delivers foreign aid through its agency, KazAID. However, Kazakhstan used to be a prominent aid recipient rather than a donor. Previously, Kazakhstan received aid under the OECD’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) banner. Figure 1 captures the trends in aid receipt amongst the Central Asian countries to show that until 2007, Kazakhstan received aid in the same proportion as most countries in the region, but post 2007, the amount of aid received drastically decreased. Simultaneously, the demand for aid among other countries in the region (barring Turkmenistan) continued to increase.

new kaz aid image

Figure 1: Trends in Aid Receipts (Source: Author’s Own; Data: QWIDS)

Some argue that this pivot may be due to the oil industry. In figure 1, the increasing trend (till 2007) occurred as Kazakhstan (and other Central Asian countries) needed assistance in transitioning to a market-based economy post their disintegration from the USSR. Simultaneously, due to its export policies for Uranium, wheat, and other natural resources, Kazakhstan experienced massive increases in its GDP.

In 1999, former President Nazarbayev had announced the intentions to reduce aid dependency. Following this decision, Kazakhstan took measured steps in reducing its loans and grants. Due to the increases in national income, the World Bank, in 2006, categorised Kazakhstan as an upper-middle-income country. Subsequently, in line with its foreign policy, Kazakhstan aspired to be included in the elite Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Becoming a donor nation was critical in achieving this aspiration. In 2014, the government implemented the ODA Law which established the tasks, agendas, regulations and organisational matters for the same. This law served as the legal basis for establishing Kaz AID

What is KazAID?

KazAID was established through a presidential decree, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. It was founded with the aim of building regional cooperation, helping Kazakhstan integrate into regional systems, connecting Europe and Asia, and promoting peace and security in the region. Thus far, major chunks of its aid have been delivered to countries in the region, but KazAID intends to extend aid to Latin American and African countries, too.

With a unilateral aid of USD 2 million, Afghanistan has been KazAID’s largest aid recipient so far. KazAID also supplies aid to Tajikistan. Although Tajikistan didn’t list Kazakhstan as a ‘foreign donor’ in one of its reports, KazAID continued with its initiatives in the region to build ‘brotherly relations’. Such activities resulted in an invitation from the OECD for a conference in Paris in 2018. Subsequently, Kazakhstan’s international image improved considerably, even perhaps establishing Kazakhstan as a regional leader. However, countries in the region are still reluctant to accept this status.

Figure 2 shows the amount of developmental assistance provided as a share of Kazakhstan’s Gross National Income (GNI) to indicate that initially, the aid amounts increased exponentially and then stabilised as it received the OECD Paris Conference invite. This further alludes to Kazakhstan’s strategy of employing foreign aid to aid its own agendas.

image 2 Kazak aid blog

Figure 2: Developmental Assistance provided as a share of GNI (Source: OECD, 2020)

At a conference, the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed that KazAID is an essential tool for the region’s long-term growth and development which would ensure peace and stability in the region. Indeed, this would directly benefit Kazakhstan’s own security and economic interests, which highlights the importance of foreign aid in Kazakhstan’s multivectoral foreign policy.

Situating KazAID in Kazakhstan’s Foreign Policy & Identity as a Donor

Given Kazakhstan’s proximity, history and economic ties with Russia, Kazakhstan could have invited sanctions from the United States or the NATO countries. However, to avoid this, Kazakhstan has employed its aid agency to partner with the US, the UN and other important nations/ organisations. Through KazAID initiatives and ODA policies, Kazakhstan’s donor identity was built which reaffirmed its authority in the region. But, in doing so, Kazakhstan has contrasted itself against other emerging donors.

Kazakhstan uses a ‘hybrid identity’ as a donor to combine aspects of being a traditional and an emerging donor. Historically, Kazakhstan has always maintained partnership, self-reliance and non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs. This is significantly different from the practices of traditional aid agencies, such as USAID. Yet, the motivations of establishing an aid agency and practices match that of the traditional aid agencies, contrasting it from other emerging donors.

