Economic Aid to Post-conflict Countries: A Methodological Critique of Collier and Hoeffler

In the past five years, research sponsored by the World Bank on the economic aspects of civil war under the research directorship of Oxford economist Paul Collier has had an extraordinary influence on the subsequent study of violent conflict and civil war and on international policy. The research project has now turned its attention to the problem of countries emerging from civil war and what Collier and his co-author, Anke Hoeffler, call ‘a first systematic empirical analysis of aid and policy reform in the post-conflict growth process.’ Building on the influence of their earlier research and the lively interest currently in knowledge about and policy on post-conflict strategies, this work is likely to be equally influential on research, thinking, and policy. It is all the more important, therefore, to subject the research to critical examination before it becomes established as conventional wisdom. This note reports one such attempt to analyze some major methodological problems with the study and argues that the research cannot sustain the conclusions they draw or the resulting policy recommendations.