Critiques on "Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment" by Carnegie and Marinov

Literature Review, 2017

3 Pages, Grade: 95

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Critiques on ‘‘Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment’’

The title conveys the content of the study and contains the relevantkeywordslike foreign aid, human rights, and democracy promotion to enablereaders to findthis paper when searchingarelevantdatabase (pp-671). But it is not informative by itself about the argument that the conditionality associated with an increased foreign aid commitment whether responsible for the positive effects in the domains of human rights and democracy. It would have been better to use descriptive terms and phrases that precisely emphasize the purpose of the research.

The abstract clearly indicates that the paper is aimed to help arbitrate the debate over the question of ‘‘Does foreign aid improve human rights and democracy?’’. The authors used an introduction-body-conclusion structure. They included the instrumental variables estimation method employed and the result that EU aid has positive effects on human rights and democracy, although the effects are short-lived (pp-671). The abstract also uses well-developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, and concise. But, it doesn’t present recommendations other than conclusion.

The introduction part provided an overview of existing thinking about an alternative view that an international community actively shaping rights and freedoms in states around the world, the considerable controversy on the role of foreign aid as the international community’s primary tools of influence. It also tells that the researchers used distinguished approach from other instrumental variables strategies for the causal effects of aid in which their instruments may suffer from unobserved heterogeneity. The authors described important results that they have found by developing a novel approach to deal with the hitherto intractable problem of endogenous aid allocation, helping to unpack how aid works as part of a complex interaction between international institutions and recipient countries. It’s also introduced that the research finding stressed on the value and relevance in pointing out the important conditions for the efficacy of multilateral aid, informing the debate on the impact of the international community’s promotion of democracy and human rights in recipient countries. However, it would have been better to introduce and provide an overview of existing thinking on what have other experts discovered about the topic.

I found the literature review being focused on four basics theoretical and empirical implications namely the European union and positive conditionality, the council and former colonies, the presidency and the foreign aid budget, and the commission, aid disbursement, and human rights (pp-672-676). The theories included are well-constructed from prior research findings and arguments with each clear respective assumptions of the hypotheses. For example, different works were reviewed to understand the relationship between EU aid and political liberalization. By drawing clear hypothesis, asking whether countries receiving more of this aid are more likely to democratize and to respect the rights of their citizens, the researchers designed a novel approach to adjudicate this important debate, and they found consistent result (pp-672-673). The hypothesizes are specific, testable and related to body of the identified theories. For instance, in the part of the council and former colonies, the researchers clearly expected that individual EU member states to attempt to move policies closer toward their own preferred positions and the ministers seek to reward their respective nations’ former colonies, since former colonizers tend to have political, cultural, and economic ties to these states that stem from shared history, duty, economic benefits for their companies, political legitimacy, symbolic representations of international power, and familial connections. This is supported by Arts and Dickson (pp. 674), which are clear assumptions. Besides, these are not general prediction since broken into more precise variables. What factors affect the Commission’s decisions about how to disburse the aid? Though the Commission uses a variety of political and economic criteria, the authors particularly focused on factors relevant to democracy and human rights and hypothesized that the presidency impacts the amount of aid for which a recipient is eligible, whereas the Commission determines how much aid the recipient receives (pp-675).

The researchers used stored and reusable data from Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Dataset in that this variable is drawn from U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which often reflect the extent to which there were resources allocated to measuring abuses or programs in each country, and thus rely on subjective expert analysis. But, they therefore also conduct robustness checks using alternative measures from Freedom House. They selected the CIRI index because the data cover a large span of time and sample of countries (pp-676). Since the research data is stored, it makes sufficiently trustworthy and reproducible to other researchers. Though the index has indicators: Foreign Movement, Domestic Movement, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Association, Workers’ Rights, Electoral Self-Determination, and Freedom of Religion, the authors clearly identified that they focused on progress in human rights and democratization(pp-676). This shows that the researchers addressed their key issues and topics having a clear idea of what information is required out of this collection of secondary information. The authors clearly converted concepts into indicators into variables for modelling the problem. They reported results using alternative measures (such as the VDem indexes of democracy) in the robustness checks by principal focusing on Polity both for tractability and best fit with existing studies (pp-676). Given the proposed model, the study included statistical assumptions for consistency and several complications that must be contended. The methodological limitations of the study are mentioned. The authors presented the results of the empirical investigation by detailing the results from the first-stage regression, which estimates the effect of the rotating Council presidency on foreign aid; then estimated the effects of aid on human rights and democracy, and finally consider the timing of aid’s effects (pp-678). The analytical methods used in the study are appropriate to the data and the questions since supported by scientific inferential statistical modelling and logical reasoning of the researchers. Beside using table on the two-stage least squares estimates of effects of logged foreign aid (in Year t − 1) from the European community on dependent variables averaged over years t through t + 3 and estimated effects of logged foreign aid in Year t − 1 on CIRI human empowerment index and polity IV combined score in years t through t + 5, the researchers had better use clear graphics to make readers understand easily and elaborate the implications in meaningful way.

In the part of conclusion, the authors restated the argument whether foreign aid can promote human rights and democracy in a more general form. This is important because it shows the reader they have a cohesive argument that is evident in their work from start to finish. It’s stated the significance of this study since previous attempts to identify the effect of observed aid on rights and democracy have encountered endogeneity problems, which can lead to biased results. The researchers offered suggestions for the future to productively ask whether aid programs in other institutions and for different countries improve rights. The study used unique empirical strategy that provides well-identified effects over a 28-year time span in 115 countries by addressing the issue identifying and employing a natural experiment that yields a shock to aid flows to estimate aid’s impact on rights and democracy. Lastly, the paper summed up by drawing recommendation that for lasting improvements in respect for human rights and democracy, it may require a sustained commitment from the donor community, which could potentially solidify otherwise reversible gains (pp-680). However, the authors haven’t clearly restated the meaning of the methodology: natural experiment and the reason behind the selection of the model employed before summarizing the findings.


Carnegie, Allison and Nikolay Marinov. ‘‘Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment’’, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 61, No. 3 (July 2017), pp. 671–683

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Critiques on "Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment" by Carnegie and Marinov
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Foreign Aid, Human Rights, Democracy Promotion, Natural Experiment, Carnegie, Marinov, Research Critiques
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Bizuayehu Lema (Author), 2017, Critiques on "Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment" by Carnegie and Marinov, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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