Aid, power, and grievances: Lessons for war and peace from rural Afghanistan
Recent studies present contrasting findings on how reconstruction and development aid affects security in wartime contexts. Some research has found that aid projects decrease violent incidences, while other work has found both no effect and suggestions of a positive relationship. In an effort to resolve the mixed empirical picture, this article examines the complex intra-communal dynamics spurred by the distribution of aid in rural Afghanistan. Drawing on original interviews conducted in a community of Majarh district, Helmand province, the analysis indicates that development aid helps to elevate previously relatively less powerful individuals into positions of community leadership. This newly generated class of local leadership subsequently development relationships to the community that differ from their predecessors since their social position is rooted in new sources of power. As a result, intra-community tension increases. These findings help to specify the conditions under which the delivery of aid does not help to win hearts and minds and potentially promotes conflict. In addition, the analysis underscores how consideration of antecedent social conditions and temporal processes can help further refine our understanding of the wartime relationship between aid and security. [JEL codes: D74, O53]
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