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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research 4 Learning from the Past: Using Case Studies of Democratic Transitions to Inform Democracy Assistance INTRODUCTION The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to recommend methodologies to carry out retrospective analyses of democracy assistance programs. The recommendations were to include “a plan for cross-national case-study research to determine program effectiveness and inform strategic planning.” There is a substantial and growing literature of case studies of democracy assistance programs, many of them commissioned by USAID or other agencies engaged in democracy assistance. The goal of such case studies is to learn what has worked and what has not among the varied democracy and governance (DG) programs in a variety of places. The vast majority of such studies focus on a particular program in a particular country, such as human rights in Cambodia (Asia Watch 2002), party organization in Uganda (Barya et al 2004), voter education in Ethiopia (McMahon et al 2004), or justice reform in Sierra Leone (Dougherty 2004). In addition, there have been more ambitious works that looked at multiple countries to try to draw broader lessons about program impacts. For example, Abbink and Hesseling (2000) bring together several studies of election observation and democratization in Africa; Lippman and Emmert (1997) study legislative assistance in five countries; Blair and Hansen (1994) assess the impact of rule of law programs in six countries; Kumar (1998) examines the impact of elections in several postconflict conditions; O’Neill (2003) presents lessons from human rights promotion in
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research varied regions; Carter et al (2003) study the overall impact of USAID DG programs in six countries; and de Zeeuw and Kumar (2006) look at media, human rights, and election programs in nine postconflict states. While these studies have generated valuable insights into how programs were carried out, how they were received, and how participants and donors perceived their effects, they are not ideal either for “determining program effectiveness” or to “inform strategic planning.” This is because such studies focused almost entirely on specific DG projects, rather than on the broader context of democratization in the countries being studied. They did not systematically compare cases of varying levels of DG assistance or compare the effects of DG projects with comparison groups that did not receive assistance. CASE STUDY DESIGNS AND METHODS The basic tool of case study analysis is process tracing (George and Bennett 2005). In this method, researchers track the unfolding of strings of events, testing hypotheses regarding the causal relationships among them by considering multiple hypotheses that could account for the strings of events and searching for confirming and disconfirming evidence. The process is not unlike a detective’s efforts to solve a murder mystery by reconstructing a timeline of events, examining all possible suspects and their alibis, assessing plausible motives and opportunities for the observed actions and events, and building a case in favor of one causal chain as having determined the ultimate outcome rather than others. Like solving any mystery, process tracing can be painstaking and time-consuming work, and the results often depend on an analyst’s skill in recognizing how specific social conditions, motivations, events, and opportunities link to form a coherent explanatory chain. Also like any criminal case, the persuasiveness of pointing out any one factor or event as causal depends on the analyst’s imagination and skill in identifying and considering alternative causal pathways and gathering evidence as to how likely or unlikely they were.1 Case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of aid programs thus face the same challenge as formal statistical evaluations—they must try to determine what would have happened in the absence of the aid program, whether by including studies of both groups receiving aid and those not receiving aid in their case studies (a comparative case study design) or by trying to trace and account for historical trends and confounding fac- 1 Hence the famous quote from Sherlock Holmes in Adventure of the Beryl Coronet: “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (Doyle 1998).
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research tors to estimate the likely causal chains that would have unfolded in the absence of the aid program (a long-term historical case study design). Yet in most case studies of democracy assistance, researchers have not used such designs. They have instead assumed that the information they needed could be found by studying the unfolding of the aid program itself. For a process-type evaluation, where the main questions asked by researchers are “Did the project achieve the goals expected by the donors?” and “Why or why not?” this is reasonable and most case studies of aid assistance have taken this form. However, if USAID now wishes to use case studies to study the impact of DG programs on policy goals, they are not the most appropriate tool. This is because retrospective case studies can rarely obtain or reconstruct the comparable baseline and outcome information for appropriate comparison groups that is necessary for sound inference of program effects. The committee’s field studies tried to determine if missions had retained such baseline data if collected before DG projects or if they had collected any comparable baseline data for nonassisted groups. The teams had limited success with finding the former and no success in finding the latter. Thus the committee believes that for most DG programs information on project effects would most credibly be obtained by well-designed impact evaluations, rather than retrospective case studies. However, case studies can provide information to help inform strategic planning. Comparative and historical case studies that examine varied trajectories of democratic change, and trace the relationship of DG activities to other factors and events that influence long-term democracy outcomes, can help generate hypotheses about opportunities and obstacles for DG assistance to support democratic progress. In addition, sometimes the greatest insights regarding where and when to intervene with certain programs arise from detailed studies of program failures. One can often learn more from tracing the causes of program failure than from studies of successes, especially if such success rests on chance factors that supported a program but are not observed or reported in the study. Yet case studies of DG assistance rarely seek out failures for sustained examination—there are few rewards in the current incentive structure of donors for seeking out failures and investing in their study.2 This chapter develops guidelines for case studies that better explore the roles that democracy assistance programs may play in varied contexts of social change. 2 One exception is the scholarly work of Carothers (1999, 2004, 2006), who has investigated instances of disappointing results in democracy assistance programs.
