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International support to democracy and stability in fragile states: Increasing effectiveness through prioritization, coordination and cooperation?

Comparative Politics
Conflict
Democratisation
Charlotte Fiedler
German Development Institute
Charlotte Fiedler
German Development Institute
Charlotte Fiedler
German Development Institute
Jörn Grävingholt
German Development Institute
Julia Leininger
German Development Institute

Abstract

This comparative paper addresses the question which factors are critical to the success of official external engagement targeted at enhancing stability and strengthening democracy in fragile states. To this end, we compare six countries – Burundi, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Senegal and Timor-Leste – and the international community’s engagement in them. Besides their fragility the countries have in common that they experienced a period of democratic transition in the past 15 years and have struggled with violent conflict. Taking the domestic political process in each country case as our starting point, we analyse critical junctures – mainly linked to elections, constitution-writing processes, peace agreements and DDR/SSR processes – and the role of external actors in them to track donor engagement and make inferences on its impact. Based on over 300 interviews, we find that good international coordination has positive effects, prioritising stability over democracy is problematic and preferring cooperative forms of support over coercion is largely useful – but not always. In discussing these general features of international support, the paper contributes to the broader discussion of factors that explain the impact the external actors can have on transformative political processes.