Greening Aid. Why Do Countries Give More or Less?

Donor Motives Behind Ecological Aid

Essay, 2012

8 Pages, Grade: 1.0



Between 1960 and 1970, the government of Egypt built with foreign expertise and money one of the best-known and exemplary pieces of classical development projects: the Aswan High Dam. It was seen as the most important tool to help the young state of Egypt leap forward economically. The dam stopped the annual phenomenon of flooding of the Nile River and provides until today huge amounts of hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. Back then, the US and the USSR, being in the middle of the Cold War, fought a fierce battle about who was going to provide the funding for the dam with the USSR making the race in 1958 (Abu-Zeid & El-Shibini, 1997). In this early stage of government-funded foreign aid infrastructure projects such as the High Dam in Aswan were widely perceived as the most suitable solution to help underdeveloped countries to industrialize and eventually catch up with the developed world (Riddell, 2007).

In 2012 however, the situation has slightly changed. Dam construction in African countries has become a hot debated and controversial issue. Despite still the being an “underdammed” continent using only 3% of its renewable water for hydropower production compared to 50% in East Asia (Economist, 2010) every new dam construction project is a matter of controversy. Be it the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia or the Merowe dam in North Sudan, civil protests and unrest unfold everywhere usually accompanied by global (mostly western) environmental NGOs such as International Rivers. International Rivers, founded 1985 in Berkeley, California, has been very active especially in advocating the rights of directly affected (often indigenous) groups living in areas designated for resettlement in the wake of the damming up of millions of cubic liters of water (International Rivers, 2012). But not only has the perception of huge infrastructure projects tremendously changed in the public opinion of Western societies since the 60ies also the political executors of foreign aid inside the governments followed suit and started greening their aid projects. It is basically China that is still launching really big infrastructure structures financed and built within the special framework of Chinese Foreign aid (Brautigam, 2009).

For most of the western countries, on the other hand, green aid has become one of the basic pillars of their donor with the amount of green or neutral aid growing for the last 20 years and the amount of “dirty aid” steadily decreasing (Parks et al. 2008). With this development being a fact the question remains why so many western donors started greening their aid? Is the general shift of attitudes towards post-material values in western societies which emphasize the importance of clean air and less waste of resources? This shift led in a couple of western countries (and Japan) to green movements or parties which started influencing the policy of their countries. Another reason to give green aid could be the global fight against climate change. With more and more countries in Europe, the US and Japan producing green technologies also economic aspects come in to play. Or maybe it is something like altruism or a felt responsibility or moral obligation towards the developing world that drives donor countries to increase their green aid efforts. In this essay I will try to show that as in the whole issue of aid there is simple and one dimensional answer: As well as there is no Africa there is no “West” with a generalized aid-giving pattern or attitude toward green aid. Following the profund and in-depth study of Parks et al. from 2008, the first really large scale empirical study of all the environmental aid projects from 1972 to 2006, this essay examines the motives of some of the “greenest“donors. First, I will briefly sum up definitions and history of green aid.

History and Definition of “Green” Aid

Among the definitions of what environmental aid is or supposed to be I will stick in this essay with the definition of Development Cooperation Directorate (DCD-DAC) of the OECD since it follows the principles agreed upon on the Rio Summit 1992. On this summit, also known as Earth Summit (The official title being ‘The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development’), the delegates of 172 states negotiated over three conventions a new framework of aid-giving which had a stronger focus on addressing environmental issues in any sense of the meaning than ever before. The DCD-DAC categorizes the four following forms of “green” aid-giving: Biodiversity-related aid, desertification-related aid, climate change mitigation-related aid and climate change adaption-related aid (DCD-DAC, 2012). The aforementioned are also the so called “Rio-Markers” which the DCD-DAC uses to evaluate and supervise the fulfilling of the Rio goals. By addressing the developed countries to act decisively and with emphasizing the moral obligations since they caused most of the problems the under-developed countries now have to deal with the Earth Summit seemed to have been an example for fruitful and just global collaboration. Especially also because of the Agenda 21 document which stressed the importance of eradicating poverty as well as addressing environmental problems simultaneously for a lot of delegates already in 1992 were concerned that the strong stance on green issues might lead to a negligence of “traditional” development problems. In 2005 during the G 8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, the prime ministers and heads of the then most powerful developed states highlighted once more especially the need to reduce poverty and fight climate change by increasing financial aid and making the access to clean technologies foremost in Africa easier available.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


Greening Aid. Why Do Countries Give More or Less?
Donor Motives Behind Ecological Aid
University of Wrocław  (Department for International Studies)
Theory and Politics of Foreign Aid
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
430 KB
Foreign Aid, Africa, Dam Building, Green Aid, Rio92
Quote paper
Paul-Jasper Dittrich (Author), 2012, Greening Aid. Why Do Countries Give More or Less?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Greening Aid. Why Do Countries Give More or Less?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free