What is the relationship between foreign aid and political violence? Unlike natural resource rents, which can only be affected through embargoes and other punitive actions that rely on a concert of actors in order to be effective, international actors can easily manipulate of foreign assistance. This gives aid donors an important source of leverage over recipient states, which has been identified as a potential influence on state’s human rights behaviour. However, donor states shape human rights behaviour not only through the restriction of foreign aid, but also through its continued provision. Using archival research and data on aid and arms transfers by the United States and the Soviet Bloc, Jessica Trisko Darden documents the close connection between bilateral foreign assistance and state violence against civilians throughout post-independence Indonesian history. In particular, she demonstrates how foreign aid was instrumental not only in the invasion and occupation of East Timor, but how foreign assistance affected the nature of state-society relations throughout the archipelago by supporting state coercion. Despite the aid cut-off imposed by Congress, the level of military and economic aid provided by the United States to Indonesia created an enduring capacity for violence in the inward-oriented Indonesian military, which in turn allowed the central government to use violence as a tool of governance.
Jessica Trisko Darden is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario and a faculty fellow with the School of International Service at American University. Previously she was a visiting scholar with Yale University’s Program on Order, Conflict and Violence. Her research focuses on the transnational dimensions of the political economy of conflict, including foreign aid, human security and international development. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from McGill University in 2013. Her research explores the role of international actors in local conflict dynamics and engages a community of social scientists who are looking closely at the relationship between aid, conflict, and development. A book in progress, Financing Repression: Foreign Assistance, Coercive Capacity and Patterns of State Violence, examines the relationship between foreign assistance to the developing world and patterns of state-led violence against civilians in aid recipient countries.