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research INSIGHTS FROM CURRENT RESEARCH: RESULTS OF A CONFERENCE OF CASE STUDY SPECIALISTS ON DEMOCRACY Under the “transformational diplomacy” plan of the Bush administration and the closer supervision of USAID by the State Department, it was anticipated that USAID’s DG efforts would often be undertaken as part of broader strategies to help achieve desired outcomes in particular states (Rice 2006). Faced with such demands, USAID would like to be able to respond to policymakers with information such as the following: “Based on what we know about transitions to democracy in countries with conditions like that, the chances of achieving a successful transition to democracy in X years is fairly low (or high),” or “Based on what we know about the time and volume of assistance it usually takes to build and stabilize democracy in postconflict societies with these characteristics, we can give you some broad parameters regarding the expected time and financial support required to have a realistic chance of attaining that goal in country Y.” For these objectives a clustered set of case studies, tracing the processes through which advances toward democracy were made from various sets of initial conditions, is an appropriate mode of investigation. A sufficient number of case studies would help build a knowledge base to answer questions such as the following: “For most countries we have observed with initial conditions X, Y, and Z, what have been the observed trajectories of political change, and which factors A, B, C (and others) were most prominent in shaping or constraining those trajectories?” Case studies are particularly valuable in this kind of mapping exercise, where instead of trying to identify the average impact of one or more causal factors across a wide range of conditions, the goal of the investigation is to identify diverse patterns or combinations of relationships that are associated with varying pathways of change over time (Goldstone 1998, 2003). Rather than starting out to design such a study, the committee first noted that a great deal of case study research is already being done by academics who focus on democracy and democratization. The committee decided that its first step should be to investigate that body of scholarship and see how much value it already provided for meeting USAID’s goals. The committee therefore convened a conference of leading academic experts on case study analyses of democracies and democratic transitions to help it assess the “state of the art” on how such knowledge could guide strategies for democracy assistance (see Appendix D for the details of this conference). This section presents the main findings that emerged during that conference, followed by the committee’s own conclusions and recommendations for future studies. The committee does not present the fol-
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research lowing findings as definitive, nor are they endorsed as the results of the committee’s own research. Rather, what follows is a synopsis of the main points expressed by scholars at the conference, with particular attention to findings relevant to either DG assistance planning or research designs for case studies of DG assistance programs. Democracy research conducted by the academic community generally needs considerable translation to be useful for guiding democracy assistance. One problem that was immediately evident from discussions between the scholars and practitioners who attended the conference is that much of the academic research on democracy and democratic transitions is not developed or presented in ways that offer much practical guidance to policy professionals. This is much more than a simple matter of pure versus applied research. Rather, policymakers dealing with democracy assistance simply have to act in much more constrained circumstances than the typical academic study implies. For example, Terry Karl of Stanford University noted that one major conclusion of her research was that agreements, which she terms “pacts,” should be developed among elites before elections, rather than holding elections first and hoping to bring agreements among elites afterward. As an academic finding, this seems impeccable—an increasingly large body of empirical and theoretical work argues that elections can be stabilizing if they affirm agreements that bridge social cleavages and unite diverse elites in a commitment to abide by democratic rules, but tend to be destabilizing if the elections harden or polarize prior social cleavages and pit rival elites against each other in a zero-sum struggle for control of society (Berman 1997, 2001; Goldstone and Ulfelder 2004; Zakaria 2004; cf. the election in Kenya in December 2007). However, the reality facing policymakers is that they are often called on to organize and hold elections that are demanded by the society in question, or by the international community, in which influential and critical actors are not prepared to wait until after a pact has been agreed on (Carothers 2007). Unless the weight of experience and academic research reduce the current pressures felt by policymakers to hold elections as soon as possible in emerging democracies or postconflict states, some group needs to take up the challenge of translating the findings of academic research into guidelines for actions that can be more flexible and adapted to adverse or rapidly changing conditions. Thus, one lesson to draw from Professor Karl’s research may be that when elections need to be held rapidly in the absence of prior pacts, the electoral process should be designed as much as possible to lead rival factions to seek pacts in the process of seeking electoral success. That is, rules on the composition of electoral