For a landlocked and transcontinental country, like Kazakhstan, the development of foreign policy is crucial. However, to effectively employ the landlocked location, Kazakhstan must diversify its foreign policy approaches to develop its foreign aid practices. To this end, Kazakhstan strategically engages in foreign aid practices to cushion itself from hostile nations while ensuring a dominant role in the region. Thereby presenting itself as a viable ally to Russia rather than a threat, despite maintaining relations with the US.

Author bio:

Prachi Agarwal is an independent researcher and development sector professional, based out of India. Her academic interests include, among others, understanding foreign aid in relation to power and hegemony in a global setting.

July 15, 2021

By the West, for the West: Deconstructing the Development Discourse

India bus

Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Written by Shreyanshi Upadhyaya

The term development is hard to define because, over the years, it has come to connote different things: in the realm of economics as an objective such as modernisation, capital growth, poverty eradication; in the realm of ideas as a meta-narrative, discourse, or grand strategy; in the realm of development agencies as aid; and finally, for leaders of the developing countries development has meant a beacon of hope for prosperity. Despite these different meanings, in the realm of common-sense understandings, development has always had a positive connotation. Developing countries have adopted numerous development paths and the UN grandiose Development Goals. However, despite these makeovers, development has failed to produce any successful process of eradicating global poverty or inequality. Then why do we still believe that development works?

The invention of ‘underdevelopment’ and ‘global poverty’

In 1949, US President Truman advanced his Point Four Program wherein he made it the West’s self-ascribed agenda to deal with ‘poverty’ in ‘underdeveloped’ areas. It is in the context of the Cold War competition for world domination between the West and the East that the ‘grand strategy’ of Western-style development was advanced by the US, where development aid was sent to the newly independent countries in exchange for their loyalty.

The development discourse during the Cold War became a force that the leaders of the ‘underdeveloped’ world genuinely believed in. Development promised to them a world where they could be as prosperous as their former colonisers. Their colonial experience had taught them that there was no space for demonstrated weakness and vulnerabilities such as insecure systems of food, health, trade, etc., in the international arena, which was already taken care of in the developed West. To undo this insecurity, development presented a beacon of hope. Hence, as E.P. Thompson notes, the people who were objects of development during the colonial times and had ended up in a situation of depravity due to its very functioning, came to fight “not against development but about it”. Such was the hope that was eschewed by the ideology.

Even in the neoliberal era, bullied by the IMF and World Bank for decades, developing countries adopted American institutions and policies under Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) to learn “good” economic practices to get a sip out of the elixir of development which was the stronghold of the West. Even as they witnessed, for instance, during the East Asian crisis, the coercion of these fellow developing countries by the US and the IMF to reduce government welfare expenditure—even as it resulted in the resurgence of AIDS in Thailand and curtailed food subsidies for the starving in Indonesia—they were told it would be painful at first, but in the end, they will emerge ‘developed’. Adopting SAPs on the recommendation of these international financial institutions led to similar adverse consequences for the African economies, at times heightening unemployment and social insecurity. The developing world held onto the hope of development even as, a decade after, the same policies—increased government spending, massive deficits, bailing out of banks, interest rates as low as zero—that they were lectured about being against growth were adopted by the US to deal with its own 2008 crisis, aided by some of the same officials at the IMF and the World Bank. Why, despite this, did the non-West continued to follow the linear path to development?

With Truman’s speech in 1949, two billion people suddenly came to homogenously identify themselves as ‘underdeveloped’. Failing to note what they possessed—cultural diversity, talented population, and biodiversity—they came to see themselves in terms of what they were lacking: development. The term ‘underdevelopment’ had never before been used to classify entire populations into a hierarchy, where the developed were superior and the ‘underdeveloped’ inferior. The term was thus the creation of the development discourse advanced by the West. The development discourse helped solidify a specific perception into a fact that suddenly dichotomised the world and spoke to the vulnerability of the newly independent countries. Hence, the discourse of development was enticing because it not only made the achievement of Western-style development seem attainable for the ‘underdeveloped’, but also created the desirability of such development in the first place.

Similarly, global poverty—which rendered two-thirds of the world poor—was a phenomenon that was the construction of the development discourse. Poor people had always existed in all societies—which, as highlighted by Mustapha Kamal Pasha, kept devising vernacular methods for their support—but they had never become a feature that characterised countries in this manner before. Global poverty meant that the ‘underdeveloped’ countries came to be defined in relation to the standard of prosperity set by the ‘developed’ countries.

