Feeding the Trojan Horse: International Aid Policies in support to NGOs (1990-2015)

Igor Pellicciari Background

From the perspective of classical international relations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have often been accused of acting as hidden agents of foreign states in their effort to protect their own national interests abroad and in particular when trying to be present in crisis scenarios.

As a consequence, several critical analyses have claimed that behind the flag-waving of universal values these NGOs were actually instrumental to the promotion of specific power policies and interests of those states that were supporting them financially.

To consider critically the support given by a foreign state to a nongovernmental sector of a beneficiary country in crisis or transition does not signal an effort to discredit the actions of NGOs, nor the meaning of their existence, nor is it an effort to criticize their choice to accept funding from abroad.

It helps, however, to contextualize the political dimensions which shape the motivations and interests of the public donor when it decides [1]

to support the non-governmental sector in a third country. This point is even more critical when the country in question is resistant to the notion of receiving aid through formal means.

Examining the issue from the perspective of the donor’s ‘political motivation’ is of critical importance as this focus is often missing from the predominant approaches that practitioners and scholars take. For example, we to refer to aid in the international sphere as foreign aid, a definition which clearly betrays an approach almost fully focused on the beneficiaries’ perspective (it is by definition foreign in that it comes to somebody from outside).

On the contrary, it is our contention that, in order to fully understand the political significance and impact of aid, it is important to emphasize what forms of assistance fall under the less considered and yet crucial in our view category of international aid among sovereign states, intended as an open multi-level relation that puts in a dynamic and often political dimension the relation between a donor and a recipient.

This chapter is divided into two parts. The first section is structured as an introduction to aid as it has historically developed after the fall of the Berlin wall, with a focus on the development and scope of aid’s evolution as an effective political tool on international relations, especially in the hands of nation states. This section is also used as an opportunity to introduce the use of the concept of International Aid Public Policies (IAPP), instead of the conventional one of foreign aid.

Second, the chapter lists some of the strategic rationale and most frequent tactics that have animated the public donor when it has decided to support NGOs financially, with a particular focus on the two most dramatic examples of aid intervention since the beginning of the nineties, namely the post-war transitions in the Balkans and the post-communist ones in the former Soviet countries, starting from Russia.

  • [1] Pellicciari (*) University of Salento, Lecce, Italy © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017 293 R. Marchetti (ed.), Partnerships in InternationalPolicy-Making, International Series on Public Policy, DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-94938-0_15
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