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research commissions, or restrictions on parties to require party lists to have cross-group representation, or voting schemes that require regionally dispersed support to attain electoral success should be developed to use the election process itself to bring elites together and to “tame” factionalism. While the specific adjustments must be tailored to each case (from using an extant body with strong legitimacy that has traditionally bridged factions, like the Afghan loya jirga, as part of the process, to the requirements in Nigeria and Kenya that candidates demonstrate cross-regional support to qualify for the ballot), the translation process needs to show how a clear but academic principle—“pacts before elections”—can be adapted to the rough-and-tumble and uncontrolled circumstances of actual transition policymaking and response. One finding from the conference was thus that, although a large number of meetings between academics and policy professionals do occur (e.g., under the aegis of the National Endowment for Democracy), a more structured forum in which policymakers and academics can spend time focusing on discussing one particular type of policy intervention, or one group of countries, is needed if academics and policy professionals are to become able to understand each other fully and gain from each other’s knowledge and experience. It often appeared in the committee’s meeting that academics were interested in offering broad general insights or developing abstract categories to sort out developments in a large number of states, while policy professionals worried more about what would help them deal with the rapidly changing conditions and diverse pressures they face on the job. To answer the question “How do you best assist the development of democracy under these conditions?” academic researchers and policy professionals first need to work out some agreement on what they consider to be the relevant conditions. Where academics usually will define them by abstract or historical categories, policy professionals will more often refer to the conditions under which they are expected to work. A host of such issues of varying vocabulary and references need to be worked out by direct communications before the fruits of academic research are likely to answer questions posed by USAID professionals and vice versa. Democracy assistance donors and policymakers need to be aware that donors do not control the context. In approaching the question “How much time and resources will it typically take to help secure a democratic outcome in a country like X?” it became clear that this query is not phrased correctly. This is because, as the academic scholars repeatedly noted and the practitioners readily acknowledged, democracy assistance providers do not control the context
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research in which they work. Thus it is not always possible to form stable estimates of the likelihood or costs of attaining specific outcomes. First, this principle means that expectations for success in democracy assistance must be tempered. A host of issues impinge on a country’s progress toward democracy—for example, standards of living, government structures, international influences, regional conditions—that are usually completely beyond the ability of democracy assistance donors to affect.3 Thus democracy assistance always needs to be opportunistic as well as strategic, identifying promising steps that can be taken in both the short term and the long term and then being ready to assist when conditions rapidly change and new openings for democracy arise. Second, because context is more generally controlled and opportunities more readily grasped by members of the society than by outsiders, democracy assistance is only effective when supporting the activity of committed individuals and groups within the society and cannot be successfully manipulated wholly from the outside. This point is often made by those with experience in democracy assistance, such as de Zeeuw and Kumar (2006:282): “Although external actors can perhaps do more to avoid legitimating political window-dressing and thwart the incentives for corrupt activities, in the end it is up to domestic political leaders to stop these practices.”4 Third, the inability to control context means that the success of democracy assistance efforts can rarely be judged in the short term with regard to overall progress toward democracy. Rather, such success has to be judged in terms of whether any steps that may contribute to future democracy are leaving a demonstrable footprint on institutions or behavior; whether reactions to opportunities were prompt, creative, and effective in using such opportunities to assist democratic reformers and efforts to secure democracy; and whether steps that reverse democratic progress are being discouraged. Modest success in the face of the most discouraging and hostile contexts is a considerable achievement, while being able to take advantage of the most favorable contexts is probably the most cost-effective approach to improving democratic prospects. Given that context varies greatly and that many elements important to 3 Although there is much debate on the conditions that facilitate democratic transitions and consolidation, empirical work by Barro (1999), Boix and Stokes (2003), and Epstein et al (2006) all concur that economic performance is a major factor in democratic transitions, while studies by Haggard and Kauffman (1995) and Przeworski et al (2000) underline the importance of economic performance for democratic consolidation. Goldstone and Ulfelder (2004) also point to the importance of such factors as the presence of ethnic or religious discrimination and conflicts in neighboring countries as key factors that can undermine democracies. 4 This point is also emphasized by Dobbins (2003) and McFaul (2006).
