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The Paradigm Shift of Danish Development Policy (1990–2020)

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For decades, Danish Development Policy was characterized by continuity, backed, as it was, by a relatively stable consensus across the political spectrum. However, this changed in the new Millennium where a paradigm shift in
Danish development policy took place. This article characterizes and explains
the paradigm shift and identifies its main driving forces. Drawing on Peter
Hall’s policy paradigm framework, I identify development policy changes as a
first, second, as well as a third order change, which constitutes a fundamental paradigm shift. Aid has been cut by almost a third, and the composition of instruments
has changed with reduced allocations to bilateral country programmes, reduced
allocations to the poorest and most stable countries, and increased allocations to
humanitarian aid and areas of origin of migrants. Other purposes such as e.g. security concerns, global climate mitigation, or reducing migration flows, have to a large
extent substituted the longstanding main objective of poverty reduction. International events and tendencies are of course important factors in explaining
these significant development policy shifts, but domestic driving forces are
equally important and consist mainly in a politicization of development aid
enabled by a prior shift in policy-arena, both driven by domestic coalition politics.
The politicization happened when a centre-right government was elected in 2001
and enabled a paradigm shift that happened over the 00s and which has been consolidated by the Social democratic minority government since 2019.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForum for Development Studies
Pages (from-to)345-371
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • Denmark, development aid, development policy, policy arenas, policy paradigms

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