The Roles of Aid in Politics Putting China in Perspective



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Lumsdaine, David H. (1993), “Chapter One: Do Moral Mater in International Politics?,” in Lumsdaine, David H., Moral Vision in International Politics: The Foreign Aid Regime 1949–1989, pp. 3-29, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Realism has long contended that international politics is profoundly and inherently conflictual. The bases for this claim vary from aggressive human nature to the character of the state or of the international system. I have argued (1) that human nature is highly varied, and can produce destructive, merely self-interested, or principled and altruistic deeds, and (2) that the international system does not require prudent states to concentrate so exclusively on their own needs that no one can take care of the system, or of weaker neighbors. Systemic forces do not entail any one way of coping, but permit a range of state behavior and various types of international systems. The ambiguities which give states significant choices suggest that philosophical and ideological differences can shape how states behave. Principles and values systematically affect the world system, and waxing and waning ethical concerns and changes in domestic political systems can significantly alter the overall character of international politics.

This opens up several distinct lines of investigation and hypothesis testing, about domestic influence, international norms, and the inherent meanings of various international practices. Each of these hypotheses involves denying that the processes of international politics are discontinuous from the social and moral character of personal life and civil society. Moral factors can alter the tenor of international life, not only in peripheral ways, but by changing the character of the system.

Cooperation stems not just from incentives but from underlying attitudes and values. Insofar as cooperation is simply making mutually advantageous (pareto-improving) deals, there is nothing particularly fine about it: it may tend toward or away from peace or the restraint of oppression or concern for the needy. Cooperation is valuable where it involves an ethic of working together to promote essential and humanly beneficial change. Understanding cooperation narrowly conceived of as cooperation among national egoists is not alternative but complementary to moral factors, because practices of cooperation once begun have an inherent logic that may lead states in self-interested cooperative arrangements toward broader cooperative values. But for just these reasons it is important to start developing analytic conceptions of cooperation that show their relationship to the moral bases of society.

The forty-year history of foreign aid shows how many concepts discussed in this chapter worked out in practice. Differences in domestic political principles, among leader and publics, best explain systematic differences between the aid programs of different states and the reasons that aid got started. The role of international society was at work, both in the dialogue between less developed countries and aid donors and in the sense of appropriate behavior that constrained the donors as members of the OECD. That practices once undertaken had their own momentum, and grew and changed influenced by the meanings that constituted them as practices, may be seen both in the developments that prepared the way for aid and in the evolution of foreign aid practices.

Strong humanitarian convictions shaped this large, novel, and important aspect of international economic relations. Foreign aid is a paradigm case of the influence of crucial moral principles because of its universal scope, and assistance form well-off nations to any need, its focus on poverty, and its empowerment of the weakest groups and states in the international system. For the book as a whole argues what chapter 2 presents in summary: foreign aid cannot be explained on the basis of the economic and political interests of the donor countries alone, and any satisfactory explanation must give a central place to the influence of humanitarian and egalitarian convictions upon aid donors.



Lumsdaine, David H. (1993), “Chapter Two: Why Was There Any Foreign Aid at All,” in Lumsdaine, David H., Moral Vision in International Politics: The Foreign Aid Regime 1949–1989, pp. 30-69, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Foreign aid was the largest financial flow to the Third World consistently through the postwar period, and was greater than all other flows combined, except in the period roughly from 1973-1985. The sudden appearance of aid form nearly a score of developed democracies in the fifties, and their steady commitment to aid since, cannot be explained by the individual or collective economic and political interests of the donor states, though these interests did sometimes influence aid. Evidence about aid spending, about which countries had the strongest aid programs, about public support for aid, about the origins of aid, and about ongoing changes in aid suggests instead that the real bases of support lay in humanitarian and egalitarian concern in the donor countries. Such concern was usually combined with and internationalism which held that the only secure basis for world peace and prosperity in the long run lay in providing all states with a chance to make progress toward a better life; but this kind of internationalism tended to be held only by those who were committed to the welfare of poor countries for other reasons, and was generally opposed to the use of aid to support narrow national interests.

