Advice for Democracy Assistance Policy Paper
Advice for Democracy Assistance Policy Paper
The major assignment for the course is to pretend that you are an international development
officer at the Canadian federal Department of Global Affairs, in charge of democracy assistance
programming for a particular country, and to design a democracy assistance program for that
country. You may only select country cases where the government would very likely welcome or
is currently accepting Canadian assistance.
The paper should include an initial historical and contextual section that outlines the challenges
and problems of the country that will affect the democratization process. For this process you
will want to look at news sources and recent scholarly analyses of politics in that country.
If there have already been democracy assistance programs in place in the country (by Canada
and other countries) you should assess the record of those programs. Then you should outline in
some detail the programs that you propose to try to assist the country in its path to democracy
(whether following the same strategy as in the past, or developing a new approach). You can
conduct this research mostly on the Internet, thanks to the thoroughness of information that
foreign donors tend to provide on their websites in recent years.
In the paper, you should make use of the democratization literature we are studying to justify
why you are focusing on particular factors as problems, what the benefits and drawbacks are of
previous programs, and why you are proposing the programs you are proposing.
Suggested approximate breakdown of sections
Section I: Contextual background and problems (3-4 pages).
This should constitute no more than 1/3 of the paper.
Since this must be short (ostensibly to hold the attention of your government superiors),
get right to the important stuff. What are the conditions that are troublesome for
democracy, and how entrenched are they? Here, the material from the syllabus,
discussing various impediments to initial democratic transition and further
democratization should be helpful in guiding you towards socioeconomic, institutional,
and cultural challenges to consider.
Section II: Describing and evaluating existing programs (3-4 pages):
Survey some of the major techniques and areas of concentration that governmental and
nongovernmental donors have used in your country. Have they concentrated on election
monitoring? Аdvising on institutional design? Training political parties? Civil society?
Remember, you should isolate your analysis to programs that are aimed at democracy
promotion rather than development more broadly. So do not wander into areas of basic
socioeconomic development or humanitarian projects.
Look to see if donors themselves have any reports or analyses of the effectiveness of their
programs on their websites. Have they changed their strategy over time? Why? What has
worked and what hasn’t?
Do there seem to be some gaps in democracy assistance programs that you think should
be filled, given the contextual problems for democracy that you identified in Section I?
If you look at the course readings (both required and recommended) for Week 8, you will
get an idea of some of the benefits and drawbacks of various kinds of assistance. This
should help you in looking for successes and failures of the current programs and
designing your own future programs in Section III.
Clearly, if there have not yet been any foreign democracy promotion programs yet in the
country you are studying, you will not be able to describe and assess that record. If this is
the case, you should try to examine programs that have been used in similar kinds of
circumstances elsewhere, and decide whether you think it is advisable to “borrow” such
programs. For example, if you are looking to future programs in Myanmar, you may wish
to examine the programs that have been employed in nearby Vietnam or Cambodia and
extrapolate from them for the local circumstances.
Section III: Designing your own democracy promotion program strategy (3-4 pages).
Here you should lay out a strategy of how you will redesign Global Affairs Canada’s
democracy programming for your country. Will there be more focus on formal
institutional design and reform, supporting NGOs, civic education, free and fair elections,
gender equality, or what? You need to justify the programs and emphases by using
evidence about problems on the ground or about programs that have worked and not
worked in the past.
Come up with some specific initiatives in your areas of focus that you think will be
effective. Some creativity would really be appreciated here!
Should programs be conducted more indirectly from afar, such as through educational
exchanges or Canadian legislation to discourage corrupt practices, or directly on the
ground such as through grants to relevant actors?
How much do you think the aid should be spread evenly throughout the country versus
concentrated in certain regions or cities for particular reasons?
Who would be the target groups or beneficiaries of your programs? How would they be
involved in the planning, execution, and evaluation of the programs?
Keep in mind that although you don’t have a specific budget limit, you are likely to have
only tens of millions of dollars available for your programs rather than billions of dollars.
So keep your program ideas realistic. For example, do not say that you will give grants to
every NGO in the country, since you probably won’t have money to do that! You do not
need to attach dollar figures or a budget to your program ideas.
For some overall comparative statistics by country on international aid funds in the area of
“government and civil society” (the term the OECD uses for most democracy assistance aid) you
may wish to refer to the OECD’s statistics division at: https://data.oecd.org. This will help you to
figure out which governments are major donors to those countries.
Below I list a number of the important organizations in the business of democracy assistance:
governments, multilateral intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.
Often the nongovernmental donors receive significant assistance themselves from the
governmental donors, so frequently you can obtain information about which nongovernmental
donors are prominent in democracy assistance in a given country by looking first at the
governmental donors’ websites.
You also should conduct a search through journals and books in the library to locate any
scholarly analyses of foreign democracy assistance in the country or wider region. It is a good
idea to read the required readings and any of the applicable listed recommended readings on the
syllabus for Week 9, in order to obtain a sense of many of the issues involved in democracy
As you look at the different donors’ websites, you should scan for programs that include titles
such as “democracy,” “governance” (often a code word for “democracy”), “civil society,” or
“human rights.” Sometimes (as with the European Commission, for example), donors describe
their democracy programming under the more general umbrella category of “development.”
This list is just a preliminary one. You will most likely encounter more donors that you should
look at in the process of research. This document is also available on the course website with
links directly to the mentioned cites, in case you find it inconvenient to type out these convoluted
Major governmental donors:
Global Affairs Canada (and formerly CIDA): https://www.international.gc.ca/world-
United States Agency for International Development (USAID): http://www.usaid.gov/
United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID):
EU International Cooperation and Development Directorate:
United Nations Development Program (UNDP): http://www.undp.org/governance/.
National Endowment for Democracy (US): http://www.ned.org/
National Democratic Institute (US): http://www.ndi.org/
The Parliamentary Centre (Canada, works on parliamentary institution building):
Open Society Institute (George Soros): http://www.soros.org/
Ford Foundation: http://www.fordfound.org/
German Stiftungen (Foundations) (related to German political parties):
Konrad Adenauer Foundation: http://www.kas.de/wf/en/.
Friedrich Naumann Foundation: https://www.freiheit.org/topic/open-society
Heinrich Böll Foundation: http://www.boell.org/
There will probably be some regionally focused nongovernmental donors that you will want to
look at, depending on your region. For example, in Africa and Latin America, you will probably
want to look at the Carter Center (http://www.cartercenter.org/); for the former Soviet Union, the
Eurasia Foundation (http://www.eurasia.org/); for Asia, the Asia Foundation
(http://www.asiafoundation.org/). You will get specific ideas often from the USAID and CIDA
websites concerning which intermediary NGOs receive funding for democracy projects from
You will mostly be talking to the course TA for guidance with this paper since they will be
marking the assignment. However, also feel free to talk to me if you have questions about