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Aiding Democracy Abroad

Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve

Thomas Carothers
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 410
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  • Book Info
    Aiding Democracy Abroad
    Book Description:

    Aid to promote democracy abroad has emerged as a major growth industry in recent years. Not only the United States but many other Western countries, international institutions, and private foundations today use aid to support democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Though extensive in scope, these activities remain little understood outside the realm of specialists. Debates among policymakers over democracy promotion oscillate between unhelpful poles of extreme skepticism and unrealistic boosterism, while the vast majority of citizens in aid-providing countries have little awareness of the democracy-building efforts their governments sponsor. Aiding Democracy Abroad is the first independent, comprehensive assessment of this important new field. Drawing on extensive field research and years of hands-on experience, Thomas Carothers examines democracy-aid programs relating to elections, political parties, governmental reform, rule of law, civil society, independent media, labor unions, decentralization, and other elements of what he describes as "the democracy template" that policymakers and aid officials apply around the world. Steering a careful path between the inflated claims of aid advocates and the exaggerated criticisms of their opponents, Carothers takes a hard look at what such programs achieve and how they can be improved.

    eISBN: 978-0-87003-341-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jessica T. Mathews

    Democracy promotion surged to the top of the international policy agenda at the end of the 1980s with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the outbreak of democracy movements around the world. Ten years later, making democracy work and finding a means through which outsiders can help remain a high priority in countries as diverse and demanding as Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Serbia, Kenya, and Peru. Policy makers use various methods to spur countries toward democracy, from economic sanctions and diplomatic persuasion to the force of arms. Their most common tool, however, is democracy assistance—aid programs explicitly designed to...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)

    • 1 A New Field
      (pp. 3-18)

      For generations, American leaders have emphasized the promotion of democracy abroad as a key element of America’s international role. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that America was fighting World War I “to make the world safe for democracy.” In the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. politicians cast the various military interventions in the Caribbean and Central America as missions to establish democracy. In World War II, America fought against fascist tyrannies in the name of freedom. U.S. officials of the postwar period emphasized democracy promotion as they formulated a policy toward a vanquished Japan and Germany and then framed the emerging cold...

    • 2 The Rise of Democracy Assistance
      (pp. 19-58)

      Democracy assistance tends to live in an eternal present. Democracy promoters talk at times, vaingloriously, of participating in “history in the making.” Yet they rarely have much sense of history about what they do, either with regard to the countries in which they are working or to the enterprise of using aid to promote democracy. U.S. democracy assistance does have a history, one that has consequences for the shape and success of aid efforts today. After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. government attempted to set up electoral systems in Cuba and the Philippines. Similarly, as part of the many U.S....

    • 3 Interlude for Skeptics
      (pp. 59-64)

      Having reviewed the history of U.S. democracy assistance, we can proceed to an introduction of the four cases at the core of this book and the question of strategy. Before doing so, however, I wish to pause briefly for a skeptical interlude. I have noticed that whenever I present an analysis of U.S. democracy assistance, no matter how questioning, some listeners or readers automatically suspect that merely because I treat the subject seriously, I believe such aid is wonderful and that the United States is a faultless champion of democracy on the world stage. They respond with a strong, often...

    • 4 Introducing Four Cases
      (pp. 65-82)

      With both some history and some skeptical arguments about democracy aid on the table, the countries of the four case studies can now be introduced. Guatemala, Nepal, Zambia, and Romania are vastly different from one another in most ways, including political history. If one had looked at their political systems at some point in the near past, say, twenty years ago, the contrasts would have been great: one right-wing military dictatorship (Guatemala), one partyless monarchy (Nepal), one single-party “African democracy” (Zambia), and one communist totalitarian dictatorship (Romania). Yet scarcely ten years later, all four were actively seeking to join the...


    • 5 The Question of Strategy
      (pp. 85-122)

      Although the United States sponsors democracy aid in all sorts of countries, its approaches almost everywhere are strikingly similar. If one had been told in the mid-1990s that the United States was carrying out democracy programs in a country attempting a democratic transition, yet was told nothing about that country’s location, economic level, political past, or cultural traditions, one could still guess the general contents of the portfolio: election assistance around each national election, with growing attention to local elections; aid to the major political parties; a parliamentary strengthening program, judicial reform work, possibly some police aid and small-scale efforts...

