Is overseas aid an instrument of soft power?

I was giving evidence to a UK House of Lords select committee on aid as an instrument of soft power yesterday, so spent a bit of time researching what “soft power” actually means. It turns out it’s not just a fancy word for “influence” – though you probably knew that already – but rather Joseph Nye’s rather precise definition of how to achieve one’s objectives through attraction and co-option, alongside or instead of other means such as coercion and purchase. For Nye, foreign aid is purchase power, and as such not strictly a soft power tool. Was he right?

It’s rather hard to examine power in the abstract, as it can only really be measured in relation to a specific policy goal or objective. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is mandated to reduce poverty overseas – a difficult but relatively narrow purpose. But if you look at the…

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This entry was posted in Alan Duncan, DFID, Humanitarian Aid, International Development, International Development Association, International Political Economy, Justine Greening, Least Developed Countries, Lynne Featherstone, Millennium Development Goals, Official Development Assistance, Posts, World Bank and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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