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Development Assistance

Explore research on the use of development assistance as a tool to help prevent mass atrocities.

Overview of the Evidence on Development Assistance

Our research review includes 41 reports that address the effects of development assistance on closely related outcomes, such as civilian killings, human rights violations, and conflict recurrence. We did not find any studies meeting our inclusion criteria that addressed the effects of development assistance on mass atrocities. Our research review found the following:

  • A mix of findings as to whether development assistance was effective in helping prevent mass atrocities or closely-related outcomes, and
  • Limited evidence on which specific factors contribute to the effectiveness of development assistance in helping prevent mass atrocities.

About Development Assistance


Development assistance is “government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries” (OECD). Development assistance is typically organized into sectors, including democracy, rights, and governance; economic growth; health; education; and humanitarian assistance (USAID). Our research review includes studies of the linkage between development assistance of any or all sectors with mass atrocities or closely related outcomes. As such, it is not a detailed review of alternative program-level interventions. Research reviews of programming options in conflict prevention and peacebuilding can be found from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. Guidance on programming options to help prevent mass atrocities can be found from USAID

Theory of Change

If development assistance increases the expected benefits of alternative courses of action to committing mass atrocities, it would reduce the likelihood or severity of mass atrocities.

Strategies This Tool Can Support

(1) Dissuading potential perpetrators from committing mass atrocities