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    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
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    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
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    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
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    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
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    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press
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Entries in Studies (1)

Tuesday
Nov092010

Do Aid Shocks Cause Conflict?

The obvious (and right) answer is no.  Bad actors cause conflicts and an inability to agree on political control of the state may too.  The withdrawal of aid, whether for financial or political reasons, may make things more difficult and may correlate to a higher incidence of conflict in an aid-dependent country, but as we know, correlation does not equal causation.  There are probably a couple of dozen other "lurking" variables.

 

So it's a little disappointing that the authors of a study discussing the relationship between aid and the outbreak of violence title their post "Aid Shocks Likely Cause Armed Conflict"  and make the statement: "[t]he results give us greater confidence that aid shocks actually cause armed conflict" [emphasis mine]. Like most social science research, they qualify their conclusions — a typical CYA maneuver. 

 

You can find the full study here

 

My problem isn't so much with their data.  It does make sense that the withdrawal of aid and the recipient government’s resulting lack of funds can negatively impact the balance of power between the government and rebel forces.  The issue here is one of assigning responsibility and discerning the significance level of the correlation.  And by implying that ignorant or devious foreign powers are responsible for the conflict, rather than the perpetrators of the violence themselves (both rebels and the government), the authors fail to hold the right individuals/groups accountable.

 

And that's one of the main problems with so much development work: failing to hold the relevant parties responsible for their actions, whether they are intended beneficiaries, or the government receiving aid, or donors themselves.  For some reason, it's always the fault of someone or something else.