Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid

Last updated: June 20, 2016

Should the USA prefer to give aid money bilaterally (directly to individual countries or projects) or multilaterally (channelling it through United Nations agencies, World Bank, NGOs, etc.)?

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid tends to be less tied to the political self-interest of individual donor countries....

Multilateral aid tends to be less tied to the political self-interest of individual donor countries. One criticism of bilateral aid arrangements is that they are often drawn up based on self interest. Major powers who provide international aid have tended to direct their aid to former colonies or countries with which they have significant strategic ties, economic interests or potential markets. Often, aid money must be spent on goods or services from the donor country. While the United States does not have as developed a colonial history as some other major donor states, it does have a history of providing aid to countries it sees as strategic partners. This was particularly true during the Cold War, but has now emerged as a practice in the war on terror. Aid that is given multilaterally is therefore much more likely to go to developing countries on the basis of need, and of where it has the most potential for good.
No because...
Providers of aid, for the very reason that they are spending their own money, should have their interests served by an aid arrangement. Significant opposition exists to foreign aid in the United States. For this reason, it is important to demonstrate to the American public that their tax dollars are being spent in a way that benefits the nation and/or is used responsibly by the recipient nation. Sadly, many aid dollars have been wasted on countries with corrupt regimes that have misused the funds, or the recipients have lacked the resources internally to use the funds productively. This misuse is more likely to happen if aid is channelled through, and supervised by unaccountable international bureaucracies instead of given direct to countries in need.

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid, particularly when delivered through NGOs or the UN, allows for the efficient pooli...

Multilateral aid, particularly when delivered through NGOs or the UN, allows for the efficient pooling of financial resources. Much as when an individual makes a donation to a major charity, their small contribution goes much further when combined with those of many others. Particularly in the face of pressure to reduce foreign aid, America can still make a significant impact on development in other parts of the world through combining resources with other donors. By contrast, bilateral aid arrangements are often short-term and subject to change at short notice as a result of political or economic shifts in the donor country. Multilateral aid programmes are therefore more stable and can plan more usefully for the long-term.
No because...
Multilateral aid through NGOs or UN agencies is less cost-efficient. Direct aid means that that aid is immediately reaching its destination and can begin working for the recipient government. When funds go to multilateral aid organizations, some of these funds will be spent by the agency itself for administrative purposes. Those funds which reach the field are often seriously delayed. Moreover, when NGOs are used, the potential for abuse of resources exists, meaning less of the funds actually reach their intended destination. The UN, in particular, has a bad record of financial inefficiency.

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid arrangements tend to avoid unnecessarily coercive conditions. One of the strongest...

Multilateral aid arrangements tend to avoid unnecessarily coercive conditions. One of the strongest criticisms of bilateral aid is the tendency for donor countries to place strict political, diplomatic or economic conditions on the receipt of that aid. For example, the United States greeted Pakistan’s cooperation with the war on terror with a generous economic and military aid package, despite years of sanctions previously. Countries receiving development loans have often faced requirements for changes in internal policies on a range of issues not always directly tied to the aid itself.
No because...
Multilateral aid has the potential to be equally or more coercive than bilateral aid arrangements. The history of World Bank and International Monetary Fund austerity programs and structural adjustment policies in the developing world has amply demonstrated that sometimes multilateral organizations can impose potent and harmful conditions on recipients, interfering with the internal affairs of other nations and doing long-lasting harm. These agencies have also been heavily criticized for their focus on economic concerns at the expense of more basic human needs, such as health, education and the alleviation of poverty.

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid arrangements develop a sense of cooperation among nations with the additional advan...

Multilateral aid arrangements develop a sense of cooperation among nations with the additional advantage of reducing conflict. Efforts to solve problems, such as poverty, disease and conflict through multilateral efforts suggest that these are “world problems” and not exclusively the problems of a recipient country and an interested donor nation. An increase in multilateral efforts improves the general sense that we are ‘one world” with common difficulties in need of common solutions. Multilateral approaches to solving these problems expand a sense of goodwill.
No because...
Bilateral aid has the potential to help in the war against terrorism, or with other security concerns, in a way that multilateral aid cannot. The United States has learned that it can help reluctant regimes to cooperate in the war on terror through financial incentives (most notably Pakistan). Moreover, direct aid from the United States can help improve America’s image in societies whose people might currently have negative or mixed attitudes toward the United States.

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid arrangements help ensure that different bilateral arrangements do not work at cross...

Multilateral aid arrangements help ensure that different bilateral arrangements do not work at cross-purposes. Years of development experiences have demonstrated that donors sometimes make mistakes in the arrangements they create. Dependency is sometimes fostered, conditions imposed on contributions are sometimes unreasonable and those administering the aid do not always consider the broader picture. If more than one country is approaching the recipient nation with different goals or conditions in mind, their uncoordinated efforts could cause unintended negative effects.
No because...
Multilateral aid contributions by the USA are likely to trade-off with American contributions to other UN or multilateral projects. Americans question the value of international aid, and are particularly suspicious of America’s involvement in international institutions. In an age of increased budgetary pressures and increasing suspicion of international institutions, efforts to support multilateral economic aid would likely result in calls for cutbacks in other multilateral commitments, such as support for peacekeeping. Bilateral arrangements are easier to justify as serving specific national interests.

Bilateral vs Multilateral Aid
Yes because...

Multilateral aid agencies are more familiar with the regions or nations they work in. Many UN agenc...

Multilateral aid agencies are more familiar with the regions or nations they work in. Many UN agencies and NGOs have been working in the communities they direct aid to for years. They are more aware of the unique needs of those societies and where the funds can be directed to do the most good.
No because...
Working through the agencies of multilateral institutions and NGOs risks creating a dependency culture where unaccountable foreigners supply all the physical and social needs of local society. This can in some countries amount to a parallel administration, bypassing the proper government which is increasingly denied responsibility for managing anything important. Giving aid government-to-government instead strengthens responsible and accountable government.


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sandra

Giving aid through organisations or maybe to MP there can be leakage along the way so therefore the main recipients receive less. Wow, that’s awful and selfish

G ribbans

Borrow money then give it away,no wonder the country is broke,30 years of rubbish for government.





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