Aid diplomacy is an umbrella term covering foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, and development cooperation. It is used for achieving diplomatic, political, and economic objectives. Often, aid diplomacy is seen as part of soft power via fostering goodwill and contributing to the global public good.
Aid diplomacy includes bilateral aid (direct assistance from one country to another), multilateral aid (assistance provided through international organisations), and support via non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It can be in the form of financial assistance, technical assistance, or capacity-building support.
Aid diplomacy can be conducted for a wide range of aims, including:
Strengthening alliances and partnerships, especially among ally countries. Marshal’s plan was one of the most notable examples of strengthening partnerships via massive aid. Donor countries also use aid to gain influence and leverage in the recipient country. Big powers use aid for geopolitical competition, as it is currently the case in Africa. China, USA, and Europe provide aid to leverage influence over African countries. Aid is also used to promote stability and security, especially after major conflicts such as the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s. Aid is an important segment of soft power. Countries build their image through generosity and support for global developments. Scandinavian countries are well-known for contributing to global public good via aid. It increases their reputation and standing in international affairs. Aid diplomacy also raises criticism and concerns. Some criticise aid as a form of neo-colonialism. Increasingly, aid is linked to climate policy.