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research democratic development in a society are beyond the control of democracy assistance donors, it is probably wrong to ask “how much” time, effort, or expense will be required to “move” a country into the democratic column. More realistically, it could be asked under what conditions might what kind of investments pay off and in what time frame? This also has implications for framing any case studies of democracy assistance. Given the vital importance of widely varying contexts, case studies would need to cover a substantial range of contexts that favor or disfavor democratization, not merely a diverse set of nations. Democratic transitions are highly nonlinear processes. A linear process is one that occurs in a fairly smooth and continuous fashion and in which outputs change in proportion to various inputs. Unfortunately, democratic transitions do not have this character. Instead, such transitions are often sudden and discontinuous events, in which little or no change is observed at the national level for a long time, and then rapid shifts in power or political conditions occur. Similarly, even emerging democracies that appear to be stable can suddenly be overturned by an antidemocratic coup (e.g., Thailand) or collapse into violent conflicts (Nepal, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire).5 This nonlinearity has major implications for planning and assessing democracy assistance policies. It means that the impact of democracy assistance in a given nation cannot simply be measured by looking for a smooth and proportional movement to democracy in response to such assistance. Instead, it may take years for the impact of democracy assistance to be revealed in the course of a sudden transition. For example, in a recent study of the democratic transition in the Ukraine, McFaul (2006) argues that during many years of President Leonid Kuchma’s regime, democracy assistance aimed at strengthening the media, improving the autonomy of the judiciary, upgrading election commissions, and building civil society and party organizations had little or no impact on the nature of Ukraine’s regime. However, when an opening for democratic action arose during the maneuvering around elections to choose Kuchma’s successor, particularly around suspicions that the elections were fraudulent, the institutions that had been strengthened by external democracy assistance helped challenge the efforts of the Kuchma regime to control the electoral outcome. McFaul’s analysis concludes that the impact of democracy assistance was thus only “revealed” when new opportunities arose for challenging the authoritarian regime. 5 For a detailed examination of nations’ trajectories toward democracy since World War II, which illustrates how “bouncy” and “jerky” such transitions have been, see Goldstone (2007).
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research This nonlinearity also reinforces the point made above that democracy assistance itself must be flexible, patient, and opportunistic. Furthermore, when transitions occur, they cannot be taken for granted as having achieved a new and therefore stable equilibrium. Rather, aid may need to be sustained and retargeted to support emerging democracies for a considerable period in order to hold off sudden backsliding or collapse or to respond to new threats to democratic stability. This nonlinearity also has major implications for the conduct of research on the impact of democracy assistance. Rather than looking for the impact of such assistance simply by focusing on the area receiving aid and searching for near-term impacts, it is necessary to place such assistance in a longer term and large-scale context. While the specific forms of assistance need to be related to changes in the character of specific institutions or behaviors, researchers must then address the full process of democratic change, sustainability, or retreat over a considerable period in the country where assistance is being studied in order to identify lagging and late-emerging effects. Without attention to the impact of contingency and changing context on a longer scale, a full and accurate assessment of democracy assistance is unlikely. Different policy guidelines are needed for different democratization contexts. The scholars at the Stanford conference identified at least three distinctive contexts in which donors have been active in providing democracy assistance: (1) currently authoritarian and semiauthoritarian regimes, (2) transition and posttransition regimes, and (3) postconflict regimes. Recognizing that there can be many arguments over how to categorize regimes—and even what categories to use—they suggested that these three offer particular opportunities and constraints for democracy assistance. Authoritarian and semiauthoritarian regimes Authoritarian regimes are those in which a single individual or group (e.g., a single party or the military) wields unshakable power. There may be greater or lesser subordinate powers, even some with a democratic façade (e.g., elected but pliant legislatures, subordinate parties with no chance of acquiring power), but there is no question where ultimate decision-making power resides and that authority faces no effective checks or accountability. Under such conditions, as long as the authoritarian regime has sufficient resources and elite support, only incremental progress toward building the foundations of democracy is possible. The scholars suggested that useful actions could include promoting transparency in government finance, fighting corruption, and promoting human rights. The goal of these actions is to seek to open a space in which the
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research absolute authority of the leadership can be subjected to scrutiny or criticism. Engagement in international relations, including trade, educational exchange, diplomatic relations, and information/broadcasting, is useful for providing leverage and openings for these causes, which are almost impossible to advance solely from outside in the absence of any relations with the country. Support for democrats within the society—insofar as can be done without undermining their legitimacy by making them appear as subordinate to external powers—also can help advance the foundations for future democratic reform. Many scholars insisted on a further distinction between “hard” authoritarian regimes, also called “full autocracies,” in which all opposition is ruthlessly crushed and dissent is not tolerated (as in Saddam’s Iraq or Stalin’s Soviet Union), and “semiauthoritarian regimes” (also called “partial autocracies”). In these latter regimes, power is still monopolized by a single person or group. However, there are also limited openings for opposition to appear. There may be some press or media outlets that are independent of the regime; there may be opposition parties that, while small and ineffective, are not co-opted or repressed by the ruler; there may be professional organizations or even some elements of government—certain judges or commissions—that operate autonomously and have some respect and authority apart