I would like to thank the committee for having invited me to speak about democratic development. However, I must say that Ms. Crandall did not give me much information about the subject I am to address. I looked at the questions which the committee studied on this issue. Of course, I cannot answer every question. I will therefore give a brief presentation on the main subject of my research over the last six years, namely the effectiveness of strategies to promote democracy. As you will see, democracy assistance programs, or democracy promotion strategies, only represent one aspect of the issue, but it might be interesting to compare this approach to others.
Since the end of the Second World War, three strategies were used to either help countries complete the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, or to consolidate their democratic system by various means, such as improving the governance of public administrations, strengthening the rule of law, decentralizing the powers of the central government, developing a civil society, extending rights to minorities, fighting corruption, and so on.
The first of these strategies is control, that is, the imposition of democracy on a country by foreign authorities, which is achieved unilaterally or with the help of certain domestic political actors following the country's military occupation of its territory.
The second strategy is conditionality. In its positive form, conditionality means that a country is obliged to implement a democratic system, or to consolidate such a system, before receiving help such as economic assistance, debt reduction or renegotiation, admission to an international organization, and so on. In its negative form, this approach might impose sanctions on a country such as an embargo, suspending its membership to an international organization, and so on, and to see these sanctions lifted, it must adopt democratic change.
The third strategy is the one based on incentives. Under this strategy, a country might freely receive different forms of assistance or other types of advantages to encourage it to implement or consolidate a democratic system.
Let's look at the effectiveness of each of these strategies. The control approach has been applied fairly frequently in recent history. After the Second World War, this strategy was used by the Americans and their allies in Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy and Austria, and by the British, when many of their former colonies, in the Caribbean and in Southeast Asia, gained independence. Since the end of the 1980s, this strategy was used by the United States in Panama; by the European Union, NATO and the UN in Bosnia and Kosovo, and by the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Until now, no study has attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of imposing democracy on these countries. However, we personally conducted a preliminary investigation of some of these situations over the last few months in order to prepare a research project which we have submitted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We have drawn three lessons, or teachings, from this preliminary evaluation.
First, democracy imposed by foreign authorities only developed or flourished in countries which had already achieved an advanced level of social and economic modernization when the foreign powers intervened. This was the case of Germany, Austria and Italy. This approach also worked in countries which modernized rapidly through massive investment and social and economic reform imposed by the occupying forces. This happened in Japan.
Second lesson. In situations where foreign powers occupied an underdeveloped country over a long period of time, which created a culture of compromise and cooperation with the country's political elites, the control approach allowed for the creation of a minimal but sustainable democracy. For instance, this was the case in the former British colonies in the West Indies, or in hybrid but stable regimes such as Singapore or Malaysia.
Third lesson: in traditional societies marked by a culture of clans and ethnic, religious and political conflict, and where the imposition of democracy by foreign powers is fairly recent, and where development investment by the international community is also recent and insufficient—we need look no further than Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq—the control approach has failed. Not only do the rules of minimal democracy not exist, namely the possibility for all adult citizens to choose their leaders in free, fair and open elections in which political parties can freely compete for votes because basic civil and political liberties are respected, but there is no rule of law of any kind in those countries.
Let us now look at conditionality. Political conditionality, in its positive form, has only been applied by the European Union/Community in situations relating specifically to the admission of less developed European countries, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal; countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey; and western Balkan countries, which have been become more stable by virtue of their association with the European Union/Community. In fact, when true conditionality is applied, a country knows it will lose out on promised advantages if it refuses to submit to prescribed obligations. But membership in the European Union/Community is the only situation in which the member countries of an international organization are unanimous in the application of sanctions because of these countries' high degree of integration. It is in everyone's interest to avoid the high cost of admitting new members who are unable to respect the democratic rules of the game.
As for association or cooperation agreements with third countries not eligible for EU membership, the EU has been unable to apply true political conditionality because of the divergent interests of member countries. Although most of these agreements now include democratic provisions calling for sanctions, these provisions are not implemented or are applied partially or unevenly.
Studies assessing the effectiveness of political conditionality as it applies to membership in the European Union are unanimous. Conditionality was the decisive factor which led to the fall of dictatorships in Greece, Spain and Portugal. It was also the determining factor which led to the consolidation of new democracies in countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The effectiveness of conditionality in the European Union has also been demonstrated in the case of Turkey, which implemented significant democratic reforms after it was given official candidate status for membership in 1999, and in the case of Croatia, which, between 2003 and 2005, brought about the required political change under the stabilization and association process leading to negotiations for full membership.
There are two theories which explain why conditionality works well in the European Union situation. The first one is the theory of realism. Candidate countries meet the requirements set by Brussels because the promised benefits are crucial; these countries have no alternative but to submit, and they are aware that EU members are determined to withhold any benefits in cases of non-compliance. There are also other reasons why countries want to engage in pre-membership reforms. There are, first of all, generous assistance incentive programs, such as PHARE, TAIEX and Twinning. Also, reforms are closely monitored by the commission, and there are institutional partnerships to help candidate countries with the planning and implementation of reforms.
Under the second theory, the constructivist theory, the political elites of candidate countries engage in pre-membership reforms not because it is in their interest to do so, but because they share the same democratic values and standards which lie at the heart of the legal and institutional reforms required by the European Union. However, the mixed success of the EU's stabilization and association process in the Balkans indicates that the prospect of membership, the assistance programs, the monitoring and institutional partnerships, are not enough to convince the political elites of some countries to proceed with democratic reform.
