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Why Give Aid?

“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.”

W.C. Fields

To some, giving aid to poor countries is self-evidently a 'good thing'. It can:

  • encourage economic development and reduce poverty;
  • promote democracy, social justice, freedom of speech and basic human rights;
  • promote good government; and or
  • promote sustainable development.

However, in recent years there had been much questioning of the efficacy of aid in achieving these noble objectives, and no small degree of scepticism as it has become clear that many countries that have been receiving buckets of financial aid over the years appear to have developed little. Countries give aid for a variety of reasons, some through pure altruism (to promote a better world); others, entirely through self-interest (to promote strategic, political, commercial or other interests). There is also the question of promoting international public good — regional peace, health, stemming the flow of migrants, and international commitments under the Millennium Development Goals. Some analysts suggest that Norway is an altruistic donor; France and the UK are ‘selfish donors’; and the US comes somewhere in between.