The development discourse led to the construction of ‘underdevelopment’ and ‘global poverty’, both of which ushered the creation of new discourses and practices that shaped the reality to which they referred. Faced with this new social reality where their existence came to be defined in terms of ‘poverty’ and ‘underdevelopment’, the discourse of development came to be naturalised as the necessary response for the leaders of the Global South, which they believed must be followed at any cost. Hence, development can be understood as a pervasive discourse, through which, the West influences and produces social reality for the non-West.

‘Benign’ Remodelling of non-Western Societies through ‘Science’ and ‘Objectivity’

At the heart of the Western discourse of development lies the normative need to compare non-Western societies to those of the West and frame the difference in terms of something the former is lacking and should aspire to achieve. It is what they lack, and the West possesses, is precisely what makes the non-West ‘underdeveloped’. Since the West holds, through virtue of experience (which itself is abstracted from history), the secrets to development, the path to development cannot be walked without an external intervention by the West.

Hence, the discourse of development encourages a study of the non-Western society by the knowledge-bearers and experts of the West. These interventions have produced descriptions and statistics—which cannot help but remind one of the colonial practices of census for resource exploitation—of the ‘underdeveloped’ that convey the various standards in which the non-West is lacking against entirely Western-centric rubrics. Therefore, the discourse of development has attempted to normalise the world in terms of the developed West’s experience and expectations.

However, the failure to meet these standards is not taken kindly to in the development discourse. Prescriptions given by development institutions, abstracted from any relation to colonialism, indicate that the ‘underdeveloped’ are oppressed by their own lack of initiatives, primitive societies, traditions, and overpopulation. These adjectives are also repeated endlessly as the root cause of ‘problems’ in the developing countries. For instance, framing of the ‘crises’ of African agriculture by the World Bank rests on the seemingly obvious connection between “more people/less land/ lower productivity/less food” which are merely vast generalisations that not only ignore the historical experience and difference in social structures but also end up caricaturing Africa because of its population.

Timothy Mitchel has shown that USAID’s development texts on Egypt have continually portrayed the Nile Valley and the peasantry living there as external to the political and economic transformations of the twentieth century, and hence, static over centuries. Portrayed as primitive and unchanging, then, agriculture at Nile Valley understandably needs the influx of Western technology and expertise. Jonathan Crush blames the development discourse for the propagation of the idea that societies evolved in a linear fashion, which then allowed development professionals to assume certain societies as static or being stuck in the past.

Given the ‘problems’ of the ‘underdeveloped’ countries in meeting the Western standards of development, the development discourse benevolently takes it upon itself to share its knowledge, science, and expertise to tackle them. Arturo Escobar highlights that development thinking has led to a conception of the social life in the non-West as a technical problem which requires the intervention of experts and science to rescue itself from its own stagnation. Every aspect of life—even the poor themselves—is subjected to the eyes of the experts and in military language, ‘action plans’ are drawn to impose on such societies. This trust in experts is combined with a blind faith in science, technology, planning, international organisations, and aid agencies, which are all seen as neutral and inevitably beneficial since their value has already been proven by the Western achievement of development.

Though development presents itself as essential, it seldom produces any new knowledge to tackle the problems it had set out to. Mark Duffield has shown that since 1950s, development reports carry the same recommendations: check population growth, modernise agriculture, reforestation, increase aid spending, renewed focus on poverty reduction, etc. Hence, the ‘technical’ study of societies through development analyses leads to a common diagnosis of problems in diverse societies, which, in turn, leads to the transfer of standardised policies from one country to another to tackle them.

This uniform application of development techniques has had irreversible consequences for the societies and cultures within the non-West. The use of buzzwords such as ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’ to denote the upliftment and involvement of communities in the development processes—which attach a moral feel-good character to the cause—has led to the legitimisation of many development interventions. However, the reality of the development discourse goes against the very idea of involving communities, who are continually ignored in the process. Stacy Leigh Pigg points out that in development planning, though it is widely assumed that villagers are “people who don’t understand”, there is an implicit sense that villagers must be labelled as ignorant not due to their absence of knowledge, but because of “the presence of too much locally-instilled belief”. Hence, the price of development has been the destruction of history and cultural traditions for two thirds of the world’s people.