As just discussed, the practice of foreign aid from about 1949 to the present also accords with the more general arguments developed in chapter 1 about the ways in which moral factors can influence international politics. There was regular influence of domestic concerns with poverty upon international aid efforts. A sense of world citizenship led individuals to support assistance to the Third World, and perceptions of international society led developed country governments to pay attention to international norms and standards, to the kind of identity they wanted to develop, to the opinion of other developed states, and to the complaints of Third World countries.

Lundborg, Per (1998), “Foreign Aid and International Support as a Gift Exchange,” in Economics and Politics, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 127-141, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

In this study the basis for non-altruistic granting of aid is derived from rivalry between two donors. We specified a gift exchange model to explain the interaction between donors’ aid and the political support they obtain from the recipients. According to the gift exchange hypothesis the relative political support for the US is positively affected by US and negatively affected by Soviet aid. The hypothesis also implies that US aid rises as a result of increased political support for the US and that Soviet aid falls. Another theoretical result is that aid receivers’ absolute income level is a determinant of the aid shares. Drawing on a study by Dudley and Montmarquette (1976), we also included a complementary model for altruistic granting of aid suggesting that per capita incomes is an important determinant of aid.

As suggested by the gift exchange model, the aid shares were shown to affect political support in the expected qualitative manner. The results suggest that the postwar increase in Soviet aid shares and the fall in US aid shares since the sixties contributed to the fall in relative support for the US as shown in Figure 1.

The regression also indicated that political support affects the aid shares in the way suggested by the gift exchange hypothesis. Simultaneity between aid and support was hence show to prevail. The gift exchange model also predicted that the recipients’ income level has a negative impact on the aid share since it is more expensive to buy political support from countries with high income levels than from those of low levels. This prediction, however, has not received support in the regression analysis; while the estimates are of the expected sign they are not significant. Also the altruistic model is given empirical support as per capita incomes yield negative and significant estimates for US and for USSR aid shares.

The results suggest that the fall of the Soviet Union and the termination of the cold war should lead to a decline in foreign aid from both the US and the nations in the former Soviet Union. As no incentives remain to use aid to extract political support, such a reduction should be expected. This does not necessarily mean that the world’s poorest will be negatively affected; as show, there are evidence of altruism in both donors’ foreign aid. Furthermore, it might be that the aid grants motivated by foreign political considerations are transferred into altruistically motivation donations. It also seems reasonable that aid provided for foreign policy objectives is inefficient and that the remaining aid may be better utilized in the recipient countries.

Finally, it should be remembered that our regressions are based on a game involving repeated one-shot games. We discussed in section 3 the realism of this assumption. Since more realistic alternatives, that would allow the history of the game since the last change of government to affect the outcomes, would make the model intractable, it is hard to assess the implications for the estimates if the one-shot game assumption is violated.

Lundsgaarde, Erik, Breunig, Christian and Prakash, Aseem (2007), “Trade Versus Aid: Donor Generosity in an Era of Globalization,” in Policy Sciences, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 157-179.

This paper has examined the issue of instrument choice faced by developed countries to support development in poor countries. Because developing countries face capital scarcity and capital is often viewed as a sine qua non for development, rich countries can promote economic development via resource transfers. Prior research has identified foreign aid as an instrument for redistributing resources internationally. It has not placed the issue of aid in the larger context of the politics of instrument choice. Drawing on the ‘trade versus aid’ debate, this paper argues that varying levels of donor generosity can only be understood when increased imports from developing countries to donor countries are taken into account.

Our analyses confirm that rising levels of OECD imports from developing countries are associated with reductions in OECD government’s foreign aid allocations. Thus, key OECD policymakers, with an eye towards their domestic constituencies, are reducing aid budgets and justifying this by pointing to increased imports from developing countries. While prior research has emphasized the importance of social spending in influencing foreign aid budgets, our analysis does not support this argument. We also do not find support for the partisanship variables that previous research has tended to emphasize. However, we do find evidence that domestic economic conditions in the donor country, and unemployment levels in particular, influence foreign aid budgets. Thus, only some aspects of the domestic political context are important in shaping aid decisions.

