Billions of dollars have been given to developing countries over the past fifty years, yet critics argue that aid is ineffectual and, worse yet, harmful to recipients. In this course, we will examine the politics surrounding the delivery of international aid, exploring who decides the aid agenda, which countries receive what aid and, once delivered, how aid interacts with the political dynamics of recipient communities. The course begins with a brief history of ‘development’ as a concept, tracing the international aid regime’s evolution over the last century, before turning to current debates over international assistance, highlighting throughout how politics pervades even the most ‘technical’ of aid interventions.
The course combines a traditional lecture format with the Harvard Business School case method. The case method asks students to collectively make a decision on a real-world case involving international aid. The case method highlights to students the strategic and ethical complexities of aid work, encouraging students to develop their ability to articulate clear, persuasive arguments and to engage in complex negotiations with their classmates. Active participation in case discussions is therefore central to the course grading structure.