Overseas aid providers need to consider a country’s human rights – new report

Organisations that provide financial aid overseas should consider a country’s human rights record before committing to support, according to a new report submitted to the Commons.

In a report sent to the International Development Committee, researchers from Loughborough, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Queen Mary universities recommended that human rights measures should be used in a ‘basket’ of conditions, alongside more standard economic measures, when assessing aid recipient countries.

They showed that the effectiveness of aid in achieving socioeconomic goals is linked to the socioeconomic environment and governance of the recipient country.

Lower human rights, therefore, meant a lower probability of aid contributing towards national objectives. Conversely, the estimated impact of aid is significantly better for countries with better human rights.

Dr Huw Edwards, of Loughborough’s School of Business and Economics, said: “The effectiveness of overseas aid, in terms of benefiting the development of the recipient country, depends partly upon the governance of that country.

“In particular, we applied an index of human rights protection to show that aid benefits economies more where human rights are better protected, so that human rights protection is a useful indicator of governance.

“Of course, unfortunately, many of the countries in most need of aid have poor governance, which implies that effective aid requires a mixture of careful selection of countries and closer monitoring of projects where governance is poor.”

Figure 1: marginal effect of increasing aid on GDP, at various HR levels.

Report findings summary:

  1. We emphasise the importance of aid conditionality – the effectiveness of aid in achieving socio-economic goals depends to a large degree upon the socioeconomic – and particularly governance environment of the recipient country.

  2. We have investigated in detail the effects of human rights (especially personal integrity) provision on the effectiveness of aid, as measured by the contribution to economic growth, and find a strong positive association.
  3. On the basis of this, we advocate that human rights (HR) measures should be used in a basket of conditions in assessing aid recipient countries, alongside more standard economic measures.
  4. There is also evidence that better HR provision tends to be associated with lower levels of socioeconomic inequality. While we have not specifically examined other social outcomes, this can be seen as supporting an a priori case that better HR will also improve the outcome of wider social indicators (other than economic growth) in response to aid.
  5. Countries receiving aid usually tend to be below average in terms of HR provision. This is the case with DFID recipients, in particular, possibly because the countries with highest need often tend to be those experiencing poor governance.
  6. While other UK aid providers, including BII, tend to have a less bad HR record on average than DFID, there are reasons why caution should be taken in providing, and monitoring aid to countries at the lower end of the HR scale.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/32

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