The ‘trade, not aid’ debate has been around for nearly as long as the foreign aid regime itself, and has figured prominently in foreign aid discussions in the United States at least since the Eisenhower administration. However, the promotion of trade openness on the international development agenda in the past two decades has increased its prominence. Our paper suggests that the ‘trade, not aid’ argument has had a significant policy impact in donor countries: increased imports from developing countries have displaced foreign aid. This trend has several policy implications. If increased market access leads rich countries to reduce foreign aid, then developing country governments may have fewer options to explore alternative developmental paths. Moreover, citizens within developing countries may not benefit equally from the type of development that trade promotes, since benefits would likely be concentrated in the outwardly oriented sectors of the economy. Reduced aid may accentuate global inequalities, especially if certain developing countries do not have the resources or skills valued in global markets (Stiglitz 2002). Finally, reductions in foreign aid may also weaken rich countries’ leverage to promote democracy and human rights in the developing world. While trade sanctions represent one alternative means of achieving this objective, research suggests that although sanctions may serve an important symbolic purpose, their efficacy in producing changes in state behavior is limited (Lindsay 1986).

As the WTO’s Doha Ministerial Declaration demonstrates, the argument that international trade is an essential means of promoting economic growth and poverty alleviation in the developing world occupies a prominent place on the multilateral trade agenda. If international trade has become the key instrument to foster development ($2200 billion in OECD-developing country trade versus $50 billion in aid in 2000), then international development scholars need to closely scrutinize the rules influencing the division of gains from trade, not only between the North and the South, but also within the South. Although the WTO is the key multilateral trade regime, a slew of regional and bilateral trade agreements are also affecting the volume and directionality of trade. Such trade agreements should be carefully examined not only in terms of gains and losses for the signatories, but also in terms of how they create trade for and divert trade from non-signatories (De Melo and Panagriya 1992). Because geography may privilege some developing countries regarding trade with OECD countries (Dunning 1981), the ‘geographically challenged’ countries may face difficult structural constraints in gaining access to international trading networks through no fault of their own. One way to address these structural disadvantages could be to include a ‘side agreement’ on foreign aid in regional and bilateral trade agreements. In sum, international trade and international development scholars need to closely examine this complex issue.

In addition to paying increased attention to the distribution of gains from trade in the developing world, this analysis suggests that it is essential that future research examine the way that geographical patterns of aid allocations have changed within the context of overall aid reductions. The developing countries that benefit from increased trade with the developed world and those that are hurt by aid cutbacks may not overlap. Thus strong export performance among other developing states may further reinforce the disadvantages facing the most aid dependent states by reducing the level of official assistance offered by donors.

Just as geography or the absence of efficient economic institutions limit the ability of some countries to reap the advantages of increased international trade, some states are at a fundamental economic disadvantage due to a lack of political control within their territory. The recent ‘War on Terror’ has drawn attention to failed states (Fukuyama 2004) and to how poverty facilitates the recruitment of terrorists (Posen 2001/2). Because failed states cannot guarantee property rights, they are unlikely to successfully participate in international economic exchanges. Trade as an instrument for development will not have traction for such countries, while foreign aid may still enable donor countries to support programs that counter poverty. An excessive reliance on trade as an instrument for economic development may thus have important implications for international security in addition to its consequences in the realm of international economics.

Macalister-Smith, Peter (1989), “Humanitarian Action and International Law,” in Loescher, Gil J. and Nichols, Bruce (eds.), pp. 91-119, The Moral Nation: Humanitarianism and US Foreign Policy Today, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Legal rights and duties with regard to humanitarian action already exist in certain restricted circumstances, in particular under the terms of existing international instruments applicable in armed conflict and in the important area of rescue at sea. However, extending such rights and duties to humanitarian actions in situations of greatest need is a difficult task which remains to be achieved. The problem for the development of humanitarian law is that it should be based on objective criteria of human need, but must also take account of the practical political requirements of donor and recipient states.

