Aid sanctions and political conditionality: continuity and change

  • Gordon Crawford
  • Simonida KacarskaEmail author


Political conditionality was first introduced by Western governments into their development aid policy a quarter of a century ago, threatening to invoke aid sanctions in the event of human rights abuses or democratic regression in aid recipient countries. This paper examines how political conditionality has evolved in the subsequent years and analyses what has changed and why. It does so through a review of sanctions cases in the EU and the US aid from 2000 to date, with discussion located within the post-2000 international environment in which foreign policy and aid policy are situated. The paper focuses on three regions: sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Central Asia. Patterns of change and continuity are identified in relation to how political conditionality has been implemented. Our findings are that political conditionality remains a significant policy tool, contrary to the perception that its use has declined. However, while selectivity and inconsistency in policy application continue, security interests have become a more prominent explanatory factor in the post-2000 period. Indeed, the initial normative agenda of political conditionality as a tool for the promotion of democracy and human rights, as stated in policy rhetoric, has been replaced by its use as an instrument to promote Western security interests in line with the securitisation of development.


aid sanctions democracy European Union political conditionality security United States 


  1. Arieff, Alexis and Nicolas Cook (2010) ‘Guinea: Background and Relations With The United States [Online]’, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  2. Arieff, Alexis. (2011) Guinea: Background and Relations with the United States, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  3. Arieff, Alexis. (2013) Crisis in Mali, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  4. Aziz, Sahar. (2013) ‘U.S. foreign aid and Morsi’s ouster’, Middle East Institute, 31 July, 2013, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  5. Balfour, Rosa (2012) ‘EU Conditionality after the Arab Spring’, IEMED Papers, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  6. Berger, Lars. (2011) ‘The Missing Link? US Policy and the International Dimensions of Failed Democratic Transitions in the Arab World’, Political Studies 59: 38–55.Google Scholar
  7. Bosse, Giselle. (2011) ‘From “Villains” to the New Guardians of Security in Europe? Paradigm Shifts in EU Foreign Policy towards Libya and Belarus’, Perspectives on European Politics and Society 12: 440–61.Google Scholar
  8. Börzel, Tanja. A., Thomas Risse and Assem Dandashly (2015) ‘The EU, External Actors, and the Arab Rebellions: Much Ado About (Almost) Nothing’, Journal of European Integration 37: 135–53.Google Scholar
  9. Börzel, Tanja. A. and Vera. Van Hüllen (2011) ‘Good Governance and Bad Neighbors?’, KFG Working Paper No.35/2011, Freie Universitat Berlin, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  10. Brown, Stephen. (2005) ‘Foreign Aid and Democracy Promotion: Lessons from Africa’, European Journal of Development Research 17(2): 179–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brummer, Klaus. (2009) ‘Imposing Sanctions: The Not So “Normative Power Europe”’, European Foreign Affairs Review 14: 191–207.Google Scholar
  12. Burnell, Peter. (1994) ‘Good Government and Democratization: A Sideways Look at Aid and Political Conditionality’, Democratization 1(3): 485–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2001) ‘Cote D’Ivoire US Country Report on Human Rights Practices’, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  14. Carbone, Maurizio. (2013a) ‘An Uneasy Nexus: Development, Security and the EU’s African Peace Facility’, European Foreign Affairs Review 18(special issue): 103–24.Google Scholar
  15. Carbone, Maurizio. (2013b) ‘Rethinking ACP-EU Relations after Cotonou: Tensions, Contradictions, Prospects’, Journal of International Development 25: 742–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chandler, David. (2007) ‘The Security–Development Nexus and the Rise of “Anti-Foreign Policy”’, Journal of International Relations and Development 10(4): 362–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Connolly, Lesley. (2013) ‘The Troubled Road to Peace: Reflections on the Complexities of Resolving the Political Impasse in Madagascar, Policy and Practice Brief, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes [Online]’, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  18. Cook, Nicolas. (2011) ‘Côte d’Ivoire Post-Gbagbo: Crisis Recovery’, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  19. Cookman, Colin. and Bill French (2011) ‘The Pakistan Aid Dilemma: Historical Efforts at Conditionality and Current Disputes Converge, in the U.S. Congress’, Washington: Centre for American Progress.Google Scholar
  20. Cooley, Alexander. (2008) ‘Principles in the Pipeline: Managing Transatlantic Values and Interests in Central Asia’, International Affairs 84(6): 1173–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cooley, Alexander. (2012) Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Council of the European Union (2003) ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’, European Security Strategy, Brussels, 12 December, available at: (accessed 13 February 2017).
