Working Paper
Evidence on aid (in)effectiveness in highly fragile states

A synthesis of three systematic reviews of aid to Afghanistan, Mali, and South Sudan, 2008–21

This working paper provides a summary of three systematic reviews on the effectiveness of aid in Afghanistan, Mali, and South Sudan between 2008 and 2021. These three countries, like all other highly fragile countries, suffer from bad governance, lack of capacity, and violence.

The systematic reviews provide robust evidence that aid interventions in precisely those fields are not effective. Aid cannot improve governance, build capacity for central governments, or stabilize the situation.

The international aid community can no longer ignore this evidence. We need a change of paradigm in how we support the most fragile states. The prevailing ‘grand vision’ of fixing failed states needs to be replaced with a much more modest approach that aims for local, tangible, small gains.