The thinking about development is permeated by notions of crisis, which derive from the awareness that there is an immense - and unacceptable - inequality in life chances between people born in different parts of the world (Selwyn, 2014, pp. 10-13). Many people in rich countries understand the development crisis in terms of a moral obligation to come to the assistance of fellow human beings living in poor countries. Development assistance has thus been an important component of the development project ever since the end of World War II (cf. McMichael, 1996). It is ironic that development assistance, which has been inspired by the perceived crisis in development, has itself shown signs of crisis during most of its existence. Despite spending several trillions of USD in aid, the United Nations (2016) estimated that the number of extremely poor people had risen to 836 million by 2015. Seven decades after World War II ended, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals was deemed necessary to end global poverty, among other goals. Various observers have voiced scepticism not only about the achievements of aid in fighting global poverty, but also about its impact in other domains. Migration may serve as a useful example: in a review of research evidence accumulated over 45 years, Clemens (2014) showed that aid programmes and trade agreements have not curbed migration flows. Development assistance seems to have had almost the opposite effect from that intended because, by stimulating growth, aid practices may actually have stimulated migration. The perceived failure of aid to make a difference in ending poverty has led to repeated crises of legitimacy. At various moments over the past 70 years, critical analyses emphasizing the perverse effects of aid became quite popular. Writing on aid since the 1960s, development economist P.T. Bauer was adamant in his criticism. He claimed: Foreign aid does not affect the major factors behind the material backwardness of underdeveloped countries; the continued poverty of the recipient countries is therefore not surprising. The policies of the recipient countries have on the whole served to retard or obstruct possible advance.
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Hout, W. (2018). The Permanent Crisis of Development Aid. In Jessop, Bob and Knio, Karim (eds), The Pedagogy of Economic Crises: Crisis Dynamics, Construals, and Lessons. (Abingdon, Routledge, 2018). Retrieved from