Using Foreign Aid as a Peacemaking Tool, While Understanding Its Limits

One of the most prominent headlines to spread across the media in the aftermath of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict was, “U.S. Races Hezbollah to Provide Aid to Lebanese Civilians”.  To many, it had become clear that much of Hezbollah’s support rests on its extensive social service network, and that its constituency will only grow if the Lebanese civilians see Hezbollah as the only organization coming to their aid.  That same linkage exists between aid from and support for Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

As CALME luminary Scott Lasensky, Senior Research Associate at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, and his colleague Robert Grace note in a recent paper, “Dollars and Diplomacy: Foreign Aid and the Palestinian Question,” the provision of aid to the Palestinians and the linkage of that aid to economic progress has correlated to the interest of those citizens in pursuing peace.  They recall, “For more than thirty years, the United States has relied on foreign aid as a principal diplomatic tool in the quest for Arab-Israeli peace…But since the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations more than five years ago, the linkage between foreign aid and political progress has become increasingly strained.”

The paper notes that aid for the Palestinians has been and can be used strategically to decrease unemployment, stabilize the economy, address humanitarian concerns, preserve the Palestinian Authority, pressure for a continued peace process, and prevent the resumption of violence.  Yet they argue that the strategic provision of foreign aid had been declining in recent years, with the strategy becoming fully muddled following the election of Hamas.

In one of the clearest criticisms toward the failure of the use of foreign aid as a peacemaking tool, Lasensky and Grace charge that, “The donor approach was reactive. Increased pledges and donations risked becoming a substitute for meaningful diplomatic intervention. When opportunities did arise, as with the death of Yasser Arafat, the election of Abu Mazen and Israeli ‘disengagement’ from Gaza, increased economic assistance was not used in concert with effective political and diplomatic strategies, thus becoming simply another feature in an increasingly unattractive status quo.” 

The authors’ conclusion ties the provision of foreign aid – with the understanding that the aid is provided according to a long-term strategy that promotes economic stability and hope – with the resumption of a political track toward peace.  But, they say that the parties must want to end the violence first.  They conclude, “Foreign aid can be a powerful and effective instrument to facilitate peacemaking and sustain peace settlements. But it is a limited tool, especially when aimed at trying to end an active conflict.”  To read the full article, please click here: http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_briefings/2006/palestinian_aid.pdf

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Explore posts in the same categories: Aid, CALME Luminaries, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Press, U.S. Role

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