Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Charles Hankla

Second Advisor

Carrie Manning

Third Advisor

John Duffield


Foreign aid, as one of the most “baffling” concepts of international politics according to Hans Morgenthau, is studied by scholars from various fields without a conclusive consensus on its causes. This dissertation project aims to understand and explain foreign aid motivation and distribution of major donor countries. As a multipurpose foreign policy tool, foreign aid is often associated with negative consequences at the recipient end such as causing corruption, sustaining authoritarian leaders in power and prolonging civil wars. However, in reality we observe more and more countries starting their own development assistance programs with increasing funds. It is this puzzle between negative findings associated with foreign aid in scholar works and positive approach of donor governments that this project is addressing. There is a need to understand the actual motives of donors in order to make sense of their foreign aid policies. In this dissertation, I use a mixed method approach that combines a quantitative study of foreign aid motivation and distribution of thirty donor countries with highest aid budgets from 2002 to 2013 and a case study of Turkey with in-depth analysis of its foreign aid policy. A sound theoretical categorization of major donor countries is a gap in the literature. I address this gap by creating an eclectic typology of donors based on their power index and regime type. This typology enables me to categorize donors as (i) major powers, (ii) emerging major powers, (iii) middle powers, and (iv) regional middle powers. The findings support the argument that foreign aid is a function of security and economic interest for major power while emerging major powers mainly emphasize economic interest. Middle powers consider needs of the recipients more than any other category. Regional middle powers’ motivation is mainly related to their targeted soft power policies. While regional middle powers distribute their foreign aid regionally, all other donor categories distribute aid globally. The case study of Turkey as a regional middle power suggests that Turkey uses foreign aid together with other foreign policy tools in order to increase its soft power in targeted regions.