Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access


International Relations

Second Department


Faculty Mentor

Johannes Karreth

Second Faculty Mentor

Rebecca Evans


Presented during the 20th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 20, 2018 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Policymakers in OECD countries regularly cite reducing terrorism as a key purpose of foreign aid. Countries with a high number of terrorist incidents such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq have received considerable amounts of aid meant to address the root causes of terrorism and political violence. However, there is some debate on whether aid can achieve this purpose. This paper analyzes quantitative and qualitative evidence to assess whether foreign aid can reduce terrorist activity. It specifically examines whether developmental assistance can reduce the amount of terrorist violence in a country through addressing political and economic grievances. Building on existing literature, the paper hypothesizes that foreign aid will reduce terrorist violence. However, this relationship is likely conditional on existing institutions as well as the success record of projects. Corruption can mitigate the positive impact of aid. Data on foreign aid and terrorist violence in 36 African countries from 1970 to 2013 are analyzed to test this hypothesis. The quantitative analysis found that an increase in foreign aid is associated with less terrorist activity, however there was not enough evidence to conclude that lower grievances are associated with less terrorism. Additionally, there was not enough evidence to conclude that foreign aid is able to address grievances. Case studies of the role of foreign aid in Kenya and Nigeria provide further detail on the role of aid for terrorist activities. These case studies showed that the decrease in foreign aid can in turn increase terrorist attacks as seen in Nigeria. Conversely, in the case of Kenya foreign aid is high, however attacks are as well. Throughout, this research finds that foreign aid is able to reduce terrorism, however this depends heavily on existing policy and institutions. Additionally, the case studies as well as existing literature show that grievances play an important role in terms of motivating terrorism. Unfortunately, I did not find enough evidence to support that foreign aid is able to address these grievances and in turn lower terrorism. This will allow the foreign policy community to better understand the impact foreign aid has on terrorist violence, allowing possible improvement. The findings of this research show that foreign aid can have an impact on terrorism. Possible improvement may include strengthening institutions and policies in aid-receiving nations as well as further targeting grievances in nations with foreign aid.


Available to Ursinus community only.