Journal Article

The Rise (and Decline?) of Arab Aid: Generosity and Allocation in the Oil Era

Date Published

Nov 1, 2011


Debra Shushan, Christopher Marcoux


World Development


Shushan, D., & Marcoux, C. (2011). The Rise (and Decline?) of Arab Aid: Generosity and Allocation in the Oil Era. World Development, 39(11), 1969-1980. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2011.07.025


Among non-DAC donors, wealthy Arab states are some of the most prolific contributors of foreign aid. Despite this, relatively little is known about Arab foreign aid. The OECD development database offers a paucity of information, aggregating data for ÒArab countriesÓ and ÒArab agencies,Ó without identifying the constituent units of either. A further complication is that Arab donors are not uniformly transparent about their aid efforts, publicizing some of them while keeping other donations secret. In this paper, we advance the state of knowledge of Arab foreign aid in a number of ways. We use AidData to document the trends in reported donations from specific bilateral donors (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and multilateral agencies (Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, OPECÕs Fund for International Development, and the Islamic Development Bank). Notably, Arab bilateral donors have given less generously over time with aid levels remaining relatively stable despite skyrocketing national wealth. We explore reasons for this decline, including that Arab donors have: shifted their giving from bilateral to multilateral channels, given less as DAC donors have given more, and increased domestic spending at the expense of foreign aid with a view to safeguarding regime security. In addition, we look at the sectoral allocations of Arab bilateral and multilateral organizations, and compare the aid practices of Arab donors to their DAC counterparts. Finally, we suggest why an exclusive focus on aid commitments is problematic where Arab aid is concerned.

Funding: The authors are grateful to the College of William and Mary for research funds that supported data collection for this project. Debra Shushan wishes to thank the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar for the research fellowship that facilitated this work’s completion.

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Chris Marcoux

Chris Marcoux

Assistant Professor of Political Science at DePauw University

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