from their support of the regime. Examples include the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, Nicaragua under the Somozas, and Ukraine under Kuchma. Several studies—both using case studies (McFaul 2005) and large N statistical analysis (Epstein et al 2006)—have argued that such partial autocracies are more likely to make the move to democratic politics than are full autocracies. In the authoritarian context, major advances toward democracy are usually dependent on crisis events that weaken the regime but that democracy assistance donors cannot create or control. Typically, such crises include war, fiscal or monetary collapse, a looming succession, exposure of corruption, a major repressive overstep by the regime, natural disasters, or an electoral surprise (e.g., unexpected results in an election that would normally be fully controlled by the regime). Such events create a window of opportunity in which democracy assistance has the chance to be more powerful. In the wake of such events, democracy assistance that would be infeasible or ineffective under a firm authoritarian regime, such as support for opposition organizations, support for independent media, or support for election monitors/commissions, may help local democratic forces use the opportunity to press for major reforms. Transition and posttransition regimes Transition and posttransition regimes are those in which a democratic regime has been established but has not yet been consolidated by repeated
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research peaceful and effective electoral choice of leaders and the secure institutionalization of civil and political freedoms. In this context, a relatively long-term commitment to the support and improvement of democratic behavior and institutions may promote democratic stability. The scholars cited one major problem of democracy assistance in this context: External assistance often is increased in authoritarian contexts, or at the time of transition, but then swiftly reduced after the initial transition to democracy. They argued that instead a steady flow of assistance through a substantial posttransition period is often needed to help stabilize the new democracy and avoid backsliding or to head off subsequent crises. The list of actions needed to support democratic stabilization is lengthy, for during this period many aspects of democratic institutions may need nurturing or protection, and the society is relatively open to receiving such support. Areas that might benefit from assistance in this phase include assuring the competitiveness of multiple political parties that are inclusive and able to compromise; consolidating free, fair, and inclusive electoral procedures; developing legislatures that are effective in writing and passing needed legislation; improving the accountability of government at national and local levels; supporting varied media; promoting transparency, human rights, and fighting corruption; building a fair and effective criminal and civil justice system (police and judiciary); establishing a professional military that is subordinate to civilian control; improving social services (health, education, sanitation); and improving economic performance. Careful assessment is needed to determine which donors and agencies are best suited to assist in these varied areas, which areas require the most help, and whether such commitments can be sustained. Postconflict regimes Postconflict regimes are those in which recent conflict has left either an absence of central political authority or a weak central authority unable to control violence and crime or unable to control local warlords or suppress regional rebellions. There may be an authoritarian or democratic regime trying to acquire power over the society or the country may be divided, with various regions held by conflicting groups, warlords, or rebels. For postconflict regimes several of the scholars at the conference pointed to a smaller number of key tasks that are imperative to complete if further actions to help achieve democracy are to have a chance of success. These were (1) reduce factional conflicts by building elite cooperation and agreements; (2) create security by establishing military and policy protection of civilians by the central regime and undertaking dis-
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research armament of rebels, warlords, or other competing authorities; (3) design and secure agreement on constitutional and electoral processes that will promote inclusion, participation, and legitimacy for the regime; (4) create effective processes for the integration of combatant and extremist groups into civilian society; and (5) create truth and reconciliation processes that will blunt the drive for personal and arbitrary vengeance. If these steps are not successfully completed, other steps—such as building political parties or holding elections—are unlikely to bear fruit, and conflict is likely to recur. One of the problems of democracy assistance programs in places such as Iraq or other postconflict contexts has been a tendency by donors to jump to the activities listed under B above without first achieving the five items listed here for postconflict regimes. Yet without making substantial progress on most or all of these five items, efforts on the activities listed under B are not likely to be effective in helping to achieve democracy in postconflict settings. It is crucial to realize that the above comments represent rather sweeping but preliminary generalizations from current academic research on democracy. There are, in fact, a variety of kinds of authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes, ranging from hereditary monarchies and military dictatorships to one-party states, and similarly a variety of postconflict conditions depending on the nature, severity, and extent of the conflict. The broad goals cited above for various contexts also still leave as highly problematic whether, and which, specific actions have significant effects in advancing those goals. Thus the only true conclusion at this point is that context matters greatly, both for designing policy and for planning future research on democratization and democracy assistance. Popular protest and mobilization are a double-edged sword. Democracy assistance donors often face very difficult choices regarding popular protest and mobilization. Should change be pursued by encouraging popular protest or only through formal and institutional means? Should one work mainly through elites, or is it better to pressure or outflank elites through popular movements? If popular movements are currently mobilizing or a protest wave is starting in a currently authoritarian state or transition state, should it be encouraged, viewed as an opportunity to push further change, or blunted as a potential threat to creating dangerous disorder? The scholars at the Stanford conference suggested that popular protest is often an important factor in encouraging democratic transitions but noted that mobilization needs to be diverted into electoral activity and civil society organizations—rather than militias, populist movements, or competing factions—if democratic consolidation is to occur. Popular protests have frequently played a crucial role in turning crises of opportunity into democratic transitions. Protest—or fear of pro-
