International Aid

Taxpayer-funded international aid can be critical to help resource-poor countries, especially when facing crisis and situations of war or natural disasters. However, aid 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, consisting of resources supplied by one country to another, is critical to save lives, protect livelihoods, and finance reconstruction in communities wracked by war or natural disasters. While it is generally seen as an instrument of development for the poorest countries, 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 USAID sells US wheat reserves on behalf of aid recipients and in turn asks recipients to purchase select commodities from US producers, this effectively subsidizes US farmers and undermines food producers in recipient countries.

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.

Report cover: Rainforest Action Network, CC BY-NC 2.0

Indonesia: The World Bank's Failed East Asian Miracle

Indonesia: The World Bank's Failed East Asian Miracle details how Bank-backed policy reforms have led to the displacement, criminalization, and even murder of smallholder farmers and indigenous defenders to make way for mega-agricultural projects. While Indonesia's rapidly expanding palm oil sector has been heralded as a boon for the economy, its price tag includes massive deforestation, widespread loss of indigenous land, rapidly...

A Death Knell for the EBA, brief cover

A Death Knell for the EBA: Why the World Bank Must End its Ranking Programs Now

A new brief by the Oakland Institute urges member states to deliver the final blow to the Bank’s ranking programs—the Doing Business Report (DBR) and Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). The DBR and EBA face a growing crisis of legitimacy and confidence. Since last year, two anchor donors have ceased funding the EBA; in January 2018, former World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer resigned after exposing politically motivated...

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa, released by Inclusive Development International, Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Urgewald and the Oakland Institute shows how the World Bank Group has indirectly financed some of Africa’s most notorious land grabs. The World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is enabling and profiting from these...

The Unholy Alliance Report Cover

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture

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

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.

Voices From Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa

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.

Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger In Our Time

  If we think of hunger in terms of numbers then the solution also seems as though it should be found in numbers.  The goal created at the Second World Food Summit in 1996, to reduce the number of malnourished by half by 2015, was a result of governments thinking in terms of numbers. But if hunger had been understood as a reality faced by individuals and families, we would have realized that hunger is also the ultimate symbol of...

Playing Politics With Aid: The Unholy Trinity of Defense, Diplomacy and Development in the War on Terrorism

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.

The Status of International Food Aid Negotiations

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.

The High Food Price Challenge: A Review of Responses to Combat Hunger

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.

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Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? A Case Study of the 2005 Food Crisis in Niger

In the summer of 2005, the world rocked to Live Aid concerts and the Make Poverty History Movement celebrated developed countries’ fresh commitments towards the International Development Goals (IDG), development assistance, and debt cancellation at the G8 summit in Gleanagles. Some three thousands miles south of this euphoria, a nation witnessed thousands of its children die of hunger. This was summer 2005...