Location of Repository

Aid to Fragile States: Do Donors Help or Hinder?

By Stephen Browne


The record of aid to fragile and poorly-performing states is the real test of aid effectiveness. Rich countries can justify aid to fragile states both through altruism and self-interest. But, with some exceptions, donors have appeared at the wrong times and with the wrong attitudes, even sometimes undermining development progress. State failure has dimensions of both will and capacity. Failure demands constructive engagement by donors, in some cases to save people in weak states from their leaders, and in all cases to save the states from circumstances which they cannot control. This paper examines the aid relationship with respect to three weak countries. Burma presents a case of comprehensive failure of political will and capacity, but isolating the regime, as some donors have chosen to do, will only perpetuate the plight of the population. Rwanda provides an alarming example of donor complicity in state collapse. The country has now rebounded from the terrible genocide of 1994, but some donors still cannot set aside their political and cultural biases. Zambia has lived through many years of bilaterally-assisted economic mismanagement, and also proved to be a ...fragile states, state failure, conflict, development aid, donors, donor coordination, capacity development,

OAI identifier:

Suggested articles



  1. (2004). 37 One of the most glaring examples is provided by the US cotton subsidies, which amounted to US$4.5 billion in
  2. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility’. Report of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.
  3. (2000). A People Betrayed: the Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide.
  4. (2006). Aid and Influence: Do Donors Help or Hinder?
  5. (2000). Aid, Conditionality and Debt
  6. (1998). Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda. West Hartford:
  7. (2003). America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Santa Monica:
  8. (2003). An Analysis of IMF Conditionality’.
  9. (2006). As Bechtel Goes’.
  10. (2004). Available at: www2.gtz.de/dokumente/bib/04-5230.pdf (in
  11. (2003). Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy.
  12. Conducting Conflict Assessments: Guidance Notes.
  13. (2001). Conflict Analysis for Project Planning and Management’
  14. (2005). DC: Center for Global Development. Available at: www.cgdev.org/section/initiatives/_active/cdi
  15. (2003). Democracy in the Third World.
  16. (1997). Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge:
  17. (2001). Difficult Choices in the New Post-Conflict Agenda:
  18. (1999). Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace or War.
  19. (1997). Donors as Paper Tigers: Why Aid with Strings Attached Won’t Work’. London: ODI. Available at: www.id21.org .
  20. (2005). Foreign Policy. September/October Washington, DC: Carnegie Foundation for International Peace.
  21. (1946). From Max Weber. Translated and edited
  22. (2004). Global Development Finance.
  23. (2005). How to Save Myanmar’.
  24. (2003). Human Development Report,
  25. (2004). Human Rights and Development.
  26. (2005). In Larger Freedom: Towards Development Security and Human Rights for All’. Report of the Secretary-General. UN Document A/59/2005.
  27. (1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda’. Human Rights Watch.
  28. (2005). Limits to Privatization: How to Avoid too much of a Good Thing.
  29. (2005). Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  30. Poor Performers: Basic Approaches for Supporting Development in Difficult Partnerships’.
  31. (2000). Poverty and European Aid in Zambia: a Study of the Poverty Orientation of European Aid to Zambia’. ODI Working Paper 138. London: Overseas Development Institute.
  32. Real Aid: An Agenda for Making Aid Work.
  33. (1995). Season of Blood: a Rwandan Journey.
  34. (2003). Shake Hands with the Devil: the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.
  35. Survey on Harmonization and Alignment’.
  36. (2004). The Challenge of Reducing the Global Incidence of Civil War’, Copenhagen Consensus Challenge Paper.
  37. (1983). The Poverty of ‘Development Economics’.
  38. (2002). The Reconstruction and Transformation of War-Torn Societies and State Institutions: How Can External Actors Contribute’. In
  39. (1995). The Rwanda Crisis 1959-1994: History of a Genocide.
  40. Two Years on… What Future for an Independent East Timor?’.
  41. (1969). Violence, Peace and Peace Research’.
  42. (1998). We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families.
  43. (2005). World Bank
  44. (1997). World Development Report: The State in a Changing World.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.