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research test—often forces weak leaders to abandon office and forces elites to enter into pacting agreements. These are positive elements in the development of democracy from authoritarian regimes. However, it is imperative that inclusive and effective political parties emerge to channel popular mobilization into peaceful political competition. Otherwise, popular groups may be mobilized into support for ethnic or regional groups, individual populist leaders, or even militias that become major security threats. In such cases, popular mobilization promotes further unrest and conflict. Assistance in building inclusive political parties that bridge social cleavages (class, regions, ethnic groups) and are capable of leading their supporters and engaging in effective political negotiations should thus become a priority wherever political protest has played a major role in democratic transitions. Institutions that can mediate conflicts—such as supreme courts, national election commissions, or representative parliaments—are also vital factors in stemming the violent confrontation between popular groups and unpopular authorities. There is no magic bullet or golden pathway to democracy and democratic consolidation. Finally, although it no doubt makes the job of policymakers more difficult (which they readily acknowledge), the scholars at the Stanford conference noted that there are many different paths that have led to democracy and democratic consolidation. Yet none of these are assured, as all of these paths have also failed to have the desired results. Pacts, protests, or combinations of the two, peaceful transitions and postconflict transitions, on average show similar rates of success in building stable democracies. Presidential and parliamentary and federal and centralized systems of government have been both successful and unsuccessful in different times and places. The scholars noted that what matters is not so much the specific path or sequence of events leading to a transition, or the form of regime adopted, but whether the appropriate combination of factors is brought together to secure that transition, given attention to the specific context. Thus, resources should not be spent too freely in stable authoritarian contexts where change is unlikely; in postconflict states the basic conditions for progress must be secured before the transition and posttransition steps can be effective; and for countries in transition and posttransition their progress must not be neglected or starved of support in the aftermath of a transition. In addition, when opportunities arise, appropriate reactions to support change are needed in a timely fashion, and where popular mobilization is believed to be the key to change, such mobilization needs to be channeled into organizations that promote rather than undermine a peaceful and diverse civil society. To achieve these aims it is important for democracy assistance donors
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research to work with local elites and democratic forces. The academic researchers expressed the view that effective democracy assistance is more a matter of facilitating than creating change, of working to encourage and maintain domestic processes, than of directing those processes. A MULTICASE STUDY DESIGN TO GENERATE AND INVESTIGATE STRATEGIC HYPOTHESES REGARDING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE For questions of strategic assessment faced by USAID—Where is spending on democracy assistance likely to pay off? How can we recognize favorable opportunities when they emerge? What kinds of obstacles are likely to prevent typical USAID democracy assistance from being fully effective? Over how long a period is assistance usefully continued under an authoritarian or semiauthoritarian regime or as a postconflict democracy seeks stability?—the committee thought that case studies could be valuable in generating and investigating hypotheses to guide USAID’s allocation of DG resources. Nonetheless, the committee was unable to agree on a firm recommendation that USAID should invest its own funds in such case studies. Since much case study research on democratization is being undertaken by academics funded by foundations and nongovernmental organizations, the committee could not reach a conclusion on how likely or unlikely this research was to be undertaken if not funded by USAID. By contrast, the improvement of its project evaluations is something that can only by done by USAID and will not be done unless the agency spends its own time and energy mandating that better evaluations be carried out. Thus the committee could agree unanimously to recommend that USAID invest in improving its project evaluations, as described in the following chapters, but not that USAID fund additional case study research of democracy assistance. If USAID decides to invest in supporting case study research, the committee recommends using a competitive proposal solicitation process to elicit the best designs, similar to what the Strategic and Operational Research Agenda (SORA) undertook to select the design for its large-scale quantitative study (Finkel et al 2007). USAID should not specify a precise case study design but instead should specify key criteria that proposals must meet: The criteria for choosing cases should be explicit and theoretically driven. Cases should not be selected simply because they cluster in a given region or implement a particular type of DG project. A design may focus
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research on a specific region or DG project, but then it should ensure that the cases within that constraint display a sufficient range of levels of USAID investment, of outcomes, and of initial contexts that they will provide a basis for identifying diverse trajectories of democratic change. The cases should be selected on criteria that will allow insights into the research question: Why did some countries make greater progress toward democracy than others, and what role did various levels of DG assistance, along with other driving factors, opportunities, and constraints, appear to play in various trajectories of progress or regress? The cases should not be selected on the arbitrary basis of a question such as: What happened in several states where USAID had DG activities? The cases should include a variety of initial conditions or contexts in which USAID DG projects operate. The previous discussion identified three major contexts in which USAID operates programs of democracy assistance: predemocratic (authoritarian and semiauthoritarian) regimes, transition and posttransition regimes (places where authoritarian regimes no longer hold sway and democratic institutions have begun to dominate), and postconflict regimes (places where state breakdown and violence have recently occurred). Of course, postconflict regimes can be authoritarian or transitioning, and both authoritarian regimes and