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This paper delves into the motivations and drivers behind Saudi Arabia’s foreign aid, shedding light on the interplay between geopolitics, religious affinity, and strategic objectives. Drawing on newly released empirical data from the Saudi Aid Platform (SAP) dataset, encompassing 47 years of aid delivery, the study seeks to answer the long-standing debate surrounding the factors shaping Saudi Arabia’s foreign aid decisions. The study focuses on two pivotal periods: the Bosnian War and the post-Arab Spring era. By examining Saudi aid allocations during these periods, we investigate the influence of foreign policy and geostrategic objectives versus the humanitarian needs of the recipients. Religious ideology, geopolitical interests, and strategic objectives drive Saudi Arabian aid. The study reveals that Saudi Arabia adopts a value-neutral strategic approach. The research contextualises these findings within geopolitical events, regional dynamics, and internal governance changes, providing insights into the factors influencing Saudi Arabia’s aid allocation decisions. By examining Saudi Arabian aid’s historical patterns and drivers, this study contributes to a deeper understanding of one of the world’s largest foreign aid providers. Additionally, it offers valuable insights for shaping effective aid strategies and policies in the future.

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Third World Quarterly