Call for Papers: Foreign aid withdrawals and suspensions: Why, when, and are they effective?

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Political and/or fiscal infractions by foreign aid recipients raise the question of whether aid should be suspended or withdrawn as punishment for such infractions. Both the frequency and impact of aid withdrawals and suspensions, however, remains understudied. Cross-national data on Overseas Development Aid struggles to systematically capture aid withdrawals and suspensions, and it is difficult to isolate the precise impact of aid withdrawals and suspensions.

In this virtual workshop, we propose to investigate four important questions related to the study of aid withdrawals or suspensions:

1. Under what conditions is aid withdrawn or suspended?

Existing literature suggests that foreign aid donors struggle to credibly commit to withdrawing aid, even if aid is conditional. However, there is evidence that donors may be willing to withdraw or suspend certain types of aid more frequently (i.e., budget support). What are the key variables affecting the likelihood of an aid suspension, and who makes the decision to withdraw aid? How do the conditions of aid withdrawal differ for bilateral aid, multilateral aid, and bypass aid?

2. What impact does aid/aid withdrawal or suspension have on incumbent/opposition support?

Aid withdrawals and suspensions are generally designed to punish current governments and/or correct policy that donors consider problematic. However, aid withdrawals and suspensions might also produce backlash and/or also allow incumbents and/or opposition parties to play into nationalist sentiments. How do aid withdrawals and suspensions impact public opinion? What political and economic factors influence or mitigate the effect of aid withdrawal and suspension on public opinion?

3. Under what conditions is the withdrawal or suspension of aid effective?

Presumably, the goal of aid withdrawal and suspension is to change policy and/or incentivize good governance. What evidence, however, is there that aid withdrawals are actually effective in achieving their stated goals? How might aid withdrawals and suspension compete with other development priorities (i.e., poverty reduction?). More broadly, how can scholars systematically study the impact of aid withdrawals and suspensions?

4.    How does aid withdrawal or suspension differ from aid volatility?

Unpredictable aid flows have been found to negatively impact development decision-making by recipients and electoral fortunes of recipient incumbents. Is aid withdrawal and suspension a form of volatility? How can we theoretically and empirically distinguish intentional aid withdrawal and suspension from normal bureaucratic changes in aid flows, and is it analytically useful to do so?

We aim to use this workshop to launch a special issue proposal on the topic of aid withdrawal and suspension. There are no restrictions in terms of regions, time periods or methods: historical papers, comparative research, case studies, and quantitative analysis are all welcome. The workshop will take place in two parts on two separate days to accommodate multiple schedules and timezones: Friday, May 21, 2021 from 2-6pm GMT and Monday, May 24, 2021 from 4-7pm GMT.

We encourage those interested in the event to drop us an email (to with the subject line “Aid Withdrawal SI”) to let us know in advance of your interest and likely area of research for planning purposes.

The submission form will be open until March 31st to submit your abstract. We encourage junior scholars, women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and scholars from the global south to submit their work.

Full papers will be due on Friday, May 14th. The word limit for papers is 10,000 words.

Please submit your abstracts here: submission form.

Looking forward to your submissions,

Nic Cheeseman, University of Birmingham
Cleo O’Brien-Udry, Yale University
Haley Swedlund, Radboud University

Please direct any questions to

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