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.

Publications

Highest Bidder report cover

The Highest Bidder Takes It All: The World Bank’s Scheme to Privatize the Commons

The Highest Bidder Takes It All: The World Bank’s Scheme to Privatize the Commons details how the Bank’s prescribes reforms, via a new land indicator in the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, promotes large-scale land acquisitions and the expansion of agribusinesses in the developing world. This new indicator is now a key element of the larger EBA project, which dictates pro-business reforms that governments should...

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 increasing...

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 projects by...

Down on the Seed Cover: Enabling the Business of Agriculture Enables Corporate Takeover

Down on the Seed: The World Bank Enables Corporate Takeover of Seeds

Only six multinationals currently control over two-thirds of the industrial seed sales, and pending agro-industry mergers stand to further consolidate this oligopoly . Further market expansion for these corporations depends on the shrinking of farmer-managed seed systems, which currently provide 80 to 90 percent of the seed supply in developing countries through on-farm seed saving and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange. Enabling the Business of...

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Flooded fields near the Shire and Linkhubula rivers in Malawi. The area is still recovering from the flooding after Cyclone Idai hit the country. Credit: GovernmentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Failure of Input Subsidies and a New Path Forward to Fight Hunger in Malawi

Thursday, January 23, 2020 Andy Currier

On October 15th 2019, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhuma kicked off the 14th year of the country’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP). The program, which distributes vouchers to farmers that subsidize the cost of fertilizer and "improved" seed varieties, has been the dominant response to persistent food insecurity in the country.

Construction in Pekanbaru, capital of Riau province in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Flore de Preneuf / World Bank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Collapsed Buildings & Lost Lives in Palu: The Tragic Cost of the World Bank’s #DoingBusiness Rankings

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 Elizabeth Fraser

In reading about the tragedy, one detail in particular has haunted me: reports of thousands of buildings collapsing and trapping those inside. This hard fact has stayed with me not just because the thought of being trapped in a collapsed building is absolutely terrifying, but because it unveils the dire impact of the World Bank's pro-business agenda.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim at the 2016 World Bank / IMF Spring Meetings. Credit: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

Two Blows in a Row: The New Alliance for Food Security Loses Ground

Thursday, April 12, 2018 Flora Sonkin

Buzzwords like 'business-enabling environment,' which underlie NAFSN discourse and practice, merely support the expansion of large-scale and export-oriented agribusinesses, at the cost of local farmers and biodiversity.

Protestors in Delhi ask the World Bank to end Doing Business rankings, 2014. © Our Land Our Business / The Rules

Undemocratic and Unsustainable, the World Bank’s Vision for Agricultural Development Harms the Poorest

Monday, October 3, 2016 Alice Martin-Prével

As the World Bank’s Annual Meetings get underway in Washington, DC, a crucial theme is noticeably missing from its seminar series: agriculture. Does this imply that the Bank has become less involved in agricultural financing? The answer is no. The World Bank is by far the main donor of agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors in the developing countries, surpassing the United States and other G7 nations. If agriculture is not on the agenda,...

European Union Bankrolls Deceitful Land Project in Ethiopia

Saturday, July 30, 2016 Alice Martin-Prével

The European Union and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are funding a €3.8 million ($4.2 million) agricultural initiative in Ethiopia. "Support to Responsible Agricultural Investment" (S2RAI), launched in March 2016, is a three-year long project focused on two western regions of Ethiopia: Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz. According to documents made public at the project-launching workshop in Bishoftu on July 15-...

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