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Researchers: Dr Nicholas Cheeseman and Dr Susan Dodsworth

Funder: Westminster Foundation for Democracy

Are efforts to promote democracy working? How can we improve the prospects for democracy across the world?

Since the Cold War, there have been a proliferation of attempts to promote democracy across the world, whether in new democracies or countries that have returned to democracy after a period of authoritarian rule.

However, we still have a relatively limited understanding of what does and doesn’t work in democracy promotion. Furthermore, the last few years have not been good for democracy.  According to US think-tank Freedom House, 2015 was the 10th year in a row that an overall drop in global freedom has been recorded. It is essential that we develop our knowledge of where (and when) democracy promotion works best, and how it can be made more effective.

Democracy promotion has been controversial, and some have questioned whether it works at all. Many of the organisations that work to promote democracy have been wary of being too transparent, lest it undermine their ability to do their work. The potential evidence is there, but until now, researchers have not been able to access it.

The Political Economy of Democracy Promotion Project aims to change this, bringing together academics, policy makers and practitioners working on democracy promotion. The project is the first to be able to examine the evidence base generated by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and will take an innovative approach, embedding fieldwork within democracy promotion programmes in several countries, including Pakistan and Ukraine. This will allow researchers to examine how democracy promotion looks on the ground, and will allow the project to focus on those the programmes are intended to benefit.

The results of the project will be shared with policy makers and practitioners, both through policy papers and through face-to-face meetings and workshops. By fostering dialogue and opening new channels of communication between democracy promoter and researchers, the project seeks to improve the work of democracy promotion across the globe.

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