    • 6 Basic Steps: Elections and Political Parties
      (pp. 123-156)

      If there is one area of democracy assistance that has gained broad visibility, it is elections assistance. The ubiquitous international observers at the many high-profile, first-time elections in countries launching democratic transitions over the past two decades have lodged elections assistance in the consciousness of people around the world. Elections assistance (of which election observing is just one component) has been part of international life off and on throughout the twentieth century. Until the 1980s, however, it was an exceptional practice, applied in cases of UN trusteeships or U.S. interventions like those in Central America and the Caribbean in the...

    • 7 From the Top Down: State Institutions
      (pp. 157-206)

      My first exposure to promoting democracy through the reform of state institutions included an incident that has stayed in my memory. On assignment from the State Department to USAID, I traveled to Haiti in 1986 to assess the judicial system as part of an effort to develop democracy programs there after the ouster of longtime dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. I visited judges, lawyers, government officials, and others who might help me diagnose the infirmities of Haiti’s barely functioning judicial system and come up with ideas about what the United States could do to help. I met with a warm reception almost...

    • 8 From the Bottom Up: Civil Society
      (pp. 207-252)

      Before the 1990s the term “civil society” was rarely used by U.S. aid providers and policy makers. Since then however, it has become a fashionable concept whose invocation is nearly obligatory in any document or discussion about democratization. Aid programs explicitly directed at “strengthening civil society” have grown more and more common, and are now part of U.S. democracy aid portfolios in most countries. The United States is scarcely alone in this regard. Many other donor countries, as well as private aid organizations, have embraced the concept and established corresponding programs. On the other side, in the transitional societies, agile...


    • 9 Making It Work: The Challenges of Implementation
      (pp. 255-280)

      On a cold January day in Bucharest several years ago, I met with a visiting American consultant who was working on a small project funded by USAID to improve Romania’s court administration. The consultant, a state court administrator from a small U.S. state, was halfway into a six-week trip to identify the administrative problems of Romania’s courts, to come up with some solutions, and to interest some Romanian court officials in those solutions. His diagnosis, reached after visiting several courts, was that the root cause of the obviously flawed administration in the courts—the chaotic record-keeping, the tremendous delays and...

    • 10 Giving Out Grades: Evaluation
      (pp. 281-302)

      Good implementation of democracy assistance is hard. Good evaluation is even harder, although it is necessary if programs are to be improved and resources are to be well deployed. The problem of developing a system that produces honest, insightful, and helpful evaluations is by no means unique to democracy aid. Foreign aid of all kinds has suffered from inadequate evaluations for decades. More broadly, as U.S. aid officials struggle to find some objective means of assessing the value of democracy programs, they should remember that the effects of most kinds of government assistance programs, domestic or international, are subject to...

    • 11 Understanding Effects
      (pp. 303-328)

      When people outside the democracy assistance community take an interest in democracy aid—whether they are government policy makers, journalists, scholars, activists from other areas of international affairs, or members of the public—they usually arrive quickly at a basic question, “Does it work?” This question has bubbled up to the surface in policy circles again and again over the past two decades, finding little resolution and being posed each time as though for the first time. Despite thousands of democracy projects carried out in dozens of countries, billions of dollars spent, and endless reports by aid providers, there is...


    • 12 The Learning Curve
      (pp. 331-352)

      Since the mid-1980s democracy assistance has become a significant element of American foreign aid and foreign policy. By the end of the 1990s the U.S. government was spending more than $700 million a year on democracy aid in approximately 100 countries, with five U.S. government agencies, three major quasi-governmental organizations, and dozens of government-funded American NGOs actively involved. Although the current wave of democracy programs has forerunners, particularly in the political development, or “modernization,” programs of the 1960s, it is the most extensive, systematic effort the United States has ever undertaken to foster democracy around the world. The expansion of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 353-382)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-400)
  11. Index
    (pp. 401-408)
  12. About the Author
    (pp. 409-410)
  13. About the Carnegie Endowment
    (pp. 411-412)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 413-413)