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Aid, Power, and Grievances: Lessons for War and Peace from Rural Afghanistan


  • Daniel Karell

    () (New York University Abu Dhabi)


Recent studies present contrasting findings on how reconstruction and development aid affects security in wartime contexts. Some research has found that aid projects decrease violent incidences, while other work has found both no effect or even evidence of a positive relationship. Addressing this mixed empirical picture, this article examines the complex intra-communal dynamics spurred by the distribution of aid in rural Afghanistan. Drawing on original interviews conducted in a community of Marjah district, Helmand province, the analysis indicates that development aid helps to elevate previously relatively less powerful individuals into positions of community leadership. This newly generated class of local leadership subsequently develops relationships to the community that differ from their predecessors since their social position is rooted in new sources of power. As a result, intra-community tension increases. These findings help to specify the conditions under which the delivery of aid may not help to win “hearts and minds” of locals and may potentially promote conflict. In addition, the analysis underscores how consideration of antecedent social conditions and temporal processes can help to refine our understanding of the wartime relationship between aid and security.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Karell, 2015. "Aid, Power, and Grievances: Lessons for War and Peace from Rural Afghanistan," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 10(2), pages 43-52, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:epc:journl:v:10:y:2015:i:2:p:43-52

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2013. "Empowering Women through Development Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 107(03), pages 540-557, August.
    2. Eli Berman & Joseph H. Felter & Jacob N. Shapiro & Erin Troland, 2013. "Modest, Secure, and Informed: Successful Development in Conflict Zones," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 512-517, May.
    3. Eli Berman & Jacob N. Shapiro & Joseph H. Felter, 2011. "Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(4), pages 766-819.
    4. Eli Berman & Michael Callen & Joseph H. Felter & Jacob N. Shapiro, 2011. "Do Working Men Rebel? Insurgency and Unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 55(4), pages 496-528, August.
    5. Benjamin Crost & Joseph Felter & Patrick Johnston, 2014. "Aid under Fire: Development Projects and Civil Conflict," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1833-1856, June.
    6. Travers B. Child, 2014. "Hearts And Minds Cannot Be Bought: Ineffective Reconstruction In Afghanistan," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 9(2), pages 43-49, October.
    7. Beath,Andrew & Christia,Fotini & Enikolopov,Ruben & Beath,Andrew & Christia,Fotini & Enikolopov,Ruben, 2012. "Winning hearts and minds through development ? evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6129, The World Bank.
    8. Tiffany Chou, 2012. "Does development assistance reduce violence? Evidence from Afghanistan," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 7(2), pages 5-13, July.
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:107:y:2013:i:04:p:679-705_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    1. repec:eee:wdevel:v:98:y:2017:i:c:p:506-522 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Development aid; power; elites; grievances; Afghanistan;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East


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