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Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


Moran, Escobar, and Robles-Olson Analyze “Democracy Aid in Difficult Contexts”

The Strauss Center’s Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program recently published its Democratic Governance research team’s findings in a report titled “Democracy Aid in Difficult Contexts: Assessing Strategies and Impact.” Researchers Ashley Moran, Brooke Escobar, and Daniel Robles-Olson explore what types of democracy aid are most successful in impacting democratic development in Africa. Their study focuses on two particularly challenging contexts: countries recovering from conflict and countries facing low human development.

The report is structured in three parts, with Moran’s chapter on the overall effectiveness of democracy aid in Africa leading the discussion. Moran outlines the study’s methodology, central research questions, and findings. At its core, the study seeks to explain divergent democratic trajectories in countries with similar socioeconomic and political conditions and similar overall levels of democracy aid. In particular, it explores the role of international aid in contributing to these varied democratic outcomes

Escobar’s study of Burundi and Rwanda in Chapter 2 delves into the implementation of democracy aid in countries recovering from conflict. Robles-Olson’s study of Benin and Guinea in Chapter 3 explores the effectiveness of democracy aid in countries with low human development. These cases highlight how the design and impact of aid programs contributed to the generally positive democratic trajectories seen in Burundi and Benin and to the slower and at times stalled democratic development seen in Rwanda and Guinea.

Across both contexts, the study finds that formal institutional reforms alone do not advance democratic development; instead, democracy aid increases a country’s democratic development only if aid includes a focus on building informal democratic processes and norms. Study findings offer new empirical analysis to inform the design of democracy aid programs in difficult contexts and maximize their effectiveness in building governance capacity and societal resilience.

The full Democracy Aid in Difficult Contexts report is available here, and additional CCAPS publications are available here.