The Donor's Dilemma: International Aid and Human Rights Violations

Niheer Dasandi, Lior Erez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Donor governments face a dilemma when providing development aid to states that violate human rights. While aid may contribute to positive development outcomes, it may also contribute to rights violations committed by these regimes. This article provides a conceptual framework for donors to address this dilemma in a normatively justified way. Drawing on recent methodological advancements in normative political theory, it develops a distinctively political framework of dilemmas, suggesting three models: Complicity, double effect and dirty hands. It considers this framework in the context of development aid, discussing the relevant considerations for donors in different cases. The article demonstrates that an approach to development assistance that acknowledges political realities does not have to be normatively silent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1431-1452
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Cambridge University Press.


  • aid
  • authoritarian regimes
  • donor governments
  • human rights
  • international development
  • political dilemmas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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