Aid sanctions and political conditionality: Continuity and change

Gordon Crawford, Simonida Kacarska

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    19 Citations (Scopus)
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    Political conditionality was first introduced by Western governments into their development aid policy a quarter of a century ago, threatening to invoke aid sanctions in the event of human rights abuses or democratic regression in aid recipient countries. This paper examines how political conditionality has evolved in the subsequent years and analyses what has changed and why. It does so through a review of sanctions cases in the EU and the US aid from 2000 to date, with discussion located within the post-2000 international environment in which foreign policy and aid policy are situated. The paper focuses on three regions: sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Central Asia. Patterns of change and continuity are identified in relation to how political conditionality has been implemented. Our findings are that political conditionality remains a significant policy tool, contrary to the perception that its use has declined. However, while selectivity and inconsistency in policy application continue, security interests have become a more prominent explanatory factor in the post-2000 period. Indeed, the initial normative agenda of political conditionality as a tool for the promotion of democracy and human rights, as stated in policy rhetoric, has been replaced by its use as an instrument to promote Western security interests in line with the securitisation of development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)184–214
    Number of pages31
    JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
    Issue number1
    Early online date8 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

    Bibliographical note

    The final publication is available at Springer via


    • aid sanctions
    • United States
    • security
    • political conditionality
    • European Union
    • democracy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)


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