The role of international aid in public service reform and capacity building: the case of post-communist Albania

  • Artan Karini

Student thesis: Phd


This research study investigates the role of international aid in public service reform and capacity building in the context of post-communist Albania. It takes a two-pronged approach towards exploring the interaction between the key research variables. First, challenging the technocratic, results-based management frameworks used by aid organizations, it offers a qualitative and critical assessment of the role of aid in a specific arena, administrative reform and capacity building, given its significance as key to (and conditionality for) the EU accession process. Secondly, the research points to the specificity of the national politico-administrative context and its ability to modify the process of policy transfer from aid organizations to the Albanian bureaucracy. In doing so, it attempts to illustrate the domestic challenges in the transfer process towards policy learning thus making a contribution to the debate over the (voluntary vs. coercive) administrative reform in Southeast Europe in relation to the politics of EU accession. Therefore, the findings of the study are two-fold. First, based on the multi-level analysis of policy transfer, the research provides an account of (aid-supported) policies/programmes and institutions/mechanisms of transfer towards administrative reform and capacity building. Thus, the analysis reveals the conflicting nature of international aid via the dichotomy between the 'career' versus 'managerialist' approaches promoted respectively by the EU and the WB as the drivers of administrative reform in post-communist Albania. The study maintains that aid towards administrative reform and capacity building has been confined to regulatory frameworks while its impact on the capacities of the public sector HRM functions has been rather limited. Besides, it claims that programmes and mechanisms of transfer have supported alignment with EU standards and compliance with global aid effectiveness agenda towards a broader public sector reform. The study concludes that while administrative reform and capacity building are conditionality for EU accession, the significantly reduced funding combined with the use of alternative policy incentives (signing into SAA in 2006 and admission into the Schengen agreement in 2010) might be taken to indicate a silent abandonment of administrative reform as a national matter. The findings suggest that this has indeed led to a complacent relationship between the EU and Albania, which may jeopardize the country's chances of accession into the EU. The study also challenges the views of the literature locating Albania among countries which have adopted the hybrid NWS, drawing on both NPM and Weberian reform doctrines. Accounts of an adversarial and polarized political culture in which political patronage and high staff turnover persist, coupled with a hierarchy-/clan-based administrative culture may explain the ability of the national context not only to modify but also to block policy transfer. The findings imply that the Albanian case provides a 'classic' example whereby transfer based on reform doctrines has been used by governing elites to solidify their political position. While the above may explain non-transfer towards policy learning, the role of aid is also reduced by other factors including overreliance on NGOs as 'implementation partners', 'mixed feedback' to bureaucrats and 'strong' informal donor-beneficiary-contractor networks characterized by a certain ability to affect donor behaviour.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTim Jacoby (Supervisor) & Richard Common (Supervisor)


  • international aid, administrative reform, capacity building, EU accession, Albania

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