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New York University Research States Donors Should Stay Engaged to Support People Living in Estranged States

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More than half a billion people now live in situations where relations between major donors and national authorities are “politically estranged,” following coups’ d’etats, other unconstitutional changes in government, sanctions, or contested elections, finds new joint research from the NYU Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and Chatham House.

This new study, “Aid strategies in ‘politically estranged’ settings: How donors can stay and deliver in fragile and conflict-affected states,” provides a strategic policy framework and actionable recommendations for international development funders. It was launched in Stockholm, Sweden at a meeting of senior European Union (EU) development officials during Sweden’s presidency of the EU on March 30, 2023.
This new research, funded by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is one of the first comprehensive examinations of options for aid delivery in contexts where relations between donors and national (or “host”) authorities have broken down.
“Affected states such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Myanmar, Syria, and Yemen are at the forefront of growing geopolitical contestation and fragmentation, as global and regional powers vie for influence and access to resources, especially in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” says Sarah Cliffe, one of the paper’s authors and executive director at CIC. “There are sound strategic reasons, as well as moral and practical imperatives, for donor governments to remain engaged in countries in crisis.”

“This research sets out a menu of options of aid delivery that have proven effective in situations where political and diplomatic relations have broken down. These options offer ways of balancing accountability to domestic taxpayers and to people in need, without supporting unlawful regimes or fueling further abuse,” notes Renata Dwan, author and senior consulting fellow at Chatham House.

This study draws on case studies from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia to provide a practical framework for development policymakers to stay engaged in these most difficult of contexts. It addresses how to maintain donor domestic support, set relevant aid conditions, engage with estranged authorities, design and/or deliver aid to reach those most in need without legitimating or reinforcing further abuses by those in power, and quickly adapt to changes.