This past week was a busy one. Last Monday, I gave a presentation at a breakout session of the Annual Conference for the National Association for Court Managers and International Association of Court Administrators. I was one of four panelists, one of whom was my supervisor at the National Center for State Courts last year and two of whom were practitioners (one from USAID and the other from NCSC in DC). Using a database from AidData of all foreign aid distributed between 1973 and 2013, we examined trends in foreign aid flows. Over time, foreign aid has increased substantially. Between 1974 and 2013, foreign aid rose from $68 billion to $243 billion, a percent increase of 257. Between 1974 and 1978, 50% of all foreign aid when to nine different types of projects, most of which were focused on food, water, infrastructure, and energy efforts. Out of 156 different categories of projects, rule of law was the 108th most-funded category. Throughout the twentieth century, the theory on economic development evolved significantly. Throughout the 1970s, funding for legal institutions disappeared. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the literature shifts towards strengthening institutions (defined as rules governing economic, political, and social interactions) and good governance to facilitate economic development. In academia, rule of law became a popular basis for foreign aid. Foreign aid allocations actually tracked this change in the theory. By 2013, funding for the legal sector increased from 0.02% to 1.48% (a percent increase of more than 26,000), becoming the 20th most funded foreign aid category.
Additionally, few people realize is that foreign aid is largely donor-driven. Donors (i.e. countries’ official aid agencies and multilateral organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) provide foreign aid in accordance with government administrations’ objectives. Thus, overtime, the countries who received the most foreign aid shifted. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, countries in Central and South America, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia were the biggest recipients. At this time, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries were engaged in civil wars with socialist and communist guerrilla groups; South Africa was negotiating the post-apartheid transition; and the largest conflict in the Oceania region since World War II was occurring Papua New Guinea. By the late 1990s to early 2000s, foreign aid had shifted to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Balkans, as the US was focused on countering terrorism and ethnic conflict threatened Eastern Europe. These trends continued throughout the decade, indicating the foreign aid follows the interests of major donors, such as the US and European countries. Though our analysis was largely descriptive, it was interesting to confirm that various conceptions about foreign aid (for example that western donors focused on countering Soviet Imperialism during the Cold War) are actually true.
There is little to report of my work at USIP. I’ve largely spent my time helping to edit the country reports, although I am hopeful those reports will be turned over to publications soon. I’ve been assigned a new research project on which I hope to spend more time before my internship ends next week. This project is focused on the relationship between formal and informal security actors. For example, In Nigeria a vigilante group, known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), assisted the Nigerian Armed Forces in driving Boko Haram out of Borno State. Now that the threat associated with Boko Haram has largely subsided, the CJTF remains an armed, non-state force with limited state oversight. Dealing with these forces will be a crucial issue in Nigeria’s security sector.
Finally, over the weekend I made the most of the DC’s free museums, visiting the National Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Renwick Gallery.