The development discourse—by reducing people to data points, by destroying many historical practices of the non-West and tainting their cultures, by remodelling the non-Western societies according to Western standards, and by regarding percentage point decreases as an indication of poverty and inequality reduction—does violence to the very hope of a future without poverty and inequality. Thus, the development discourse advanced by the West works for the advancement of the West.

Author Bio

Shreyanshi Upadhyaya is a part-time Research Assistant at WICID and a full-time MA International Relations student at Warwick University. She draws inspiration from Postcolonial and Feminist International Relations theories, and her current research interests centre on optics, popular culture, and the construction of the national security environment in India.

May 27, 2020

Global Insights: COVID–19 and the Global South

Covid19 and global south

Authors: Jonathan Crush, Ann Fitz-Gerald, Hallelujah Lulie, Briony Jones, Anja Osei, Shirin Rai, Rachel Robinson

Editors: Briony Jones and Maeve Moynihan

This post is part of a larger collection covering the Global Insights webinar series, hosted jointly by Balsillie School of International Affairs (Canada), the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick (UK), the Institute for Strategic Affairs (Ethiopia), American University’s School of International Service (USA), and Konstanz University (Germany). Global Insights webinars take place every Thursday at 16:00h (BST). You can access a recording of this week’s webinar here.

Panelists: Ann Fitz-Gerald (Moderator - BSIA), Briony Jones (PAIS/WICID), Shirin Rai (PAIS/WICID), Jonathan Crush (BSIA), Hallelujah Lulie (ISA), Rachel Robinson (AU), and Anja Osei (KU)

COVID-19 is highlighting existing inequalities, exacerbating differences between the Global North and Global South, and bringing to light the gendered, racialised, and ethicised differences in the way people experience and can respond to crisis. COVID-19 is a health crisis, but it is also a crisis of security, governance, and democracy. The following post summarizes reflections through five questions and five policy recommendations.

In what ways does the pandemic in the Global South differ from that in Europe and North America?

Both scholars and journalists have been quick to highlight the differing experiences between the Global North and the Global South during the pandemic. A more nuanced approach that acknowledges similarities between the Global North and South as well as variations within the Global South itself is necessary. Within the Global South, economic consequences may be more severe, health burdens are greater, infrastructures for regulating populations are weaker, and trust in political institutions is lower, all of which may affect the capacity of governments to deal with the crisis. However, the population in the Global South is younger, less urbanised, has a history of dealing with health emergencies, and has fewer severe infections and fatalities thus far. This may just reflect a time lag and under-reporting in the Global South, but it may also demonstrate forms of resilience and early action which are not present in the Global North. There have been inspiring and effective responses throughout the Global South that disprove many flawed portrayals of the region, including effective food and resource distribution, accurate and consistent global health messaging, and the preservation of human rights in a time of crisis.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic in the North affecting the Global South?

The possibility of declining capital flow for development was a recurring topic throughout the webinar discussion. This decline encompasses remittances, foreign direct investment, and overseas development aid. In 2019, over 250 million migrants collectively remitted over $600 billion to their home countries. Remittances fell by 7% during the 2008 financial crisis, and the World Bank estimates that they have already dropped by 20% during the pandemic. The closure of borders in the Global North has already affected migration and remittance flows. As demand for clothing and other consumer goods declines, factory workers in the Global South have lost jobs without any security or pay. Support for foreign direct investment to Africa has already declined, and argued that the 0.7 Gross Domestic Product development assistance commitment may soon come under pressure as well. Such dramatic decreases in capital flow to the Global South will have a sustained impact on economies there. The US government’s attempts to defund the World Health Organisation exemplifies how governments may use COVID-19 as an excuse to limit funding to multilateral organisations. These tendencies towards isolationism, as well as neo-colonial trends as the Global North serve as concerning signs of what may come.

What is the response to COVID-19 taken by the South and what are we learning from it?