  23. Council of the European Union (2005) ‘Common Position 2005/792/CFSP of 14 November 2005 concerning restrictive measures against Uzbekistan’, Official Journal of the European Union, L 299/72, 16 November, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  24. Council of the European Union (2007) ‘The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership’, Brussels, 31 May, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  25. Crawford, Gordon. (2001) Foreign aid Political Reform: A Comparative Analysis of Democracy Assistance and Political Conditionality, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Crawford, Gordon. (2007) ‘The EU and Democracy Promotion in Africa: High on Rhetoric, Low on Delivery?’, in A. Mold, ed., EU Development Policy in a Changing World: Challenges for the 21st Century, 169–97, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Crawford, Gordon. (2008) ‘EU Human Rights and Democracy Promotion in Central Asia: From Lofty Principles to Lowly self-interests’, Perspectives on European Politics and Society 9(2): 172–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dandashly, Assem. (2015) ‘The EU Response to Regime Change in the Wake of the Arab Revolt: Differential Implementation’, Journal of European Integration 37: 37–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Del Biondo, Karen. (2011) ‘EU Aid Conditionality in ACP Countries: Explaining Inconsistency in EU Sanctions Practice’, Journal of Contemporary European Research 7: 380–95.Google Scholar
  30. Del Biondo, Karen. (2012) ‘Norms, Self-Interest And Effectiveness: Explaining Double Standards in EU Reactions to Violations of Democratic Principles in Sub-Saharan Africa’, Afrika Focus 25(2): 109–20.Google Scholar
  31. Del Biondo, Karen. (2015) ‘Donor Interests or Developmental Performance? Explaining Sanctions in EU Democracy Promotion in sub-Saharan Africa’, World Development 75: 74–84.Google Scholar
  32. Del Sarto, Raffaella and Tomas Schumacher (2005) ‘From EMP to ENP: What’s at Stake with the European Neighbourhood Policy towards the Southern Mediterranean?’, European Foreign Affairs Review 10: 17–38.Google Scholar
  33. Department for International Development (DFID) (2005) Partnerships for Poverty Reduction: Rethinking Conditionality, a UK policy paper, March 2005, London: DFID.Google Scholar
  34. Dewar, Bob, Simon Massey and Bruce Baker (2013) ‘Madagascar: Time to Make a Fresh Start, Chatham House and Coventry University’, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  35. Duffield, Mark. (2010) ‘The Liberal Way of Development and the Development-Security Impasse: Exploring the Global Life-Chance Divide’, Security Dialogue 41: 53–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Epstein, Susan. B. and Alan K. Kronstadt (2013) Pakistan: US Foreign Assistance, Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
  37. Eriksson Mikael. (2005) ‘EU Sanctions: Three cases of targeted sanctions’, in P. Wallensteen and C. Staibano, eds, International Sanctions: Between Words and Wars in the Global System, 108–125. London, Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  38. European Commission (2001) ‘The European Union’s Role in Promoting Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries’, Communication from the Commission to the Council, COM (2001) 252 final, 8 May, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  39. European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) (2004) website, available at
  40. Fleck, Robert and Kilby Christopher (2010) ‘Changing aid regimes? U.S. Foreign aid from the Cold War to the War on Terror’, Journal of Development Economics 91: 185–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gomes, Patrick. I. (2013) ‘Reshaping an asymmetrical partnership: ACP-EU relations from an ACP perspective’, Journal of International Development 25: 714–26.Google Scholar
  42. Hadfield, Amelia. (2007) ‘Janus advances? An analysis of EC development policy and the 2005 amended Cotonou Partnership Agreement’, European Foreign Affairs Review 12: 39.Google Scholar
  43. Hazelzet, Hadewych. (2005) ‘Suspension of Development Cooperation: An Instrument to Promote Human Rights and Democracy?’, available at$FILE/05-64B-e-Hazelzet.pdf (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  44. Halperin, Morton. H. (2012). ‘The Need to Protect Democracy in Mali’, 2 April’, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  45. Hoffmann, Katharina. (2010) ‘The EU in Central Asia: Successful Good Governance Promotion?’ Third World Quarterly 31.1: 87–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Howell, Jude and Jeremy Lind (2009) ‘Changing Donor Policy and Practice in Civil Society in the Post-9/11 Aid Context’, Third World Quarterly 30(7): 1279–1296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Huber, R. Daniela. (2015) ‘A Pragmatic Actor—The US Response to the Arab Uprisings’, Journal of European Integration 37: 57–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hyde-Price, Adrian. (2006) ‘Normative’power Europe: A Realist Critique’, Journal of European public policy 13.2: 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. IDS Bulletin (1993) ‘Good Government’, 24 January, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  50. International Crisis Group (2005) ‘Uzbekistan: The Andijon Uprising’, Asia Briefing 38, available at
  51. Keukeleire, Stephan and Kolja Raube (2013) ‘The security-development nexus and securitization in the EU’s policies towards developing countries’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 26(3): 556–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kucera, Joshua. (2012) ‘U.S. Military aid to Central Asia:Who benefits?’, Central Eurasia Project Occassional Paper Series, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  53. Laakso, Liisa. Timo Kivimäki and Maaria Seppänen (2007) ‘Evaluation of coordination and coherence in the application of Article 96 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement’, Amsterdam: Aksant, Triple C Evaluations n°4.Google Scholar
