This paper examines Arab aid flows and aid policies, and contrasts them with the broad picture of Western practice. Most Arab bilateral aid is channelled through their Ministries of Finance and is not open to public scrutiny. While Arab aid has been very generous, it has also been very volatile - due both to the volatility of Arab countries' revenue from their oil and gas exports and to their strategic use of aid to support their foreign policies. Much aid has been used to build and maintain allies in the Arab world and to reward supporters during military conflicts - similarly to Western aid disbursements. Arab donors also support their own commercial interests similarly to Western donors, but favours Islamic countries. Coupled with the large flow of non-official aid into promoting Islam, it seems as though such religious aims are important to Arab donors. Finally, the Arab donors have a long history of policy dialogue with recipient countries that Western countries can learn from if they are in fact interested in building true partnerships with recipient countries.

Espen Villanger

Deputy Director, Research Director

Arab foreign aid

Dec 2006 - Mar 2007