1st Edition

Foreign Aid and Its Unintended Consequences

By Dirk-Jan Koch Copyright 2024
    236 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    236 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Foreign aid and international development frequently bring with it a range of unintended consequences, both negative and positive. This book delves into these consequences, providing a fresh and comprehensive guide to understanding and addressing them.

    The book starts by laying out a theoretical framework based on complexity thinking, before going on to explore the ten most prevalent kinds of unintended effects of foreign aid: backlash effects, conflict effects, migration and resettlement effects, price effects, marginalization effects, behavioural effects, negative spillover effects, governance effects, environmental effects, and ripple effects. Each chapter revolves around a set of concrete case studies, analysing the mechanisms underpinning the unintended effects and proposing ways in which policymakers, practitioners, and evaluators can tackle negative side effects and maximize positive side effects. The book also includes personal testimonies, a succinct overview of unintended effects, and suggestions for further reading.

    Providing a clear overview of what side effects to anticipate when planning, executing, and evaluating aid, this book will be an important resource for students, development practitioners, and policymakers alike.

    The Open Access version of this book, available at http://www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.


    Dirk-Jan Koch is Chief Science Officer of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is Special Professor of International Trade & Development Cooperation at Radboud University, the Netherlands. Views expressed in this book do not represent the official views of these institutions.

    "You’ll never be able to say that you ‘just didn’t know’. Dirk-Jan is a pracademic firebrand. Knowing the international aid sector from the inside out, he knows exactly where it hurts. This book is a must-read for every professional and student of international aid alike."

    Bill Easterly, Author of The White Man’s Burden and The Tyranny of Experts

    "The programme evaluation literature often focusses on measuring the direct effects of programmes. This book shows convincingly that we should pay more attention to unintended consequences, and provides the tools to do so. Highly recommended!"

    A. Mushfiq Mobarak, Kasoff'54 Professor of Economics, Yale University

    "It’s not often that a book on aid is this original and this important. Dirk Jan Koch turns a forensic eye on an issue that normally merely provokes handwringing: the unintended consequences of aid. In a text full of case studies, precise typologies and practical suggestions for practitioners, he provides a wonderful guide to what they are, and what to do about them."

    Duncan Green, Oxfam & London School of Economics, Author of How Change Happens

    "Foreign Aid and its Unintended Consequences will leave many readers shaking their heads in disbelief at how foreign assistance can get things so wrong. Koch’s book offers a compelling and honest analysis of the pathologies of aid’s unanticipated and unwanted consequences. His original typology of these effects will stimulate much debate and discussion by students, practitioners, and scholars alike, while also pointing to real opportunities for aid’s transformation. This book offers a ray of hope for anyone desperate for ideas on how to radically reform the global development sector."

    Nilima Gulrajani, Senior Research Fellow, ODI

    "This book holds the golden message for the young professionals we train to set foot in the field of international development to always change perspective and to keep a continuous eye for the unexpected. It encourages them in their role as change agents by providing evidence-based guidance on how to best play their part."

    Sara Kinsbergen, Programme Director AMID Young Professional Programme, Radboud University

    "***** (5 stars)! No taboos, no blind spots. This book investigates all potential claims about side effects of development assistance and tells us which ones we should be more vigilant about. A great read!"

    Axel Dreher, Chair of International and Development Politics, Heidelberg University, and Editor, Review of International Organizations

    "This book is an admirably thorough and evidence-based exploration of – negative and positive – unintended consequences of international development cooperation. The book is compelling as it is written by an insider academic who has engaged in and observed development for decades. Dirk Jan Koch provides us with a razor-sharp analysis without ever losing his commitment or his belief that development policy and practice can indeed be improved."

    Thea Hilhorst, Professor of humanitarian studies, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague

    "This is an important book for anyone with an interest in accelerating development – advocates and champions of development can gloss over its unintended consequences, but to ensure the best chance of really helping people, policymakers must pay them more attention. The concepts and tools laid out should be essential reading in every development agency, charity or research institution."

    Ian Mitchell, Director of development cooperation in Europe, Center for Global Development

    "In this erudite and highly readable book, Dirk-Jan Koch examines a comprehensive range of aid-related problems and their possible solutions. The book’s focus on getting to grips with ‘unintended consequences’ is both original and productive, and opens up important new perspectives on development policy and humanitarian action. This book will be hugely useful to both researchers and reflective practitioners involved in trying to make aid work better."

    David Lewis, Professor of Anthropology and Development, London School of Economics

    "This book will be extremely useful for students on Development Studies courses and anybody interested in development because the author provides a very balanced discussion of the effects, intended and unanticipated, of international development interventions. The author develops a coherent typology, but also shows how better design and planning can help to mitigate potential adverse effects. Dirk-Jan Koch presents a nuanced assessment that counters the excessively negative view of development so widespread in public perceptions."

    Oliver Morrissey, Professor of Development Economics, Nottingham University

    "The international development community has become increasingly adept at answering ever narrower questions about design and performance, while continuing to neglect the less manageable – but no less impactful – realm of the unanticipated, unintended, and unexpected. Koch's particular mix of practical experience and analytical introspection reminds us of how important it is to focus on the unintended effects of aid (both negative and positive!), and encourages us to become better observers, smarter planners, and more honest partners for change."

    Pablo Yanguas, author of Why We Lie about Aid

    "This fascinating book explores the unintended effects of international development cooperation. Koch draws insights from complexity theory and uses empirical evidence in developing a robust typology for understanding unintended effects in international development cooperation. This intellectually rich book provides an opportunity for development workers to be self-critical and reflexive. This is a must-read book for development practitioners, policymakers, and academics interested in international development cooperation."

    Emmanuel Kumi, University of Ghana

    "An excellent book that is constructively critical of aid as we know it. Based on lived experience, this book adds to our understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of international aid – and how to do international cooperation better."

    Stefan Dercon, Oxford University, author of Gambling on Development

    "Accessible, well-researched, original, at times provocative, Foreign Aid and its Unintended Consequences shatters myths about development aid. Koch argues that donors and aid agencies should be more aware of the outcomes they don’t always intend. While not shying away from criticism and even controversy, the book is ultimately hopeful and constructive, outlining actionable steps to harmonize goals and impacts."

    Mark Schuller, author of Killing with Kindness

    "In the development world, the ostrich syndrome is often the norm, hiding the problems everyone knows about. In this highly original book, Dirk-Jan Koch takes us on a journey around the world, with many examples, showing the myriad of possible effects, both positive and negative, that urgently need to be uncovered. This an urgent read for those who want to move away from hypocrisy and are interested in unintended effects."

    Valéry Ridde, Director of Research, Centre of Population et Développement, CEPED, Université de Paris Cité