conflicts vary in their characteristics, as noted above. Thus this categorization only begins to frame contexts. What is crucial is that any research design acknowledge that the impact of USAID DG assistance, and prospects for democratization and stabilization, depends to a large degree on initial conditions, which vary widely across countries where USAID is asked to undertake DG projects. A good research design should not only incorporate this viewpoint but also seek to investigate how varying initial conditions affected the success of DG programming. The cases should include at least one, if not several, countries in which USAID and other donors have made little or no investment in DG projects. Current case studies generally weigh observed outcomes in countries with DG projects against the goals of the donors. While this is sensible from one perspective—donors want to know if projects have achieved their professed goals—this is not a sound basis for gaining insights into the role that DG projects play in complex political processes. For example, a recent study of political party assistance that looked only at countries where party assistance projects were implemented concluded that such projects did little to transform political systems into more inclusive and competitive systems (Carothers 2006). Thus the donor expectations were
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research not met. Nonetheless, this conclusion does not allow for the possibility that party behavior might have deteriorated much more if no party assistance projects had been in place. If a comparative study that included countries with emerging political parties but few donor projects for party assistance showed that for countries without assistance, political parties tended to deteriorate more rapidly (or to more extreme levels) in regard to corruption, nepotism, factionalism, exclusion, and violence, one might argue that party assistance is effective, at least in holding the line against party capture by individuals or agendas adverse to democracy. The appropriate standard of comparison is thus not only what donors hoped for from DG projects but also what would have happened in the absence of such projects. By similar logic, in assessing the side effects of DG projects, including possible harm, it is important to know whether the side effects being observed are really consequences of DG assistance or are consequences that tend to arise generally as an aspect of transitions to democracy in certain contexts. Little light can be shed on this possibility unless the multicase design includes countries where DG projects were not present. The cases should include countries with varied outcomes regarding democratic progress or stabilization. Prior USAID multicountry evaluations focus mainly on the degree to which DG projects in those countries met or fell short of donor expectations and sought to explain those shortfalls where they occurred (e.g., Carter 2001, de Zeeuw and Kumar 2006). But such evaluations did not seek out failures or the worst setbacks for detailed study. Nonetheless, sometimes the most useful information for USAID would be why projects were ineffective in particular countries. USAID has come to recognize this, but has moved too far in this direction—so that process evaluations now arise most often only when a project has failed to generate expected results. USAID needs to know both how and why DG projects succeed in various contexts and how and why they fail to generate progress in others. A rich design would include examples of both successful and unsuccessful trajectories in countries where donors have made substantial investments in DG activities. Other Design Details The committee does not wish to prescribe a certain number of cases for such a multicase study. Rather, that should be part of the design process and respond to the financial and time constraints chosen by USAID for the scope of the study and by the expertise and resources of the investigators. The committee does believe that a set of case studies structured by
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research the above criteria would provide a more comprehensive, more analytically powerful, and more valuable assessment of how democracy assistance affects countries’ trajectories toward democracy than any such studies in the current literature. At the very least, it would help ensure that USAID planners have before them a diverse set of contexts and experiences from which to draw judgments, rather than the past practice of selecting five to nine cases in which USAID has intervened and then seeking to assess the results of those interventions. The committee suggests such a more structured multicase study if SORA wishes to draw on retrospective case study analysis to guide future USAID democracy programming. However, as noted, the committee was divided over how important it would be for USAID to invest its own funds in such a research effort. Research on democracy and democracy assistance is now a rapidly growing field in the academic community (e.g., the American Political Science Association has a new section on comparative democratization), and several think tanks (e.g., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Global Development) are supporting studies of democratization or programs to advance good governance. With the growth of interest in democracy assistance in the academic and foundation worlds, many of these issues will be investigated, and USAID may be able, in a few years, to draw on existing sets of case studies to compose a larger multicase comparison, rather than starting it from scratch. For example, a study being undertaken by the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University has a design similar to that laid out in this section (CDDRL 2006:6-7).6 USAID may wish to simply await the completion of such academic studies over the next few years and then determine if it still needs to commission such research or if it can draw on what has already been produced in the public domain. In sum, USAID may choose, according to its resources, to solicit proposals for comparative case studies that fulfill the above conditions, or it may choose to explore whether existing case study projects being undertaken by academics and NGOs can be tapped and combined to provide a set of case studies that meet these conditions. Either way, the committee urges USAID to encourage and examine works that go beyond the valuable, but incomplete, studies that currently focus on one or more situations in which democracy assistance has been provided. To better understand how democracy assistance affects a country’s trajectory 6 In addition to the CDDRL project, which seeks to place democracy assistance programs in the long-term and national context of diverse factors bearing on trajectories toward democracy, a number of other policy or academic works are exceptional in their breadth and quality of analysis, attending to both domestic and international factors and varying contexts and outcomes. These include particularly the work of Whitehead (1996), Carothers (1999, 2004, 2006), Mendelson and Glenn (2002), and Youngs (2004).
