Helping Oneself by Helping Who Needs: the discourses and practices of Qatari Foreign Aid to developing countries

Project: Research project

Project Details


Recently, Qatar has emerged as a mid-sized foreign aid donor, comparable in size to New Zealand and Portugal (Kharas, 2015). However, there is only one study on Qatari foreign aid so far conducted by Homi Kharas in 2015. It offers an overview of the trends, strength and shortcomings in Qatari foreign aid practices. To improve the effectiveness of Qatari foreign aid, it concludes by making three policy recommendations: streamline the aid bureaucracy with a well-defined organizational structure, develop budget management options to mitigate volatility problem, and promote transparency by adopting standard data management practices. While the evaluation of Qatari foreign aid (Kharas, 2015) is useful in understanding the general trends in Qatari aid, its recommendations to improve aid effectiveness warrant more insights, particularly with regard to Qatar’s uniqueness as a donor country. The study compares Qatar with the traditional donor countries, the members of the OECD, which are primarily Western, economically developed and modernized countries. Many of the OECD countries had also been the former colonizers. As such, their priorities are likely to differ significantly from those of Qatar, which is a newly globalizing Muslim country and a former British protectorate. For example, Qatar provides greater aid to humanitarian issues in the Arab countries, where the traditional donor countries tend to appear disinterested (Kharas, 2015:13). Therefore, this study aims to understand Qatar’s own development discourse and practices and thereby to find ways to improve its effectiveness. The aid policy of a donor country depends both on domestic and international factors including the values shared by a given society based on its culture, religion and/or ideology; political institutions; the interests of commercial groups, the civil society and religious groups; and aid management within the government structure (Lancaster, 2007; Thérien and Noël, 2000; Thérien, 2002; Tingely, 2010). Hook (1995) observes that US foreign aid policy is dominated by national security concerns, while France is concerned more with maintaining colonial relationships and influence, Sweden provides most of its aid (80%) to recipients with Marxist or socialist economies similar to its own domestic world views, and Japan’s foreign aid policy is driven more by commercial interests. Similarly, Alesina and Dollar (2000) find that the US places an emphasis on the Middle East, France concerns more with former colonies and not with democracy or poverty, and Japan is more concerned with investment and trade relationships. Qatar does not share most of the characteristics common to the traditional donor countries- it is not a former colonizer looking at retaining its colonial influence over countries; it is not a political or economic hegemon competing for leadership in world politics or economy. Moreover, the state-ideology of Qatar is Islam, which in many ways stands against some fundamental principles of capitalism (such as Riba), the official ideology of the traditional donor countries. Therefore, it is more likely that Qatari foreign aid's motivations are distinct from those of the OECD donor countries. Hence, this project aims to explore Qatari foreign aid discourse and practices to understand its motivations. The findings will provide a more reliable standard to measure the effectiveness of Qatari foreign aid from Qatar’s points of views as well as enhance understanding about foreign aid from non-traditional donor countries, especially in the Arab g
Effective start/end date1/5/171/5/18


  • Qatar National Research Fund (UREP19-229-5-050)


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