CISO 4659 Dead Aid? Foreign Aid in the 21st Century

Few concepts in international politics are as hotly debated as foreign aid. Defenders of aid contend that money distributed by (predominantly Western) donors to Global South countries has played, for over half a century, a critical role in uplifting the lives of the poor in economically underdeveloped regions of the world and contributed to growing levels of peace and prosperity. Critics of international aid, on the other hand, like Dambisa Moyo (2009), argue that, in spite of the ‘over $US1 trillion in development-related aid” that has been distributed to the Global South from donor countries in the post-WWII period, the project of international aid “has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world…which has helped to make the poor poorer and growth slower.” These disagreements raise a number of fundamental questions, which this class seeks to answer, such as: has foreign aid been a blessing or a curse for Global South countries like Colombia? In other words, has aid helped to generate economic growth, strengthen state capacity, and improve human rights and social development outcomes in Global South countries? If yes, under what conditions has it proven to be most effective?

In setting out to answer these questions, the first half of the course will be devoted to situating debates about the effectiveness of foreign aid into a broader historical context. During this part of the course, this class will consider the historical origins of aid, the role and motivations of both multilateral and bilateral aid donors, the key determinants of aid allocation and its relationship to development outcomes in the Global South in the latter half of the 20th century.

In the second half of the course, we shift our focus to exploring some of the more contemporary themes in the study of the politics of international aid. In this section of the course, we will discuss issues, such as the growing importance of Emerging Donors, like China; the increasing importance of concerns about security and terrorism in determining Global North donor countries’ aid allocations (focusing in particular on the history of the USA and Plan Colombia), and the limitations and possibilities of South-South Cooperation, among others. Our goal in the latter half of the course is to more closely consider how, if at all, these changes in the post-9/11 geopolitical order are reshaping the architecture of foreign aid and whether such changes are positive or negative for Global South countries.

This class aims to critically engage students in the pressing debates surrounding this topic, by introducing them to the key concepts, theories and controversies related to the politics of foreign aid (particularly development assistance). It is recommended for students interested in international relations, the politics of development, and those considering pursuing a career in the public sector or non-governmental organizations.



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