restricted access The Impact of Giving on the Recipient: A Summary
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Lopamudra Banerjee The Impact of Giving on the Recipient: A Summary IN THE INTE RN AT IO NA L S P H E R E , ONE A SP E C T OF GIVING IS the conferring of aid. Aid entails a voluntary transfer of resources from the donor to the recipient and, by and large, has two objectives. Aid may be directed toward assisting long-term social and economic transforma­ tions of the recipients; aid may also be intended to fulfill the short-term immediate needs for the recipients during a crisis generated by natural disasters, political violence, social strife, or pandemics. In official termi­ nology, the form er is considered development aid, while the latter is considered humanitarian aid. In either case, while the flow of aid may be motivated by altruism, philanthropy, and humane concerns, aid may also serve a strategic purpose for the donors. For example, aid may be used to garner political and military alliances between nation­ states and to indicate diplomatic sanctions. Aid may also be used to provide incentives to the recipient for actions favored by the donor, and to extend the donor’s cultural influence. The essays by Michael Cohen, Nicolas de Torrente, and Joanne Barkan examine the effects of aid by exploring these issues. Cohen looks at the role of development aid from the macro-perspective of the growth and development of the recipient countries and de Torrente the role of humanitarian aid in fulfilling the urgent and criti­ cal needs of the recipients. Barkan addresses the normative aspects of aid flows from nongovernment agencies and large private founda­ tions, especially in context of provisioning public goods in situations where the democratic welfare state is gradually withdrawing from its commitments. social research Vol. 80 : No. 2 : Summer 2013 587 Cohen’s essay highlights how development aid has played a key role in the economic progress and social transitions of countries both recently and historically. Aid facilitated the postwar reconstruction of Japan and Germany, and played a role in the economic restructur­ ing of postcolonial Asia and Africa. Aid has also brought about historic improvements in various indicators of the quality of life, including health and education, in countries where deficiencies in national resources would otherwise have constrained the nation’s efforts to improving the material living conditions of its citizens. The magni­ tude, composition, and donors of development aid have, however, transformed over time. Cohen traces this transformation over the past seven decades, through the postcolonial period and the cold war, to the present-day emergence of new economic powers such as China and the oil-rich countries. The issue of aid flow is, however, not without contention. First and foremost, controversies arise when there is a mismatch in assis­ tance priorities as experienced by the recipient and as perceived by the donor. The problem may be particularly acute in situations in which the recipients cannot negotiate the volume, delivery mechanism, or targeted spheres of support, and in situations in which conditions are attached to aid flows. The second concern is with regard to the accountability of aid use by the recipients. Cohen notes that two philosophical issues may be especially relevant to the donors: first, should aid be allocated on the basis of need or the performance of the recipients in the use of prior aid; and second, should aid be conditioned on the fulfillment of prior condi­ tions? A third major concern is the possible detrimental effects of aid. It has been argued that if aid flows weaken a nation’s sense of self-determi­ nation and progress, a perpetual dependency on the donors can result. This dependency is neither economically sustainable nor is it politically desirable. Cohen notes that while the positive effects of development aid are undeniable, evaluations of the precise nature these impacts over the long run are missing. In the absence of such serious evaluations, the function of aid in facilitating socioeconomic advancements of recipient countries cannot be fully appreciated. 588 social research De Torrenté’s essay emphasizes that aid is not merely a material resource but also a symbolic one. As a material resource, humanitarian aid can play a crucial role in providing support to...