Post-war aid: patterns and purposes

A recent report by the World Bank reiterates the widely-held view that donor agencies commit large amounts of funding in the immediate post-conflict phase, only for this to taper off to more `normal' levels once the crisis is over. The World Bank criticises this phenomenon, referred to as `frontloading', claiming that damages the prospects of economic growth, which in turn undermines the peace. This article argues that the Bank's analysis is flawed because it does not distinguish between commitments and disbursements, or take sufficient account of other factors influencing aid patterns over time and in different settings. Moreover, the link between official aid and post-war economic performance is of only marginal significance. Any critique of aid policies needs to be based on a detailed analysis of what is delivered rather than what is promised, and of the impact of donors' assistance on the ground.