  54. Macqueen, Benjamin. (2009) ‘Democracy promotion and Arab autocracies’, Global Change, Peace & Security 21: 165–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Manners, Ian (2002), ‘Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?’, Journal of Common Market Studies 43(1): 75–95.Google Scholar
  56. Nelson, Joan and Stephanie. J. Eglinton (1992) Encouraging Democracy: What Role for Conditioned Aid?, Washington: Overseas Development Council.Google Scholar
  57. Nichol, Jim. (2012) ‘Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests’, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  58. Nichol, Jim. (2013) ‘Uzbekistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests’, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  59. Portela, Clara. (2007) ‘Aid Suspensions as Coercive Tools? The European Union’s Experience in the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) Context’, Review of European and Russian Affairs 3(2): 38–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Portela, Clara. (2010) European Union Sanctions and Foreign Policy. When and Why do they Work?, London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Portela, Clara. (2012) ‘The EU’s Sanctions against Syria: Conflict Management by Other Means’, Security Policy Brief No. 38, September 2012, Brussels: Egmont—Royal Institute for International Relations, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  62. Robinson, Mark. (1993a) ‘Will Political Conditionality Work?’, IDS Bulletin, 24: 58–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Robinson, Mark. (1993b) ‘Aid, Democracy and Political Conditionality in sub-Saharan Africa’, in Georg Sorensen, ed., Political Conditionality, 85–99, London: Frank Cass/EADI.Google Scholar
  64. Schimmelfennig, Frank and Sedelmeier, Ulrich (2005). ‘Conclusions: The Impact of the EU on the Accession Countries’ in Schimmelfennig Frank and Sedelmeier Ulrich eds, The Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Schimmelfennig, Frank and Hanno Scholtz (2008) EU Democracy Promotion in the European Neighbourhood: Political Conditionality, Economic Development and Transnational Exchange. European Union Politics, 9: 187–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schraeder, Peter J., Steven W. Hook and Bruce Taylor (1998) ‘Clarifying the Foreign Aid Puzzle: A Comparison of American, Japanese, French and Swedish Aid Flows’, World Politics 50(2): 294–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sjursen, Helene. (2006), ‘What Kind of Power?’, Journal of European Public Policy 13(2): 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sorensen, Georg. (1995) ‘Conditionality, Democracy and Development’, in O. Stokke, ed., Aid and Political Conditionality, 392–409, London: Frank Cass/EADI.Google Scholar
  69. Stern, Maria and Joakim Öjendal (2010) ‘Mapping the Security-Development Nexus: Conflict, Complexity, Cacophony, Convergence?’, Security Dialogue 41: 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Stokke, Olav. (1995) ‘Aid and Political Conditionality: Core Issues and State of the Art’, in O. Stokke, ed., Aid and Political Conditionality, 1–87, London: Frank Cass/EADI.Google Scholar
  71. Tarnoff, Curt. (2007) ‘U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet Union’, Congressional Research Service Reports for Congress [Online], available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  72. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2004), Arab Human Development Report 2004: Towards Freedom in the Arab World, New York: UNDP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2009), Arab Human Development Report 2009: Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries, New York: UNDP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Uvin, Peter. (1993) ‘Do as I say, Not as I do: The Limits of Political Conditionality’, in G. Sorensen, ed., Political Conditionality, 63–84, London: Frank Cass/EADI.Google Scholar
  75. Vachudova, Milada A. (2005) Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration After Communism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005.Google Scholar
  76. Woods, Ngaire. (2005) ‘The Shifting Politics of Foreign Aid’, International Affairs 81(2): 393–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Yacoubian, Mona. (2004) ‘Promoting Middle East Democracy: European Initiatives’, United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 127, October 2004, available at
  78. Youngs, R. (2004) ‘Normative Dynamics and Strategic Interests in the EU’s External Identity’, Journal of Common Market Studies 42(2): 415–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Youngs, Richard (2007) Fusing Security and Development: Just another euro-platitude?, Working Document 277, Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies.Google Scholar
  80. Youngs, Richard. (2008) Is European Democracy Promotion on the Wane?, CEPS Working Document No. 292, May 2008, available at (accessed 13 February, 2017).
  81. Youngs, Richard. (2010) ‘The end of democratic conditionality: good riddance?’. Documentos de Trabajo FRIDE 102.Google Scholar
  82. Zimelis, Andris. (2011) ‘Conditionality and the EU–ACP Partnership: A Misguided Approach to Development?’, Australian Journal of Political Science 46: 389–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coventry UniversityCoventryUK
  2. 2.European Policy InstituteSkopjeMacedonia

Personalised recommendations