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How to revitalise democracy assistance: recipients' views
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For some years now, donors and non-governmental promotors of democracy have insisted that they are committed to designing democracy policies that are more demand-led. This report provides a comprehensive account of information and opinions collected from this ‘demand-side'. However, it also elaborates on the main concerns of local stakeholders, their judgements on why democracy aid is not working, and their views on how donors’ strategies must adapt.
Among their findings are:
Civil society organisations and representatives of state institutions are united in calling for priorities to be set locally, whereas local stakeholders want greater say over thematic priorities and less burdensome rules for justifying how they spend foreign funds.
Civil society organisations most appreciate local-level projects that assist self-organisation based around issues of practical relevance to individual citizens, but democracy agenda has become increasingly disconnected from such concerns and this is one of the reasons it is struggling to recoup esteem amongst ordinary people.
Democracy aid often inadvertently deepens polarisation within civil society itself and criticisms have been voiced that democracy assistance has struggled to find a way of tempering the kind of fragmentation of social and political actors that militates against reform prospects.
Democracy aid must seek to engage ‘insiders’ and avoid merely fomenting antagonism between the state and countervailing power.
Much more valuable than slightly increased amounts of money, or slightly changed funding rules, would be more effective international pressure on regimes to loosen civil society and other laws.
Civil society leaders must realise that the democracy agenda is unlikely to succeed if it starts from the premise that all members of the political elite are ill-meaning, corrupt villains. Further recommendations include:
A sense of realism is required: democracy aid is unlikely to have dramatic results because in many states the obstacles to reform may be too great, even where donors are playing a courageous and well proportioned role.
Civic leaders want better linkages between democracy assistance narrowly defined and the broader set of policies and influences pertinent to political reform.
Local stakeholders are asking donors to walk some very thin lines between competing, and often contradictory, concerns. However, If demand-led democracy support is to prosper, local stakeholders must improve their performance, just as much as the donors.