Most analyses on the drivers of Northern donors published in the last two decades have pointedly explored the extent to which countries contribute aid according to ‘good’ or altruistic motives (based on recipient needs and/or merits and driven by solidarity), or else for ‘bad’ or selfish reasons (essentially the donors’ national interests). Most of these studies conclude that, indeed, Northern countries give aid out of selfish motives, often related to security or wealth and seen something morally reprehensible. According to this literature, donors should shift to a more altruistic view of aid, that should be grounded on the principle of solidarity.

The economic, social and political crises that have erupted in Europe in the last decade might be shifting this academic debate on aid from this selfish vs. altruistic divide to a –somehow related– new divide on Nationalism vs. Liberalism-Cosmopolitanism. Against the ‘cultural backlash’ in a great deal of European countries and sectors –that lobby against aid or for the use of aid for preventing connections with ‘the other’–, some academics and activists are pointing out the need for aid as tool for the promotion of democracy, civil and human rights and a liberal ideal of world society. In this sense, aid can be used selfishly, but for the promotion of one’s values, not interests.

In this roundtable, we aimed at discussing how liberal values and agendas –such as good governance, democracy promotion and gender equality– still influence European aid; how aid can shift to be aligned with nationalist or populist mindsets; and to what extent solidarity prevails in the European discourse on aid.


Monday, 8 June 2020, from 12:00 to 13:30 h. CET (UTC+2).

Video: Virtual Seminar: What values and goals drive international assistance? (1:08:27)