Greater harmonization and alignment is needed to make democracy assistance more effective, a new report concludes. “Donor fragmentation and lack of alignment of programs to country priorities tend to undermine already weak institutions,” according to an analysis from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute.
Hybrid regimes represent the principal challenge to democracy assistance, but democratization and good governance are not necessarily mutually reinforcing. Enhancing state capacity for effective service delivery may run counter to improved accountability. The report also notes the tension between long-term timelines and the pressure on donors to deliver short-term results.
The report coincides with another analysis that notes that there are “as many countries that appear to be sliding into soft authoritarianism and state failure as there are countries that are becoming consolidated democratic cultures.” Attitudinal data drawn from more than 350,000 people from 90 countries since 1981 confirm the insight of Thucydides that the secret of happiness is freedom.
States undergoing a transition from authoritarian rule to democracy experience a greater sense of free choice, acceptance of gender equality and rising well-being (as correlated in this useful chart), according to an article from academics at the universities of Bremen and Michigan.
Political party work is a legitimate aspect of democracy assistance, the ODI report argues. Party-strengthening programs need not be partisan if they focus on issues of institutionalization, including programmatic reform.
Donors should prioritize harmonization and alignment; recognize that democratic impetus must be locally-generated and owned; look beyond ‘idealized’ Western models of democracy; and work with actors beyond their normal ‘comfort zone’, including parties, labor unions and faith-based groups.