Book Chapter
Foreign aid and peacebuilding

Foreign aid is a core component of peacebuilding and among the largest external financial flows to fragile states and conflict-affected areas. Nevertheless, troubling critiques have been raised about its overall impact and effectiveness. Some of the most troubling speak to whether it has succeeded even to do no harm. These important critiques notwithstanding, aid has also played a positive role in many countries.

Given that improving aid for peacebuilding is a clear priority for global development, building a base of knowledge that informs better aid interventions is a priority for future research. It is important to better understand not only what has not worked but also what has worked, why, and the likely transferability of findings to other contexts. This chapter begins with consideration of the role of aid in conflict-affected societies and the ways in which aid may support peacebuilding.

It then turns to why aid may not realize such positive impact, including the challenges of aid effectiveness in weak states and key (unintended) negative impacts on public accountability, state capabilities, and violence. It discusses how to improve aid impact and effectiveness, focusing on issues of context, local ownership, and building state capabilities.