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Document Abstract
Published: 2005

Aiding or abetting?: dilemmas of foreign aid and political instability in the Melanesian Pacific

Does aid create political instability in the Melanesian Pacific?
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Despite receiving high volumes of aid, many of the goals of aid to the Melanesian Pacific countries remain unmet. This article investigates the impacts of foreign aid , and its role in situations of fragile political stability.

Eight links between aid and political instability in the Melanesian Pacific are identified:

  • a heavy dependence on aid leaves countries vulnerable to external pressures
  • aid may be helping to widen wealth disparities
  • aid can divert the attention of recipient governments
  • poorly supervised aid may encourage corruption
  • the ‘wantok’ system operating the Melanesian Pacific countries may be hindering the equitable distribution of aid
  • disputes over the sources of aid can directly cause political instability
  • access to aid funds can be a ‘prize’ to contest
  • aid can inadvertently finance internal repression and violent conflict

The article concludes that although political stability is a legitimate goal for aid, the experience in Melanesia has suggested that aid has played a role in the continuing political instability in Melanesia. The effectiveness of measures to promote development must be judged against the ends they purport to serve.

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O. Brown

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