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International Aid | English Lesson

Jul 19, 2021

This is podcast number four. Let me begin by saying that the topic of international aid is very, very big with lots of specialized language, but today we’ll cover some of the most basic useful vocabulary.


  • Donor: a person or institution that gives away something, especially money, which is called a donation.
  • Recipient: a person or institution that receives something, like a donation.
  • Humanitarian aid: usually short-term help, like money, food, or medical supplies.
  • Technical assistance: sharing information, skills, instruction, or technical data.
  • Tied aid: foreign aid that must be spent in the country providing the aid
  • Bilateral aid:  assistance given by a government directly to the government of another country.
  • Multilateral aid: assistance provided by governments to international organizations like the United. Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • NGO: refers to a non-governmental organization

International aid can be described in its most basic form as assistance that flows from one country to another usually from developed countries to developing countries. The flow is from the donor –– the one who gives, to the recipient –– the one who receives. International aid is also commonly called foreign aid, overseas aid, or foreign assistance. The contribution can be of money, equipment, or services.

There are many types of international aid –– too many to list here –– but let’s look at some of the most common:

Humanitarian aid is the assistance that usually gets into the newspapers. Humanitarian aid is meant to help in the short term. A good example of humanitarian aid would be a donation of food or medicine from one country to another after a man-made catastrophe –– like a civil war –– or an environmental disaster, like an earthquake or a flood. Humanitarian aid. Do you hear the root of “humanitarian”? It’s the word “human”.

Next, “Technical Assistance”: Technical assistance is aid involving highly educated or trained personnel –– such as agricultural engineers –– who assist with a program of development.

Bilateral Aid: Bilateral aid refers to foreign assistance from one government to another. A related expression is “tied aid”. Tied aid is when the donor government gives money but requires the recipient country to use the money to buy from them.

Another expression is “multilateral aid”. For example, multilateral aid describes the situation where the World Bank or UNICEF pool aid from one or more sources and distribute it among many recipients. Multilateral aid.

NGOs. It is common for donors to use non-governmental organizations –– known as NGOs –– to receive and distribute their contributions.


  • Donor: the institution –– maybe it’s a country –– that makes a donation
  • Recipient: a person or institution that receives the donation
  • Humanitarian aid: short-term help, like money, food, or medical supplies
  • Technical assistance: where donors share skills and instruction
  • Tied aid: foreign aid that must be spent in the country providing the aid
  • Bilateral aid: assistance given by one government to another
  • Multilateral aid: assistance by governments to international organizations like the UN or the World Bank.
  • NGO: a non-governmental organization


If you enjoyed this lesson, take a look at our English lesson about The Ukrainian Refugee Crisis, which also talks about international aid.

That is all for today. If you have any suggestions or comments –– or if you are interested in our courses –– drop me a line: I would very much enjoy hearing from you. Contact: “English for Economists”

Photo credit: CC DFID – UK Department for International Development


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