A variety of responses from the Global South have arisen so far, including quick and effective responses which demonstrate strong leadership at a time of crisis. National and local context drives this variation, but histories of responding to health crises and activism around the right to health impact it as well, as we see in Brazil for example. The Africa Centre for Security Studies has pointed to innovative responses such as Presidential Task Forces which mobilise professionals from different disciplines to share best practices like mobile testing. Governments in the South initially responded to the informal sector with tight spatial control, but later reversed this decision realising its vital importance for food security, among other aspects of daily life. In Addis Ababa for example, where around 40% of the economy is informal, the application of lockdown has to be different to contexts that we might see in London or Paris. In the context of the Global South, many populations see the lockdown response as more painful than the pandemic, leading to protest. As governments respond to this opposition, monitoring and observing in future elections will be affected, which may further cement authoritarian tendencies in government and increased dissatisfaction among populations.

Many countries in the global south are pursuing far-reaching democratization agenda. How is/could COVID-19 impact on these agenda?

The Global South is in a liminal moment in which xenophobic and populist politics may intensify, or a more collectivist political approach will triumph where states, civil society organisations, and multilateralism win out. For example, there is evidence in India of civil society organisations providing the much-needed food to the poor during lockdown, however there is also evidence of the pandemic being communalised to target India’s Muslim populations. This moment shows how the state can mobilise crises to shut down democratic critique in the name of urgency. Scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers must remain vigilant in order to guard against these potential threats to democracy, particularly in states where authoritarian tendencies are using such restrictions to quash opposition activism. In Senegal, for example, a recent study found that more than 80% of the population is suffering from the economic conditions due to lockdown, yet more than 80% approve of the government measures and are ready to comply. The pandemic and responses to it have and will continue to exacerbate inequalities surrounding gender and sexual orientation, in particular. For example, access to contraception and abortions is reduced and governments with a pre-exiting anti-LGBTQI stance continue to target sexual and gender minorities, but access to community support services are diminished. We have yet to see if this will also offer a powerful rallying cry for populations to demand more from the state.

How will/has COVID-19 impact(ed) Security Issues in the Global South?

In many places, the pandemic has emboldened state power and created an entry point to consolidate national consensus. The pandemic threatens security surrounding food, justice, equality, and more. In 2019 the FAO estimated that almost 2 billion people globally were either moderately or severely food insecure. Lockdowns have disrupted supply chains, reduced income, and increased food insecurity amongst the most vulnerable as the Hungry Cities Project has identified. The joint food and economic crises are forcing governments in some nations to relax lockdown restrictions before the health pandemic allows. The panel also highlighted the way in which the pandemic is widening the justice gap. In a report in 2019, the Task Force on Justice found that 1.5 billion people globally have a justice problem which they cannot resolve and that 4.5 billion people globally are excluded from the opportunities that the law provides. Current emergency measures may lead to, or indeed themselves be, violations of human rights for the general population and racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. A coordinated response from all justice actors – local, national and international, civil society and private sector – is necessary to independently monitor these measures, create safe zones in violence hotspots, and generate people-centred data on needs.

Key Conclusions: Five pieces of advice for policy-makers

1. Development agencies in the Global North should design aid programming that incorporates social care and social work. Governments in both the Global North and Global South should include increased resources for social care in relevant budgets, and recognise the value of care work being undertaken, as well as the gendered dimensions as women take up the burden of additional care work due to COVID-19.

2. Governments in both the Global North and Global South should invest resources in social infrastructure and build strong social welfare systems, considering policy tools such as universal welfare provision, basic income, wage protections schemes and public childcare provision.

3. Policy makers in governments as well as practitioners in development agencies should take an interdisciplinary approach including, but not limited to, health expertise.

4. Fund independent data collection, including a focus on people-centred data.

5. National governments and multilateral organisations should use this opportunity to create national consensus and dialogue.

Through these five pieces of advice for policymakers, the topic of COVID-19 and the Global South can spur conversation about how we understand the effects of the pandemic, how we construct narratives of the ‘crisis’ of the pandemic, and how we respond as scholars, practitioners and policy makers to ameliorate the impact of the crisis. While leadership, innovation and best practices are visible in the Global South, resource needs and declining development aid are growing. A multilateral response in conjunction with local and national action are of utmost importance to address the complexities and variations in the Global South at this time of crisis.


The Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development addresses urgent problems of inequality and social, political and economic change on a global level.

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