Small Donors in World Politics: The Role of Trust Funds in the Foreign Aid Policies of Central and Eastern European Donors


The Central and Eastern European (CEE) EU member states have emerged as new donors of international development assistance since the turn of the millennium. The literature has tended to focus on the bilateral components of these policies, and neglected CEE multilateral aid. This paper contributes to filling this gap by examining how and why CEE donors contribute to trust funds operated by multilateral donors. The aim of the paper is twofold: First, it provides a descriptive account of how CEE countries use trust funds in the allocation of their foreign aid. Second, it explains this allocation using data from qualitative interviews with CEE officials. CEE countries make much less use of trust funds than might be expected. This is due not only to the loss of visibility and control over their resources, but also to how CEE companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) rarely achieve funding successes at multilateral organisations.


Les États membres d’Europe centrale et orientale (ECO) sont devenus de nouveaux bailleurs de l’aide internationale au développement après le tournant du millénaire. La littérature a eu tendance à se concentrer sur les composantes bilatérales de ces politiques et à négliger l’aide multilatérale de l’Europe centrale et orientale. Cet article contribue à combler cette lacune en examinant comment et pourquoi les bailleurs de l’Europe centrale et orientale contribuent aux fonds fiduciaires gérés par des organisations internationales. L’objectif de ce document est double: premièrement, il fournit un compte-rendu descriptif de la manière dont les pays d’Europe centrale et orientale utilisent les fonds fiduciaires pour l’affectation de leur aide publique au développement. Deuxièmement, il fournit une explication sur cette répartition à l’aide de données provenant d’entretiens qualitatifs avec des fonctionnaires des pays d’Europe centrale et orientale. Les pays d’Europe centrale et orientale utilisent beaucoup moins les fonds fiduciaire que ce qui était anticipé. Cela est dû non seulement à la perte de visibilité et de contrôle sur leurs ressources, mais également au fait que les entreprises et les ONG des pays d’Europe centrale et orientale rarement réuississent à gagner des contrats d’aide des organisations multilatérales.

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Fig. 1

Source based on data coded by the authors from OECD (2017a) for multi-bi aid and OECD (2016) for multilateral aid. CEE donors in black

Fig. 2

Source authors’ coding based on OECD (2016, 2017a)

Fig. 3

Source authors, based on OECD (2017a)

Fig. 4

Source authors, based on OECD (2017a)

Fig. 5

Source authors, based on OECD (2017a)


  1. 1.

    The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.


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The authors are grateful to Yoshi Kobayashi and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies.

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Correspondence to Balázs Szent-Iványi.

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Szent-Iványi, B., Reinsberg, B. & Lightfoot, S. Small Donors in World Politics: The Role of Trust Funds in the Foreign Aid Policies of Central and Eastern European Donors. Eur J Dev Res 31, 663–683 (2019).

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  • Foreign aid
  • Trust funds
  • Multi-bi aid
  • Central and Eastern Europe
  • New donors
  • International organisations