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Testing Realist and Idealist Motivations for Foreign Aid

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Keeping Friends Close, But Enemies Closer: Foreign Aid Responses to Natural Disasters


Cindy Cheng & Shahryar Minhas


If foreign aid is given primarily for strategic reasons, as much of the field finds, how can we explain donor generosity following natural disasters? In this paper, we address this puzzle by building on the literature in three ways. First, we differentiate between three major types of aid: humanitarian, civil society, and development. Next, we show natural disasters act as an exogenous shock to the strategic calculus donor countries undertake when making foreign aid allocation decisions. Specifically, we argue that donor countries use natural disasters as opportunities to exert influence on strategic opponents through the allocation of humanitarian and civil society aid. However, donors still reserve development aid for strategic allies irrespective of the incidence of natural disasters. Lastly, we substantiate our findings using a new measure of strategic interest that accounts for the indirect ties states share and the multiple dimensions upon which they interact.

Replication Instructions

Follow instructions in replArchive directory. Any questions should be addressed to Shahryar Minhas.

Publication Outlet

Forthcoming in British Journal of Political Science


Testing Realist and Idealist Motivations for Foreign Aid






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