The Rise (and Decline?) of Arab Aid: Generosity and Allocation in the Oil Era
Among non-DAC donors, wealthy Arab states are some of the most prolific contributors of foreign aid. Despite this, relatively little is known about Arab foreign aid. The OECD development database offers a paucity of information, aggregating data for “Arab countries” and “Arab agencies,” without identifying the constituent units of either. A further complication is that Arab donors are not uniformly transparent about their aid efforts, publicizing some of them while keeping other donations secret. In this paper, we advance the state of knowledge of Arab foreign aid in a number of ways. We use AidData to document the trends in reported donations from specific bilateral donors (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and multilateral agencies (Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, OPEC’s Fund for International Development, and the Islamic Development Bank). Notably, Arab bilateral donors have given less generously over time with aid levels remaining relatively stable despite skyrocketing national wealth. We explore reasons for this decline, including that Arab donors have: shifted their giving from bilateral to multilateral channels, given less as DAC donors have given more, and increased domestic spending at the expense of foreign aid with a view to safeguarding regime security. In addition, we look at the sectoral allocations of Arab bilateral and multilateral organizations, and compare the aid practices of Arab donors to their DAC counterparts. Finally, we suggest why an exclusive focus on aid commitments is problematic where Arab aid is concerned.
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