Event Details

  • Aid, geopolitics, and power: Are human rights back on the international aid agenda? – the fifth in the series, "The Yale Development Dialogues: Economic Policy Lessons from History"
  • Hosts: Yale Economic Growth Center, the South Asian Studies Council at Yale MacMillan Center, and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs
  • Date and time: Tuesday, March 23, 9-10AM EST (13:00 GMT, 18:30 IST)

Event description

How do geopolitics and economic inequalities influence the relationship between rich and poor countries? 

Historically, high-income countries have intervened in lower-income countries in a wide variety of ways, from foreign aid and disaster relief, to military support for a preferred government. How can such acts be justified? By the goal to drive international development and poverty reduction, to protect human rights, or to advance the interests of the donor country? 

Recent structural changes at the international development agencies of both the US and UK mark shifts in priorities. What lessons might history offer as these agencies change their structure in pursuit of new priorities?

The fifth Yale Development Dialogue looked at foreign interventions of the past – their stated intentions and real-world effects – from the perspectives of data science, historical analysis, and frontline policymaking. The discussion asked what a renewed emphasis on human rights might mean for poverty reduction in a world of extreme inequality.


Melissa Dell is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Her work focuses on long-run economic development, primarily in Latin America and Asia: she has conducted research on how US military strategies in Vietnam had a lasting impact on that country’s institutions, as well as the long-run effect of agrarian reform and agricultural technology investments in Mexico and East Asia.

Samuel Moyn is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University, and author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World. His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective. In intellectual history, he has worked on a diverse range of subjects, especially twentieth-century European moral and political theory.

Rohini Pande is the Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center at Yale. Her research is largely focused on how formal and informal institutions shape power relationships and patterns of economic and political advantage in society, particularly in developing countries.

Rory Stewart is a Senior Fellow at Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where he focuses on contemporary politics in crisis and on international development and intervention in fragile and conflict affected states. Stewart served as the UK Secretary of State for International Development where he doubled the U.K.’s investment in international climate and environment.


Catherine 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.

Cover image: Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lake Success, New York. November 1949. Courtesy, the FDR Presidential Library & Museum.