Is development aid securitised? Evidence from a cross-country examination of aid commitments

Melita Lazell, Ivica Petrikova

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How has the securitisation of development affected the distribution of bilateral development aid by sector? Over the past two decades, academics and development NGOs have become increasingly concerned about the impact of the securitisation of development. This debate has not, however, adequately addressed the impact of securitisation on actual aid commitments to key sectors. If aid commitments are influenced by securitisation this will have implications for the types of programmes funded by bilateral donors. This article examines whether and how securitisation has affected the distribution of UK, US, Danish and Swedish development aid by sector through investigating how conflict in aid-recipient states and the extent to which these states are perceived as a security threat, affect aid commitments to priority sectors; democratisation and peace, conflict and security. A mixed-methods approach analyses the policy discourse and aid commitments of the four bilateral donors. For the latter we use data from the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System and the Uppsala University Conflict Data Programme, along with data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Global Terrorism Database in a cross-sectional time-series regression analysis. The new data produced indicate that the securitisation of development has had the most significant effect on aid commitments to states not affected by conflict and that the strategic importance of conflict-affected states and the domestic character of donor governments both influence the strength of aid securitisation. Given the concerns regarding aid for security purposes and donors’ policy discourse, bilateral donors should consider the need of current funding for conflict, peace and security programmes in states not affected by conflict and recognise the role of national security interests in decisions about the distribution of aid.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Issue number3
Early online date11 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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