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Do Foreign Aid Projects Attract Transnational Terrorism?

Author(s): Andrew Boutton, Henry Pascoe

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Development aid is widely recognized as a tool through which donor states attempt to deliver stability and prosperity to areas throughout the world. However, a grim side elect has been a concomitant increase in violent attacks against aid projects and aid workers. According to the Aid Worker Security database, attacks reached an all-time high in 2013 at 265 (Humanitarian Outcomes, 2016). Often, aid workers are intentionally targeted by terrorist groups with transnational aims. For instance, after the 2010 ooding in Pakistan, the Taliban targeted foreigners operating in relief eforts (Crilly, 2010). The group also provided aid in an attempt to garner popular support in
the alected region and undermine the government (Kazim, 2010). Aid workers provide an enticing foreign target by which they can both raise resources through ransom and looting as well as in uence both foreign and domestic audiences.

In this paper we use recently-released, high-resolution, subnational data to better understand terrorist targeting of foreign aid projects. This work ts in a larger stream of research that uses subnational data to investigate political violence.1 We present preliminary results on the relation-ship between foreign aid and transnational terrorism using a matched sample of World Bank aid projects between 1995 and 2013. Our results indicate that foreign aid makes an area much more likely to be targeted by a terrorist group, but that certain types of aid projects are more vulnerable than others. After presenting our results, we discuss future avenues for research and discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by using high-resolution, subnational data to shed light on the strategic vulnerabilities of foreign aid projects.