Oakland Institute

Reframing the Debate Inspiring Action

International Aid

Taxpayer-funded international aid is provided in many different ways, including through bilateral programs with recipient countries and through contributions to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank. This aid can be critical to help resource-poor countries, especially when facing crisis and situations of war or natural disasters. However, although international aid from rich countries such as the US is given under the banner of supporting foreign countries, it is frequently used to pursue foreign policy objectives and support domestic interests, such as those of US agribusinesses in the case of food aid.

The Facts: 


International aid consists of resources supplied by one country to another, with the stated objective of benefiting the recipient country. This aid is critical to save lives, protect livelihoods, and finance reconstruction in many situations of war and natural disasters. Often seen as a major instrument of development for the poorest countries, international aid has a number of other functions: it may be given to support or reward an ally, to extend the donor's cultural influence, to build infrastructure needed by the donor for resource extraction, or to gain other kinds of commercial access. Wealthy donor nations also frequently provide aid in a manner that economically supports their own domestic industries or their foreign policy agendas.

USAID candidly states, “The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States… Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans.” This pattern is particularly evident in the provision of US food aid, when aid works as an effective subsidy for US farmers, for example, by selling US wheat reserves on behalf of aid recipients and in turn asking recipients to purchase select commodities from US producers. 


What we are doing about it: 

Working with partner groups around the world, the Oakland Institute is monitoring, researching, and evaluating the practice and impact of international aid on developing countries. We are a research center, information clearinghouse, and early warning system for activists, policy makers, educators, journalists, and the general public. We believe increased awareness about the reality of international aid will lead to aid programs and policies that truly benefit local communities.

The Unholy Alliance Report Cover

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.

Moral Bankruptcy: World Bank Reinvents Tainted Aid Program for Ethiopia

Moral Bankruptcy: World Bank Reinvents Tainted Aid Program for Ethiopia exposes the shameful reinvention of one of the Bank’s most problematic programs in Ethiopia. The report also reveals that the US Treasury violated congressional law when voting in favor of this program.

High food prices in 2007-2008 threatened the livelihoods and food security of billions of people worldwide for whom getting enough food to eat was already a daily struggle. All over the world, individuals, civil society groups, governments and international organizations took action to cope with the crisis triggered by skyrocketing food prices.

This report issues a direct challenge to Western-led plans for a genetically engineered revolution in African agriculture, particularly the recent misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African resistance and solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need.

In October 2005, the Oakland Institute published its report, Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in our Time. Since then the issue of food aid has taken center stage in foreign aid, global hunger, and development discourse, sparking interest and debate amongst policy makers, media, and civil society internationally.

April 1, 2006
For decades U.S. foreign aid has been accused of prioritizing U.S. political and military agenda over the needs of the poor around the globe. Now, the Bush administration has declared this to be the official foreign assistance policy of the United States.
February 1, 2005
There is no “Ground Zero” in Banda Aceh – no single point which can be defined as the epicenter of disaster. A tremendous wave leveled entire neighborhoods to the ground. Closer to the coast, what remains of the city has a striking resemblance to the old black and white photographs of Hiroshima after the devastating nuclear explosion.
Quick Facts: 


In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their GNI (Gross National Income) as official international development aid annually. Year after year, almost all rich nations have consistently failed to reach this target – their aid accounts to 0.2 to 0.4% of their GNI on average.

In 2010, net official development assistance (ODA) flows from OECD countries reached $128.7 billion, representing an increase of 6.5% over 2009. However, aid still averaged only 0.32% of the combined GNI of donor countries — less than half of what had been promised long ago.

50% of US International Aid goes to just six countries that are US allies in the wars on terror and drug trafficking.

International aid is often criticized for its poor effectiveness. This is especially true for aid that comes attached with conditionalities and in-kind assistance, such as food aid, which has been shown to cost at least 30% more than locally sourced food aid.