Doing harm by doing good? the negative externalities of humanitarian aid provision during civil conflict

Reed Wood, Christopher Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Humanitarian assistance is intended to ameliorate the human costs of war by providing relief to vulnerable populations. Yet the introduction of aid resources into conflict zones may influence subsequent violence patterns and expose intended recipients to new risks. Here we investigate the potential negative externalities associated with humanitarian aid. We argue that aid can create incentives for armed actors to intentionally target civilians for violence. Aid encourages rebel violence by providing opportunities for looting and presenting challenges to rebel authority. It potentially encourages state violence where it augments rebel capabilities or provides rebels a resource base. We evaluate both arguments using spatially disaggregated data on aid and conflict violence for a sample of nearly two dozen post-Cold War African countries. The results of multiple statistical analyses provide strong support for the argument that humanitarian aid is associated with increased rebel violence but less support for the relationship between aid and state violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-748
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Politics
Volume77
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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