South Asian Studies Council: “Aid, power, and plague: Lessons from history and practice on foreign aid responses”

Event time: 
Friday, October 30, 2020 - 10:00pm
Zoom Session See map
Event description: 

Zoom session, 10:00 a.m.  Register here:
The South Asian Studies Council presents David Engerman, History, Yale University; Rohini Pande, Economics, Yale University; Rory Stewart, former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for International Development in the UK:

Aid, power, and plague: Lessons from history and practice on foreign aid responses.“ 

Moderated by Catherine Cheney, Devex.

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 South Asia 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.


David 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.

Rohini 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 the empowerment of the poor in developing countries.

Rory 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 DfID and the Foreign Office.


Catherine Cheney ‘08 MA ‘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.


Free but register in advance
Open to: 
General Public