The Aid Orphan Myth

My latest article (co-authored with Stephen Brown of University of Ottawa) was just published in Third World Quarterly.  In it, we investigate the metaphor of the aid orphan to examine whether it maps onto the actual fate of many aid recipient countries.  Follow the links below to access the article:

Swiss, Liam, and Stephen Brown. 2015. “The aid orphan myth.” Third World Quarterly 36(2):240-56.


The term ‘aid orphan’ refers to a developing country forgotten or abandoned by the development community. This metaphor has featured prominently in the development assistance policy and research literature over the past decade. Development practitioners, policy makers and researchers have defined aid orphans in manifold ways and often expressed concern over the potential fate or impact of such countries. In this paper we first examine the many definitions of aid orphans and then review the main concerns raised about them. Next we empirically examine more than 40 years of bilateral aid data to identify aid orphan countries and their common characteristics. Our findings suggest that very few countries meet the definition of aid orphan and fewer still raise the concerns collectively expressed about the orphan phenomenon. We conclude by suggesting researchers and practitioners abandon the orphan metaphor and instead focus on issues of equitable aid allocation.

Swiss & Brown 2015
Swiss & Brown 2015