Although the pressure of urgent circumstances alone is often found to be the motivating force behind developments at the operational level, only comparatively slow change or progress may be expected with regard to the assumption by states of binding or general responsibilities. Thus, several of the important UN specialized agencies and subsidiary organs involved in humanitarian action have undergone considerable change over the course of time, but this has tended to come about mostly through interpretation and usage rather than through formal amendments. Functional responsibilities have not been transformed into legal duties.

The problem of international legal measures relating to humanitarian action appears to arise at several levels. One important level concerns technical arrangements to expedite assistance; the concern here is with measures which facilitate the efficient delivery of relief consignments, the movement and functioning of relief personnel, and arrangements in connection with communications. A further level of legal interest relates to the principles of humanitarian action, which are still neither universally nor uniformly recognized; nevertheless, developments in humanitarian activities undertaken by states bilaterally, by governmental and nongovernmental organizations and by private individuals all contribute to establishing standards of responsibility for disaster victims, and they provide some norms for the conduct and evaluation of humanitarian operations. A third task is to relate existing legal and operational approaches in the field of humanitarian action to contemporary understanding of the role and purposes of international law and thereby to indicate the scope for development of both humanitarian law and action. In essence, this means how to establish a broad field of humanitarian law relevant to all who may require international assistance.

There is considerable merit in the legal approach based on relatively detailed technical rules, because progress depends ultimately on the success of practical measures. At the same time, a framework of principles relating to humanitarian action would usefully supplement technical measure, if such principles could be both reasonably comprehensive and widely acceptable. More broadly, it could be appropriate to re-examine the foundations for international humanitarian cooperation, in particular those contained in Article 1(3) of the UN Charter which are no longer adequate to meet the current need for humanitarian action. These foundations should be developed and reinforced so as to allow them to serve as a basis for legal, organizational, and functional progress, all interdependent prerequisites of an improved humanitarian order. The importance of firm foundations for humanitarian policy as well as guiding principles for action, and in addition the necessary technical measures, should all be emphasized more than ever in a period of greatly increased humanitarian needs.

In seeking progress in the humanitarian field, it has become clear that the attempt to extend and improve humanitarian action themselves also involves – however slightly – an attempt to change the whole humanitarian order, or the context in which humanitarian problems and response interact. At the same time it may be perceived that some fundamental constraints seem to operate, which hinder such change or prevent it from being too rapid.

Since at least the time of the League of Nations, international law and organization have manifested a greatly increased attention to the situation of the individual, and individuals have increasingly become the beneficiaries of international acts. However, these developments have not led to recognition of a commensurate transformation in the international legal position of the individual. States and the doctrine of state sovereignty remain cornerstones of international law, although in reality individuals are both the creators and ultimate addresses of all law, national and international. People continue to be subordinated to the power, and law, of the states. International law in turn continues to give primary emphasis to the interests of states rather than to individual human values.

The field of human rights highlights an underlying problem which to some extent is symptomatic of the whole international order. The problem stems from a fundamental contradiction in this field, namely, that human rights law and its accompanying mechanisms are the creations of states, yet have the supposed purpose of protecting the citizen from abuses perpetrated by those same entities. This contradiction or dichotomy between the interests of the state and those of people goes a long way toward explaining the gap which exists between law and practice in many different fields of international relations, especially where human welfare is concerned.

Accompanying this underlying problem it may be observed that many humanitarian actions, like most if not all governmental humanitarian organizations, are designed only to alleviate symptoms and not to tackle basic causes.

