Democracy promotion has been a significant component of overseas development assistance by donor countries in the developing world since the early 1990s. Sweden, in particular, has prioritized assistance in this area. About one-fourth of total Swedish overseas development assistance is currently in the area of democracy and human rights, which is about twice as much as the average for OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries.
At the same time, the evidence based on the impact of democracy assistance on democratic outcomes remains controversial. Across the literature, the relationship is arguably mixed. Moreover, comparatively few studies focus on democracy aid specifically – as distinct from aid more generally – and there are challenges in its measurement and operationalization. More clarity would be beneficial also on the question of which aid modalities are most effective in enhancing democracy and why.
This project, which is supported by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), continues UNU-WIDER’s long engagement with research on foreign aid. It includes a comprehensive review of the literature and data on these topics, as well as new quantitative analysis on the effects of international and Swedish democracy support on democratic outcomes for the period of 1995–2017. The review will take form of an EBA report, which will be followed up by additional WIDER Working Papers building on the findings of the report.