Donor dollars, individual behavior, and democratic development
Skelley, Esther Marie
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Democracy assistance to the developing world has increased exponentially in recent decades, yet it remains to be determined whether such assistance has caused democratic development in recipient states. This is in part because no one has developed a causal theory that explains how exactly democracy assistance donors expect to yield positive democratic development. This study does just that. It develops a theory to explain the behavior of democracy assistance providers. It then tests the fit of the theory with case studies of USAID civil society assistance programs in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the 1990s and 2000s. The study finds that the proposed theory accurately reflects the operating practices of democracy assistance providers and lays the foundation for future tests of democracy assistance impact. The theory is based on Most and Starr’s (1993) pre-theoretic framework of opportunity and willingness, and on the evaluation practices of the U.S. democracy assistance community. In brief, the theory asserts that democracy assistance providers seek to directly improve individual, and subsequently, organizational capabilities (opportunity) within a recipient state and indirectly to increase the willingness of citizens of the recipient state to engage in activities that are expected to yield democratic development. As individuals become more capable and willing to pursue pro-democratic change in civil society, political parties, or elected office, they will engage in such behavior; further, such behavior will over time increase their opportunities to engage in more pro-democracy behavior by changing institutions, laws, and norms.