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The layering of norms: Liberal vs. colonial norms in the collection and calculation of international aid statistics

Khakee lecture
Thursday, March 21, 2024, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Abstract /

Up until today, the rules of the OECD allow colonial powers to count transfers to their remaining colonial possessions as official development assistance (ODA). We systematically quantify this surprisingly under-researched practice of intra-imperial transactions counted as aid – not to be conflated with aid to former colonies – from 1960 until 2021, covering all states which have, or have had, non-self-governing territories within that period. Additionally, we complement the quantitative analysis with a qualitative review of the regular state-to-state peer reviews of ODA, showing how they normalize such transfers. Theoretically, this phenomenon is discussed in terms of layering of norms: how a practice (such as ODA reporting) which is usually thought of as governed by a set of (liberal) norms, is in reality regulated through several types of (liberal and colonial) norms. These are not competing but rather both embedded within the organisation. The article serves as a corrective to a norms literature often centered around liberal norms and based on the assumption that Western states and the organisations they dominate are governed by and champion liberal norms. It also allows for an analysis of norms that have been made invisible/naturalized within some organisational settings. The article concludes by discussing the consequences: a normalization and perpetuating of colonial understandings of the metropoles’ limited responsibilities for their colonial subjects and a boosting – through the inflated aid figures - of the image of major powers as humanitarian and benevolent actors.

Speaker's bio /

Anna Khakee is Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Malta and EMA (European MA in Human Rights and Democratisation) Director. Prior to her appointment, she worked as a Senior Researcher at Graduate Insititute of International and Development studies (IHEID) in Geneva and for several years as a consultant to CSOs, think tanks and IOs, including Amnesty International, FRIDE, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She has been a consultant to several Swedish parliamentary and government committees and has served the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in various capacities. Prof. Khakee has published widely, including in Democratization, International Spectator, Journal of North African Studies, Mediterranean Politics, Mediterranean Quarterly, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, and East European Politics and Societies.