Since 2000, neither Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, nor Albania have managed to bring about the reforms which will lead to negotiations on membership. These conclusions tend to corroborate the relevancy of the constructivist theory and the modernization theory. When the dominant political party culture is based on undemocratic values, such as clan mentality, ultra-nationalism, authoritarianism, clientelism, due, but not exclusively, to that country's backward economic and social situation, conditionality does not really work.
I will conclude with the third strategy. Assistance incentive programs promoting democratic development are nothing new, but their number has increased exponentially since the end of the cold war. Many international organizations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the EBRD, the Organization of American States, the African Union, the European Union, the UN, the aid agencies of the 14 main OECD donor countries, and thousands of NGOs largely founded by western governments, have invested money, time and people in these programs.
However, it remains difficult to measure the effectiveness of these programs, since very few of these organizations actually assessed them. Only the United States Agency of International Development has been conducting evaluations since 1994 because it was forced to do so by Congress. But researchers from some universities and private foundations, such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, have evaluated the effectiveness of some of the programs implemented by the European Council, the OSCE, the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe and American NGOs. Their conclusions were unanimous: on the whole, the outcomes of the programs were very modest, even nil, for the following reasons.
First, the aid given to beneficiary countries was only relatively important to them because it is limited and has in fact been decreasing since 1990. Also, it can easily be replaced by other sources of revenue.
Second, the threat of suspending, reducing and cancelling assistance is not credible in the eyes of beneficiary countries, since the threat of sanctions is rarely carried out because of the conflict of interests and ideological differences which exist between the various donor countries, and, within some donor countries, between different government departments, aid agencies and NGOs.
I know what I am talking about. Between 1992 and 1995, I gave training to CIDA employees on the World Bank's conditional aid policy. I became aware of the high degree of conflict within CIDA, and between CIDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as far as this very policy was concerned. There is no consensus. Indeed, this situation is not unique to Canada, as it exists in many donor countries. I have done some research about this situation in Sweden, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.
I might add that professor Stephen Brown, from the University of Ottawa, did his doctorate on aid to African countries, and he concluded that sanctions were actually imposed on only two countries, mainly Kenya and Malawi, because they had not applied the democratic reforms required by aid agencies. In his view, no sanctions have ever been imposed on any other African countries.
Thomas Carothers, who is one of the most important practitioners and evaluators of American democratic development programs, and who works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, agrees with these conclusions, but does make a few distinctions. In his most recent book on the subject, entitled Critical Mission, which was published in 2004, he stigmatizes development assistance programs in civil societies, but recognizes that the monitoring of elections and strengthening the rule of law can make a big different on the condition that the programs be redirected.
Since I don't have much time, I'm going to do a brief summary of his main findings regarding these three types of democratic assistance programs.
Programs that seek to develop an organized civil society, according to Carothers, don't contribute to the establishment or consolidation of democracy, for one thing because civil society is made up of all kinds of people, including criminal and delinquent networks, so there's no guarantee of democratization. In other words, the importance of civil society as an agent for democratic development should not be overestimated.
He then says that in a number of countries, NGOs working on the development of civil society are in most cases western NGOs with no links to local NGOs. They are very often concentrated in the capital of the country and develop links with other western NGOs. They are largely funded by their own government, so that very often, the policy they promote in the host country is the policy of their own government. So it's not unbiased democratic development. In some cases, this situation leads to conflict with the government of the host country, which sees NGOs as organizations doing propaganda and advocacy on behalf of their own country of origin.
Surely you've heard that Freedom House released a report this year on the increasingly critical situation for American NGOs in a number of countries. They are considered undesirable since becoming actively involved in, for example, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the revolution in Kirghizistan. It's a very delicate and very complex situation.
The third reason Carothers gives for criticizing civil society development programs is that in the case of dictatorships, NGOs often promote calls for democracy that jeopardize the safety of citizens and that actually lead to crackdowns by the regimes in power. So it's often a counterproductive exercise.
According to Carothers and many other writers, election observing is a more effective way of defending democracy, if it reveals fraud before or during the election and reinforces the process in countries in transition toward democracy. However, only governments or international organizations that send competent and experienced observers out into the field well before the election and keep them there until the official results are published — which takes a long time in some countries — are in a position to influence the process.
Carothers is critical of the fact that there are more and more amateurs observing elections in the field. He names the organizations he feels are best equipped to observe elections effectively. They are: Carter Center; International Foundation for Election Systems; Democracy Promotion Unit of the OAS; United Nations Electoral Assistance Unit; Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Unfortunately, Elections Canada is not on the list.
The last type of program I wanted to talk to you about is promotion of the rule of law. This is considered positive in itself, but its effectiveness is diminished by the clear lack of understanding among external actors.
People often think, wrongly, that an attempt to pattern the operation of the court system in target countries on that of western countries will improve the rule of law. However, a law-abiding public depends less on the competence and effectiveness of judges — which can actually lead to overly expeditious justice that hurts the public but helps an authoritarian government — than on the public perception of the legitimacy of legislation, which is largely tied to their perception of the operation of political institutions.
This finding means that it might be better to work on expanding the representativeness of political systems, to increase the legitimacy of democracy from the standpoint of the public and cause them to become more law-abiding, than to invest a lot of money in improvements to the operation of the court system.
That is ultimately the message of Carothers and other writers.