Aiding Peace? Donor Behavior in Conflict-Affected Countries

Do donors respond to the ebbs and flows of a peace process or is their behavior motivated by other factors that are exogenous to events within the conflict-torn country?

Project Summary

This project investigates the responsiveness of international donors to peace processes. A peace process begins when combatants meet to negotiate an accord, often with the assistance of third-party mediation, and ends when war re-emerges or a final agreement is reached and implemented.

The international relations and policy literatures on peacebuilding argue that donors must design their international aid programs to correspond to the local reality. If aid is not relevant to the local context, then it is not likely to alter the causes of conflict and may, in fact, undermine the peace process. For donors to influence the peace process they have to anticipate and respond to its key turning points.

Donor countries’ power to act might be hindered because of incompatible timeframes and priorities imposed by their headquarters. The project employs an innovative multi-method research design to answer these questions. It will compare the behavior of different types of donors in three relatively contemporaneous peace processes: Liberia, Nepal, and Sudan. The research result will not only provide a theoretical framework to help academics and policymakers classify the behavior of different donors but bring to light policy recommendations to improve their impact on war-to-peace transitions.

Academic Output

Working Paper

Foreign donors face a complex challenge: countries that need assistance the most are often countries that suffer from endemic violence.3 Donors claim to be sensitive to conflict, but are donors meeting the challenge of aiding development and peacebuilding?

This policy brief draws on evidence from over 160 interviews across four conflict-affected countries – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Nepal – as well as extensive statistical analysis based on local data on aid and violence, to identify trends around donor behavior in conflict affected countries.

Executive Summary

Foreign donors face a complex challenge: countries that need assistance the most are often countries that suffer from endemic violence. Donors claim to be sensitive to conflict, but are donors meeting the challenge of aiding development and peacebuilding? To address these questions, SNIS funded a two-year research project, Aiding Peace? Donor Behavior in Conflict-Affected Countries, which supported multi-method research in four different countries – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, South Sudan, and Nepal. Two key findings stand out. First, donors are much more responsive to both cooperation and conflict than indicated in existing policy or scholarly work. Second, donors that have a strategic interest in the recipient country tend to be much more responsive but this is often the result of ‘interference’ from the donor capital, which seems to undermine aid’s effectiveness. These findings have significance for academic scholarship and global policymakers who emphasize the importance of strategic interest and underestimate the effectiveness of sustained, but locally-responsive, aid.

Research Team

Susanna Campbell
Coordinator
Graduate Institute Geneva

Jean-Louis Arcand
Co-Coordinator
Graduate Institute Geneva

Michael Findley
Principal Member
The University of Texas at Austin

Rohan Gudibande
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Josiah Marineau
Principal Member
The University of Texas at Austin

Anca Paducel
Principal Member
Graduate Institute GenevaBrad Parks
Associated Member
AidData – Center for Development Policy

Gabriele Spilker
Associated Member
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Judith Vorrath
Associated Member
German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

Achim Wennmann
Associated Member
Geneva Peacebuilding Platform

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year