Donors' dilemmas in democratization : foreign aid and political reform in Africa (Malawi, Kenya).

Author: Brown, Stephen

Awarding University: New York University, USA

Level : PhD

Year: 2000

Holding Libraries: University Microfilms International ;

Subject Terms: Foreign aid ; Democracy ; Political power ;

Pages: 0

Advisors: Adviser: Wood, Elisabeth J


In sub-Saharan Africa more than anywhere else, direct intervention from foreign aid donors has played an important-and under--examined--role in several recent transitions to democracy. For example, in Malawi and Kenya (the dissertation's two case studies), multilateral and bilateral donors specifically suspended new foreign aid in the early 1990s until political reform was enacted--a practice known as political conditionality. As a direct result, in both cases, authoritarian rulers held multiparty elections. In Malawi, power was subsequently transferred to the opposition, while in Kenya a severely flawed electoral process returned the same regime to power. Using data gathered during fieldwork in 1997-98, this dissertation examines the interaction of international and domestic actors to determine the effectiveness and consequences of donor intervention for both democratic transitions and eventual consolidation. Donors can assist the process, notably by raising the cost of continued authoritarian practices and helping build democratic institutions and local capacity. However, international actors' involvement, if only short term, can jeopardize future democratization. In countries such as Malawi, donor intervention, though extremely positive in bringing about a transition, could ultimately be a negative factor for consolidation if it is not sustained, because domestic actors never acquired the strength required to act as a check on the government and pressure for further change. Where donors played a less proactive role, as in Kenya, democratization has proceeded more slowly, but democracy enjoys greater popular legitimacy and domestic actors are in a better position to strive for additional political reform. This study suggests that political conditionality is inherently most effective in prompting political liberalization in an authoritarian country, less effective in ensuring a full transition to democracy and least effective in promoting consolidation. It becomes progressively more difficult for donors to focus their limited leverage effectively as the political reform agenda becomes more broad. Recipients also learn to resist pressure to democratize further. Moreover, donors' lack of long-term commitment, of understanding of the democratization process and how best to assist it, and the prevalence of other priorities (mainly economic reform and political stability) have contributed to political conditionality's middling results to date.