Development aid as a soft power resource

Nye defined soft power resources as the culture of a state (where it is attractive to others), its political values (if it adheres to them in internal and external politics) and its foreign policy (if it is perceived as law-abiding and having a moral authority). Development aid could be located in the second or the third of these categories. Yet, according to Nye, aid belongs to the economic power (existing alongside soft and military power)—together with bribe and sanctions. In his later (2011) work, he underlined that economic resources are a source of both soft and hard power. Moreover, foreign aid does not always have a form of direct financial handout; it can constitute of transfer of technology, training, admission of foreign students. Aid also often contains a projection of a given social model. Taking this into account, development aid is mentioned by Nye in the context of soft power when he refers to the importance of facilitating admission of foreign students. It is also recognised as a global public good, care for which serves accumulation of soft power. Nye also concludes that aid better serves accumulation of soft power when the projects are small and implemented in concert with local population, while it diminishes when aid undermines local power relations or is conditional.5

Development aid also finds itself on other researchers’ lists of formative elements of soft power.6 Los underlines that aid can generate goodwill in the receiving country’s elites and build linkages between the respective administrations, promoting cooperation in other fields. Development cooperation can impact all three elements of attractiveness: benignity (disinterested aid builds sympathy, trust and reliance), brilliance (when aid is based on the willingness of the recipient to follow solutions used in the donor country) and beauty (when aid is based on common values, ideals and visions). Furthermore, development aid is included as an indicator in several rankings of soft power. The linkage between development aid and soft power is made—and potential in this regard is seen—also by some Israeli researchers. For example. Fried suggested that benefits of aid should be construed as a part of a soft power strategy.7

To conclude, development aid constitutes a resource of soft power as such, thanks to its role in promoting positive emotions, gratitude and awe towards the donor. It also promotes other soft power resources of this donor, such as its culture, political system, technological innovativeness or quality education.

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