By Elizabeth Herington
“Fazlullah (local militant leader) was particularly popular in remote areas where people remembered how TNSM (militant-affiliated aid organization) volunteers had helped during the earthquake when the government was nowhere to be seen.”
-Malala Yousafzai, global education activist and survivor of Taliban violence, 2013
Civil violence has become the most prevalent form of political violence since World War II; more than half of all countries have experienced a form of civil conflict since 1960 (Blattman and Miguel 2010). In the post-Cold War era, and especially since 9/11, developed countries have seen security problems in developing countries as threats to their own national security. This has led policymakers in developed countries to intervene in conflict-affected developing countries; in 2016, 65% of all development aid went to countries identified as fragile by the OECD (OECD 2018 p. 11). Much of the Economic literature on foreign aid in conflict zones focuses on the effect of humanitarian aid on conflict in these regions, and many scholars argue that aid can prolong or provoke conflict. However, a significant portion of the aid provided in these areas is not humanitarian aid, but instead falls under a category which I call security assistance. Security assistance is aid provided to governments to help them provide essential services like military and police, effective justice systems, and critical infrastructure to their citizens. For my thesis, I wanted to explore the relative efficacy of these different kinds of interventions. Do they accomplish their stated goals of strengthening states, ending conflicts, and reducing suffering? Which interventions are most effective?
I explore the role of foreign aid in conflict beginnings and endings by developing a theory of the impact of aid on state legitimacy and of state legitimacy on civil conflict. State legitimacy is the citizens’ belief that their government’s laws should be obeyed. I argue that security assistance will increase state legitimacy and that humanitarian aid has an ambiguous effect on state legitimacy. I then argue that aid which increases state legitimacy will both prevent conflicts from beginning and end existing conflicts faster.
I first test the hypothesis that security assistance will increase state legitimacy using survey data on citizen perceptions of their government from Afrobarometer and subnational data on various sectors of foreign aid from AidData. Using an ordered logistic regression with province fixed effects, I find that increases in security assistance are associated with increased state legitimacy.
Table 1: Effect of Aid on State Legitimacy
|VARIABLES||Courts Make Binding Decisions||People Must Obey the Law||People Must Pay Taxes|
|Security Assistance (Mlns $)||1.00046*||1.00059***||1.00082|
|Humanitarian Aid (Mlns $)||0.99963||0.99426***||0.99627|
|Other Aid (Mlns $)||0.99174*||1.00306||1.00997**|
Subnational unit dummies and standard controls are used in all specifications. Coefficients reported are odds ratios. Odds ratios show whether a one unit increase in the independent variable is associated with an individual being more or less likely to answer in a category of stronger agreement with the statement. Standard errors clustered at the province level are in parentheses.
*** p<0.01, ** p<0.05, * p<0.1
Next, I test the theory that aid which increases state capacity will prevent and end conflict using the same subnational AidData dataset and geocoded data on conflict from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Using a hazard model with province fixed effects to estimate the probability of conflict ending, I find that both security assistance and humanitarian aid are associated with decreased length of conflict, and that government capacity building aid, a type of security assistance, is the most effective. Government capacity building aid includes projects like audits to reduce corruption, training court employees to better provide effective justice and democracy promotion efforts. I also find that security assistance policy instruments are more effective at ending conflict when combined for a Whole of Government approach than when employed alone, and that military aid alone may increase the length of conflict.
Table 2: Effect of Aid on Length of Conflict
|VARIABLES||Conflict End||Conflict End
|Mil Aid x Whole of Gvt||0.00362*|
|Cap Aid x Whole of Gvt||0.02434*|
|Whole of Gvt||0.01506||-0.03956|
|Military Aid (Mlns $)||0.00043||-0.00194||0.00028|
|Capacity Aid (Mlns $)||0.00772*||0.00721*||0.00488|
|Infrastructure Aid (Mlns $)||0.00119||0.00117||0.00119|
|Security Assistance (Mlns $)||0.00122*|
|Humanitarian Aid (Mlns $)||0.00640***||0.00636***||0.00626***||0.00600***|
|Other Aid (Mlns $)||0.00104||0.00080||0.00162||0.00123|
Subnational unit dummies and standard controls are used in all specifications. Columns 1 and 2 present results from my preferred specification with different kinds of aid. Columns 3 and 4 present results from a regression estimating the effects of a Whole of Government approach. Conflict End is a dummy set =1 if an ongoing conflict ended in a given year, and Whole of Gvt is a dummy set =1 if all three kinds of security assistance were used. Coefficients from logistic regression are reported as marginal effects. Standard errors clustered at the province-level and determined by the delta method, are in parentheses.
*** p<0.01, ** p<0.05, * p<0.1
Using the same hazard model with province fixed effects, I further find that government capacity building aid is the only intervention associated with a decrease in the likelihood of civil conflict.
|VARIABLES||Conflict Start||Conflict Start||Conflict Start||Conflict Start|
|Cap Aid x Whole of Gvt||0.00597|
|Infr Aid x Whole of Gvt||-0.00077|
|Whole of Government||-0.06367||-0.03760|
|Military Aid (Mlns $)||-0.00294||-0.00148||-0.00160|
|Capacity Aid (Mlns $)||-0.01113*||-0.01089||-0.00919|
|Infrastructure Aid (Mlns $)||-0.00025||-0.00022||-0.00018|
|Humanitarian Aid (Mlns $)||-0.00093||-0.00068||-0.00056||-0.00056|
|Security Assistance (Mlns $)||-0.00028|
|Other Aid (Mlns $)||-0.01035*||-0.00884*||-0.00864*||-0.00869*|
Subnational unit dummies and standard controls are used in all specifications. Columns 1 and 2 present results from my preferred specification with different kinds of aid. Columns 3 and 4 present results from a regression estimating the effects of a Whole of Government approach. Conflict Start is a dummy set =1 if a conflict began in a given year, and Whole of Gvt is a dummy set =1 if all three kinds of security assistance were used. Coefficients from logistic regression are reported as marginal effects. Standard errors clustered at the province-level and determined by the delta method are in parentheses.
*** p<0.01, ** p<0.05, * p<0.1
I conclude that the kinds of aid which are effective in fragile states are different from, and less varied than, the kinds of aid which are effective in conflict states, and that policymakers should be careful to take initial conditions into account before designing interventions to prevent and end conflict in unstable states.
The OECD identifies state weakness as the single biggest spoiler for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (OECD 2018 p. 6). In order to increase security and prosperity in the developing world, it is important for policymakers to understand the relative efficacy of different intervention strategies. Policymakers who are planning to intervene in an ongoing conflict should design comprehensive Whole of Government interventions, while policymakers planning to intervene in fragile states should focus their efforts on programs which will increase the local government’s bureaucratic, regulatory, and democratic capabilities and reduce corruption.
Please come chat with me at the Econ Senior Thesis Zoom sessions—Monday, May 25, 1-2pm ET—to learn more or ask any questions about my research or the senior thesis process: click here for Zoom link.
Blattman, C., & Miguel, E. (2010). Civil War. Journal of Economic Literature, 48(1), 3–57. https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.48.1.3
OECD. (2018). States of Fragility 2018. OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264302075-en
Data Sets Used:
https://www.aiddata.org/datasets (AIMS datasets)
https://ucdp.uu.se/downloads/ (Georeferenced Event Dataset)