Islands of Stability in Fragile Countries

Donor Strategies for Managing Risks in Conflict and Disaster-Prone Areas

Principal Investigators: Muhammet Bas and Michael Harsch

Project duration: 2018-2020

Under what conditions are aid programs in conflict and disaster-prone areas successful? How do international donors adapt to such high-risk environments? And to what extent does international and local actors’ anticipation of extreme events and aid delivery shape their interactions over time?

This project will explore these questions by examining the effect of local violence and natural disasters on foreign aid. Building on a growing research program on the political economy of aid, we plan to leverage multiple methods including statistical analysis of microlevel event data, mechanism testing via qualitative interviews, and a lab experiment. As a result, the project will advance our understanding of the nexus between conflict, disasters and aid flows.

This project is made possible by a grant from NYUAD’s Research Enhancement Fund.

Working Paper

Essential Decisions: Donor Strategies for Managing Risk in Conflict Zones (with Sidak Yntiso).

Abstract: How do international donors adapt to high-risk environments? As fragile states have become the dominant target of foreign aid, this question is increasingly relevant for governments, international organizations and aid workers. We develop a novel theory of strategic adaptation to security risks by donor governments. We posit that conflict shocks increase risks for donors, but also improve donor ability to demand policy concessions from recipient countries. Whether expected gains—in terms of policy concessions made to donors—will outweigh the risks of aid delivery varies depending on the type of donor involved and the recipient country’s strategic importance. In the face of risk, donor governments are likely to increase bilateral aid in strategically important countries because the value of expected policy concessions outweighs the costs of operation. Conversely, they will decrease aid in non-strategic countries. Donor governments will generally reduce multilateral aid in response to shocks because international institutions typically produce policy concessions whose value does not outweigh the heightened costs of operations. We empirically test our theory by examining the effect of local violence on bilateral and multilateral aid projects in nine conflict-affected countries across Africa and Asia in the period from 1997—2014. We check the robustness of our analysis by examining donor behavior in response to clearly exogenous shocks—natural disasters. Overall, we find support for our theory, showing that bilateral donors are resilient to security risks in strategically important countries, yet respond highly risk-averse to conflict shocks in less strategic countries.

Organizational Incentives and Peacekeeping Deployments

Working Paper

Do Incentives Matter? Resilience and Reliability of Force Deployments to UN Peacekeeping Operations (with Tyler Headley & Maximilian Meduna).

Abstract: UN peacekeeping operations with adequate resources can reduce the intensity and recurrence of armed conflict, yet a shortfall of troops limits many missions. Can organizational incentives for contributing countries increase the resilience and reliability of peacekeeping deployments? We operationalize contributors’ resilience via their level of casualty tolerance, and reliability via the gap between authorized and deployed personnel to UN operations. We argue that incentives matter: states motivated by material and status rewards will exhibit greater resilience and reliability than countries for which organizational incentives are largely irrelevant. To test our argument, we group troop contributors according to their history of civil conflict, level of wealth, and access to prestigious regional organizations. We find that the group of non-Western contributors, which are sensitive to training, remuneration, and command positions, have high casualty tolerance; by contrast, Western contributors, which are generally not sensitive to UN incentives, have a low tolerance. Additionally, a larger share of non-Western troops is associated with a reduced deployment gap. Our findings show that UN incentives for contributors are effective, suggesting that organizational rewards could be utilized to strengthen troop supply and global public good provision in other domains.

This project has been generously supported by the NYU Center on International Cooperation.