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research to democracy, it is valuable to compare trajectories with and without democracy assistance (or with relatively large and small amounts) and trajectories with varied outcomes. However, for USAID to benefit from ongoing academic research, as well as the studies of DG assistance being undertaken by think tanks and NGOs, it will be necessary for USAID to organize regular structured interactions between such researchers and USAID DG staff. As the committee learned from the Stanford conference, academics do not always present their findings in ways that DG policy professionals find relevant; structured exchange with give and take on specific topics allows academics and professionals to bridge gaps in concepts and policy needs more effectively than passive consumption of such research. One major service that the SORA project could perform would be to devise ways for the more regular introduction of scholars’ research on democracy into structured discussions with USAID DG personnel. Besides such a multicountry case study design, the committee also believes that there are other ways for USAID to learn from its past DG activities. These include discussions of outside studies of DG assistance, such as those undertaken by the Carnegie Endowment (e.g., Carothers 2006, 2007) or other nations’ development agencies, statistical analyses of international data, and surveys. These also include making better use of the experience of USAID DG mission personnel by engaging in regular meetings in which DG officers could share and discuss their own experiences with democracy assistance. Although not adequate for determining the impact of specific projects, such sources can provide valuable insights regarding problems of program implementation, responses to rapidly changing conditions in the field, issues in the reception of DG programs, or the shifting contexts in which such programs are carried out. USAID should include these varied sources of information as part of the regular organizational learning activities recommended in Chapter 8. CONCLUSIONS The committee found that much can be gleaned from existing case studies of democracy and governance. These studies of particular programs, or of DG assistance in specific regions, shed light on how DG programs have operated in various settings and whether they met the expectations of donors or participants. Yet for all their strengths it is often difficult to solve the problem of causal attribution of specific outcomes to DG activities with this type of research. This is particularly true of studies that attempt to discern the causal impact of a particular project or set of projects on democracy by focusing only on the unfolding of DG projects within a single country or across a set of countries.
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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research The committee thus recommends the use of more diverse and theoretically structured clusters of case studies of democratization and democracy assistance to develop hypotheses to guide democracy assistance planning in a diverse range of settings. Whether USAID chooses to support such studies or gather them from ongoing academic research, it is important to look at how democracy assistance functions in a range of different initial conditions and trajectories of political change. Such case studies should seek to map out long-term trajectories of political change and to place democracy assistance in the context of national and international factors affecting those trajectories, rather than focus mainly on specific democracy assistance programs. REFERENCES Abbink, J., and Hesseling, G., eds. 2000. Election Observation and Democratization in Africa. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Asia Watch. 2002. Cambodia’s Commune Elections: Setting the Stage for the 2003 National Elections. HRW Index 14(4). Available at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/camb)402/. Accessed on January 10, 2008. Barro, R.J. 1999. Determinants of Democracy. Journal of Political Economy 6:158-183. Barya, J.J., Opolot, S.J., and Otim, P.O. 2004. The Limits of “No Party” Politics: The Role of International Assistance in Uganda’s Democratisation Process. Working Paper 28. Conflict Research Unit, Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Clingendael. Berman, S.E. 1997. Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic. World Politics 49(3):401-429. Berman, S.E. 2001. Modernization in Historical Perspective: The Case of Imperial Germany. World Politics 53(2):431-462. Blair, H., and Hansen, G. 1994. Weighing in on the Scales of Justice: Strategic Approaches for Donor-Supported Rule of Law Programs. CDIE Program and Operations Assessment Report No. 7. Washington, DC: USAID. Boix, C., and Stokes, S. 2003. Endogenous Democratization. World Politics 55(4):517-549. Carothers, T. 1999. Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment. Carothers, T. 2004. Critical Mission: Essays on Democracy Promotion. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment. Carothers, T. 2006. Confronting the Weakest Link: Aiding Political Parties in New Democracies. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment. Carothers, T. 2007. The “Sequencing” Fallacy. Journal of Democracy 18(1):12-27. Carter, L. 2001. Linking USAID Democracy Program Impact to Political Change: A Synthesis of Findings from Three Case Studies. Revised draft (unpublished). Carter, L., Silver, R., and Smith, Z. 2003. Linking USAID Democracy Program Impact to Political Change: A Synthesis of Findings from Six Case Studies. Washington, DC: Management Systems International. CDDRL (Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law). 2006. Project Prospectus. Unpublished. Dobbins, J. 2003. America’s Role in Nation Building: From Germany to Iraq. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
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