No Relief: Why Do Aid-Dependent States Fail to Seek Humanitarian Aid?

Tuesday, November 1, 2022
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM


  • Allison Grossman

About the Event: In the wake of natural disasters, humanitarian aid can make the difference between life and death for people in harm’s way. But despite the suffering of their citizens, leaders sometimes fail to secure international humanitarian aid or conceal the existence of an emergency. Their actions can prevent or delay the delivery of all humanitarian aid. This paper answers the question: under what conditions do recipient governments seek or refuse humanitarian aid after natural disasters?  I argue that leaders act strategically, based on the understanding that their response to natural disasters will influence powerful donor states’ perceptions of the regime’s competence. Donors reward competent leader are rewarded with more advantageous resources while incompetent leaders face greater conditionality. Consequently, state leaders seek humanitarian when doing so will lead powerful donors to perceive the recipient as competent, and they fail to seek aid and conceal the existence of emergencies when doing so would signal incompetence. Seeking aid signals competence when the natural disaster is exogenous to government policy choices and it is implausible that the government could respond adequately alone. When donors can blame event on the government's failure to prevent, even providing emergency relief without donor support makes the government look incompetent, which creates incentives for governments to conceal such events. I use new data on of government policy decisions in response to droughts and floods and a survey of government officials in a poor aid-dependent state to test this argument.

About the Speaker: Allison Grossman is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University and an Affiliated Researcher at Stanford's King Center on Global Development. Her research investigates how so-called "fragile" states cooperate with (0r contest) international efforts to mitigate suffering and improve the welfare of their residents. She investigates these issues of global concern in West African states, including Niger, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. She received her PhD in Political Science from UC Berkeley in 2021. Her research has been published in the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Experimental Political Science, and PS: Political Science & Politics.

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