International aid is critical to save lives, protect livelihoods, and help reconstruction in communities debilitated by war or natural disasters. It constitutes a critical element of solidarity between peoples, across races, borders, religions, and cultures, contributing towards a more equitable society.
However, while it is generally seen as an instrument of development for the poorest countries, aid is frequently provided by donors in a manner that supports their own economic interests or foreign policy agendas. The United States Agency for International Development (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 supplied from the US to be shipped overseas often at the expense of local farmers.
International aid may also be conditioned on policy and regulatory changes that recipient governments must undertake. International financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and individual donor countries have a long history of leveraging countries into privatization and market liberalization — typically at the expense of local communities and to the benefit of multinational corporations.
Working with partners around the world, the Oakland Institute monitors and studies international aid practices as well as specific projects. This research guides our advocacy to promote good practices and denounce flaws and wrongdoings.