Performing political partnership - A study of EU-Liberia relations

Sigrid Bjerre Andersen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis investigates the concept of political partnership as a way of describing relations between the European Union and the ACP countries (Africa, Carribean and Pacific). The concept reflects two trends in current development discourse. On the one hand, the renaming of donor-recipient relations as 'partnerships', implying a more equal status between donors and recipients. On the other hand, the bringing in of political principles into donor-recipient relations, based on the philosophy that there are certain political preconditions to sustainable development. The thesis approaches political partnership through a case study of the EU's relations to one specific ACP country, Liberia. The thesis understands political partnership as being based upon principles of ownership, equality, and mutual responsibility, and at the same time as presenting specific political principles as crucial to development. Political partnership is linked to a donor-recipient relation, and hence holds the potential to be used as conditionality. The thesis looks at how these contradictions harboured by the concept of political partnership are negotiated in the specific context of EU-Liberia relations. Within the thesis, partnership is understood as an 'interpellation': a specific mode of address, creating possibilities and constraints for the EU and Liberia. The thesis hence focuses on how the EU and Liberia, respectively, respond to the specific address of 'political partner'. The interpellation perspective furthermore understands subjectivity as constituted in response to an address, and hereby allows for an illustration of how the EU is dependent upon Liberia in becoming a political partner. In this way, focus is directed towards how political partnership offers possibilities of discursive agency to donors and recipients alike. The thesis presents political partnership between the EU and Liberia as characterised by a mismatch of expectations, as Liberia steers clear of the EU's attempts at establishing a political partnership between them. While Liberia does not explicitly reject the idea, Liberia justifies political partnership as a question of complying with donor demands, and in this way creates a conundrum for partnership as it should ideally be recipient-driven. The thesis concludes that the EU's political identity project, resonating in its political partnership strategy, establishes a particularly fragile position for the EU, as Liberia is left with the power to define the relation, and hence with the possibility to refuse to address the EU as a political partner.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato24 maj 2011


  • EU
  • Liberia
  • partnership
  • development partnerships
  • Judith Butler
  • interpellation
  • conditionality
  • donor-recipient relations
  • Cotonou Agreement
  • aid modalities
  • ACP
  • performativity