The practical response to humanitarian emergencies at the national and international levels is still of a fragmentary nature, and the global humanitarian system has only barely evolved beyond a mere series of ad hoc reactions. The United Nations was supposed to be the center for coordinating the specialized agencies and subsidiary organs, but most of them presently retain considerable autonomy. There is even much competition in humanitarian matters. Whatever future developments take place in the field of humanitarian action, it therefore seems certain that the need to improve the coordination mechanisms at the national and international levels will remain for the foreseeable future. Yet while the need for coordination within the international humanitarian system is generally accepted, it has proved extremely difficult in practice to define coordination more closely, and to agree on necessary measures. Probably no one would deny being in favor of coordination of humanitarian action in principle, but the real problems arise in practice in determining who shall coordinate and who shall be coordinated.

While it is only gradually becoming clear what steps are required or likely to be acceptable to confront increasing humanitarian problems, at least it is fully apparent that increased international cooperation is necessary in order to extend and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian actions. Greatly increased international cooperation is also required in many other fields if serious economic and ecological problems are to be averted, not to mention the dangers of military conflict. The question therefore arises whether such cooperation can realistically be expected to materialize in the humanitarian sphere in the foreseeable future.

The best answers seem to be that global humanitarian problems should be perceived as a challenge which has the potential of drawing the world closer together rather than further dividing it. This answer leaves plenty of scope for the development of individual action, particularly by the private person and by nongovernmental organizations. On the other hand, the fact that the world is organized on the basis of exclusive states, upholders of the doctrine of sovereignty, suggests that changes – if any – in the international humanitarian order are still most likely to come about primarily through state actions.

Even in traditional international law, resting heavily on the foundation of reciprocity, elements of common interest already blend with those of self-interest, albeit only a slight degree. Herein lies a kernel for development, however, for self-interest can ultimately be seen to lie first of all in protecting common interests. Thus, the search should continue to find new bases for cooperation, while seeking to maximize the potential of humanitarian policy to serve this end.

Perhaps the following idea deserves to be more generally recognized and expressed: taking new steps in cooperative international action to tackle humanitarian problems can in turn engender wider international effects of a beneficial nature.

There is much room for further progress based on awareness that the development of international humanitarian law, organization, and action is a reciprocating and self-reinforcing process which seeks to fulfill the purpose of bringing definite humanitarian benefits to individual people. The aim must be to seek for ways to ensure that the principle of humanity prevails – in a time of greatly increased needs but also of greatly increased means for responding. With this in mind, the present challenge is to draw practical lessons from the many existing texts and approaches, which are still insufficiently systematic, and to apply those lessons so as to achieve a closer working relationship between functional and legal aspects of humanitarian policy.

Macdonald, Ryan and Hoddinott, John (2004), “Determinants of Canadian Bilateral Aid Allocations: Humanitarian, Commercial or Political?” in Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol.37, No. 2, pp294-312, Blackwell Publishing.

In this paper we have examined the determinants of the allocation of Canadian bilateral aid over the period 1984-2000. We draw on models of donor behaviour that allow us to incorporate consideration of humanitarian, commercial and political considerations. When we consider the entire period, we find that allocations are moderately altruistic or humanitarian in the sense that the parameter on aversion to inequality is greater than unity, though we note that it is not significantly different from unity. More aid is provided to countries with good human rights. Canadian aid to Commonwealth and Francophonie countries is effectively independent of per capita country income levels, whereas for countries that are not members of either organization, aid falls as country income rises. Countries that import goods from Canada receive greater levels of aid. These findings are consistent with Spicer's (1966) and Morrison's (1998) depictions of Canadian bilateral aid being a reflection of a ‘trinity of mixed motives.’

However, the relative importance of these motives changes over time. As Canadian bilateral aid flows fell throughout the 1990s, motives for aid would appear to have become increasingly self-interested in that using aid to help the poorest countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, declined, while commercial motives became more dominant. In September 2002 the Canadian government introduced its most recent policy statement on aid, Canada Making a Difference in the World (Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) 2003). It indicates that CIDA will select a limited number of countries for an ‘enhanced’ partnership arrangement. Selected countries will be those exhibiting low per capita incomes and committed to good governance and the rule of law; they will receive a greater share of incremental resources going to CIDA. It will be interesting to see whether this indeed reverses the pattern of the last ten years.





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