Does Foreign Aid Build Peace?

Posted: 17 Jun 2018

Date Written: May 2018


Does foreign aid build peace? The answer is of paramount importance for policy makers and practitioners, given that the world's poor are growing increasingly concentrated in conflict-affected countries. Scholars have also demonstrated keen interest, primarily examining the relationship between foreign aid and civil wars. This review takes stock of the existing literature through a survey of key theoretical arguments connecting aid to the onset, dynamics, and recurrence of civil wars. It then articulates a key challenge posed by undertheorization of aid allocation, which is largely nonrandom, making the causal effects difficult to infer. I identify five areas in need of greater attention: microfoundational theoretical assumptions about aid flows; aid in the context of other foreign policy options; explicit articulation of other factors that may mediate or moderate aid's effects; levels of observation and aggregation; and measurement.

Suggested Citation

Findley, Michael, Does Foreign Aid Build Peace? (May 2018). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 21, pp. 359-384, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Findley (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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