Journal Article

What Do We (Not) Know About Development Aid and Violence? A Systematic Review

Date Published

Oct 1, 2017


Christoph Zürcher



Zürcher, C. (2017). What Do We (Not) Know About Development Aid and Violence? A Systematic Review. World Development, 98, 506-522. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.05.013


The paper presents findings from the first-ever systematic review of the causal impact of development aid on violence in countries affected by civil war. The review identifies 19 studies: Fourteen within-country studies from Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, Philippines and India, and five cross-national studies. These studies investigate the impact of six aid types: Community driven development, conditional cash transfers, public employment scheme, humanitarian aid, infrastructure and aid provided by military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. The evidence for a violence-dampening effect of aid in conflict zones is not strong. Aid in conflict zones is more likely to exacerbate violence than to dampen violence. A violence-dampening effect of aid appears to be conditional on a relatively secure environment for aid projects to be implemented. A violence-increasing effect occurs when aid is misappropriated by violent actors, or when violent actors sabotage aid projects in order to disrupt the cooperation between the local population and the government.

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