Event Details

  • Hosts: EGC and the South Asian Studies Council at Yale MacMillan Center
  • Aid, power, and plague: Lessons from history and practice on foreign aid responses – the first in a series, "The Yale Development Dialogues: Economic Policy Lessons from History"
  • Date and time: Friday October 30, 2020, 10AM EST (14:00 GMT, 19:30 IST)

Event Description 

How should the West approach giving aid to developing countries in the time of Covid-19 and climate change? These crises cross borders and spark political turmoil in rich and poor countries alike. Can one country in crisis effectively assist another, and should that aid be tied to policy changes?

A close look at the history of official development assistance to South Asian countries over the last century shows that aid often had as much to do with the political aims of the donor countries as the development goals of the recipients. More recently, the tendency to align political and development goals found literal expression in the UK: the government announced in June 2020 that it would merge the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. In the meantime, private philanthropic organizations have taken a larger role in international development, with some giving yearly contributions greater than the aid budgets of many countries. Given the chaotic nature of politics during a pandemic, many development experts argue that sending cash payments directly to poor citizens is the best way to avoid relief becoming a tool of geopolitical power.

These issues will be the focus of the first event in a new series, “The Yale Development Dialogues: Economic Policy Lessons from History.” A collaboration between the Economic Growth Center and the South Asian Studies Council at Yale University, the series will convene economists, historians, journalists, and policymakers to apply insights from history and economics to the most pressing policy issues confronting contemporary South Asia. 

Cover Photo by Gaurav Dhawan, U.S. Embassy, India: USAID delivers 100 ventilators to India, 2020. 


Photo of David EngermanDavid Engerman is the Leitner International Interdisciplinary Professor of History at Yale University. His book The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India discusses how superpowers turned to foreign aid as a tool of the Cold War.



Photo of Rohini PandeRohini Pande is the Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center at Yale. Her research has examined the political economy of aid and empowerment of the poor in developing countries.



Photo of Rory StewartRory Stewart is a former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for International Development in the UK. He has written extensively about travel, politics, and development, and argued against the merging of the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office.



Photo of Catherine CheneyCatherine Cheney ‘10 is a Senior Reporter for Devex, covering the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology, innovation, and philanthropy in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.