The Determinants of Aid Allocation by Regional Multilateral Development Banks and United Nations Agencies

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Original Publication Date

January 1, 2003


Eric Neumayer


International Studies Quarterly


This paper examines which factors can explain the allocation of aid by four regional development banks as well as three United Nations agencies. The results suggest the following: Most donors examined also exhibit a bias apparent in bilateral aid allocation in favor of less populous countries. Some of them also share another bias of bilateral donors who give more aid to their former colonies. However, the three United Nations agencies contravene a third bias of bilateral aid allocation and provide more aid to countries geographically more distant from the centers of the Western world. While the regional development banks with the possible exception of the Inter-American one focus exclusively on economic need as measured by per capita income, the three United Nations agencies also take into account human development need in their aid allocation as measured by the Physical Quality of Life Index. Some tentative evidence is found that respect for political freedom is rewarded with higher aid receipts at the aggregate multilateral level and by the Inter-American Development Bank as well as perhaps, in a few estimations, by two of the three United Nations agencies. Neither respect for personal integrity rights nor low levels of perceived corruption play any role in the allocation of aid by the donors looked at. In general, higher military expenditures and arms imports are not associated with higher aid receipts, with a few notable exceptions.