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Food Aid: Bad for Peace?

(Photo: Peter Casier)

A new working paper (ungated version here) by Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian may have interesting implications for U.S. policy on humanitarian aid. We’ve blogged before about the “crowding out” effect of food aid, but this research points to another alarming effect:

[A]n increase in U.S. food aid increases the incidence, onset and duration of civil conflicts in recipient countries. Our results suggest that the effects are larger for smaller scale civil conflicts.

Nunn and Qian find that the crowding-out effect of food aid is not to blame for the conflict increase. Instead, they say that their findings “support qualitative accounts of food aid either being stolen during transport or being taken from target populations by small armed groups that use the resources to fund conflict.”  Another reason for distributing food aid by text?