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.
Funding: The Faculty of Social Science of the University of Ottawa supported this research with a grant from the research development fund.