Keeping Friends Close, But Enemies Closer: Foreign Aid Responses to Natural Disasters

While the existing literature shows that bilateral donors primarily allocate aid to strategic allies, anecdotal evidence suggests that following natural disasters, bilateral aid flows to strategic opponents quite generously. We build on this literature in three ways. First, we differentiate between the three major types of aid: humanitarian, civil society, and development. Next, we show natural disasters act as an exogenous shock to the strategic calculus donor countries undertake when making foreign aid allocation decisions. Specifically, we argue that donor countries use natural disasters as opportunities to exert influence on strategic opponents through the allocation of humanitarian and civil society aid. However, donors still primarily reserve development aid for strategic allies irrespective of whether natural disasters have occurred in countries that are strategic opponents. Last, we substantiate our findings using a new measure of strategic interest that accounts for the indirect ties states share and the multiple dimensions upon which they interact.

This article is co-authored with Shahryar Minhas and has been published with British Journal of Political Science.

Click here to access the manuscript.

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