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To achieve these aims it is important for democracy assistance donors IMPROVING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE to work with local elites and democratic forces. The academic researchers expressed the view that effective democracy assistance is more a matter of facilitating than creating change, of working to encourage and maintain domestic processes, than of directing those processes.
A MULTICASE STUDy DESIgN TO gENERATE
AND INvESTIgATE STRATEgIC HyPOTHESES
REgARDINg DEMOCRACy ASSISTANCEFor questions of strategic assessment faced by USAID—Where is spending on democracy assistance likely to pay off? How can we recognize favorable opportunities when they emerge? What kinds of obstacles are likely to prevent typical USAID democracy assistance from being fully effective? Over how long a period is assistance usefully continued under an authoritarian or semiauthoritarian regime or as a postconflict democracy seeks stability?—the committee thought that case studies could be valuable in generating and investigating hypotheses to guide USAID’s allocation of DG resources.
Nonetheless, the committee was unable to agree on a firm recommendation that USAID should invest its own funds in such case studies. Since much case study research on democratization is being undertaken by academics funded by foundations and nongovernmental organizations, the committee could not reach a conclusion on how likely or unlikely this research was to be undertaken if not funded by USAID. By contrast, the improvement of its project evaluations is something that can only by done by USAID and will not be done unless the agency spends its own time and energy mandating that better evaluations be carried out. Thus the committee could agree unanimously to recommend that USAID invest in improving its project evaluations, as described in the following chapters, but not that USAID fund additional case study research of democracy assistance.
If USAID decides to invest in supporting case study research, the committee recommends using a competitive proposal solicitation process to elicit the best designs, similar to what the Strategic and Operational Research Agenda (SORA) undertook to select the design for its large-scale quantitative study (Finkel et al 2007). USAID should not
specify a precise case study design but instead should specify key criteria that proposals must meet:
on a specific region or DG project, but then it should ensure that the cases within that constraint display a sufficient range of levels of USAID investment, of outcomes, and of initial contexts that they will provide a basis for identifying diverse trajectories of democratic change. The cases should
be selected on criteria that will allow insights into the research question:
Why did some countries make greater progress toward democracy than others, and what role did various levels of DG assistance, along with other driving factors, opportunities, and constraints, appear to play in various trajectories of progress or regress? The cases should not be selected on the arbitrary basis of a question such as: What happened in several states where USAID had DG activities?
• The cases should include a variety of initial conditions or contexts in which USAID Dg projects operate.
The previous discussion identified three major contexts in which USAID operates programs of democracy assistance: predemocratic (authoritarian and semiauthoritarian) regimes, transition and posttransition regimes (places where authoritarian regimes no longer hold sway and democratic institutions have begun to dominate), and postconflict regimes (places where state breakdown and violence have recently occurred). Of course, postconflict regimes can be authoritarian or transitioning, and both authoritarian regimes and conflicts vary in their characteristics, as noted above. Thus this categorization only begins to frame contexts. What is crucial is that any research design acknowledge that the impact of USAID DG assistance, and prospects for democratization and stabilization, depends to a large degree on initial conditions, which vary widely across countries where USAID is asked to undertake DG projects.
A good research design should not only incorporate this viewpoint but also seek to investigate how varying initial conditions affected the success of DG programming.
• The cases should include at least one, if not several, countries in which USAID and other donors have made little or no investment in Dg projects.
Current case studies generally weigh observed outcomes in countries with DG projects against the goals of the donors. While this is sensible from one perspective—donors want to know if projects have achieved their professed goals—this is not a sound basis for gaining insights into the role that DG projects play in complex political processes. For example, a recent study of political party assistance that looked only at countries where party assistance projects were implemented concluded that such projects did little to transform political systems into more inclusive and competitive systems (Carothers 2006). Thus the donor expectations were IMPROVING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE not met. Nonetheless, this conclusion does not allow for the possibility that party behavior might have deteriorated much more if no party assistance projects had been in place. If a comparative study that included countries with emerging political parties but few donor projects for party assistance showed that for countries without assistance, political parties tended to deteriorate more rapidly (or to more extreme levels) in regard to corruption, nepotism, factionalism, exclusion, and violence, one might argue that party assistance is effective, at least in holding the line against party capture by individuals or agendas adverse to democracy.
The appropriate standard of comparison is thus not only what donors hoped for from DG projects but also what would have happened in the absence of such projects. By similar logic, in assessing the side effects of DG projects, including possible harm, it is important to know whether the side effects being observed are really consequences of DG assistance or are consequences that tend to arise generally as an aspect of transitions to democracy in certain contexts. Little light can be shed on this possibility unless the multicase design includes countries where DG projects were not present.
• The cases should include countries with varied outcomes regarding democratic progress or stabilization.
Prior USAID multicountry evaluations focus mainly on the degree to which DG projects in those countries met or fell short of donor expectations and sought to explain those shortfalls where they occurred (e.g., Carter 2001, de Zeeuw and Kumar 2006). But such evaluations did not seek out failures or the worst setbacks for detailed study. Nonetheless, sometimes the most useful information for USAID would be why projects were ineffective in particular countries. USAID has come to recognize this, but has moved too far in this direction—so that process evaluations now arise most often only when a project has failed to generate expected results. USAID needs to know both how and why DG projects succeed in various contexts and how and why they fail to generate progress in others. A rich design would include examples of both successful and unsuccessful trajectories in countries where donors have made substantial investments in DG activities.
the above criteria would provide a more comprehensive, more analytically powerful, and more valuable assessment of how democracy assistance affects countries’ trajectories toward democracy than any such studies in the current literature. At the very least, it would help ensure that USAID planners have before them a diverse set of contexts and experiences from which to draw judgments, rather than the past practice of selecting five to nine cases in which USAID has intervened and then seeking to assess the results of those interventions. The committee suggests such a more structured multicase study if SORA wishes to draw on retrospective case study analysis to guide future USAID democracy programming.
However, as noted, the committee was divided over how important it would be for USAID to invest its own funds in such a research effort.
Research on democracy and democracy assistance is now a rapidly growing field in the academic community (e.g., the American Political Science Association has a new section on comparative democratization), and several think tanks (e.g., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Global Development) are supporting studies of democratization or programs to advance good governance. With the growth of interest in democracy assistance in the academic and foundation worlds, many of these issues will be investigated, and USAID may be able, in a few years, to draw on existing sets of case studies to compose a larger multicase comparison, rather than starting it from scratch. For example, a study being undertaken by the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University has a design similar to that laid out in this section (CDDRL 2006:6-7).6 USAID may wish to simply await the completion of such academic studies over the next few years and then determine if it still needs to commission such research or if it can draw on what has already been produced in the public domain.
In sum, USAID may choose, according to its resources, to solicit proposals for comparative case studies that fulfill the above conditions, or it may choose to explore whether existing case study projects being undertaken by academics and NGOs can be tapped and combined to provide a set of case studies that meet these conditions. Either way, the committee urges USAID to encourage and examine works that go beyond the valuable, but incomplete, studies that currently focus on one or more situations in which democracy assistance has been provided. To better understand how democracy assistance affects a country’s trajectory 6 In addition to the CDDRL project, which seeks to place democracy assistance programs in the long-term and national context of diverse factors bearing on trajectories toward democracy, a number of other policy or academic works are exceptional in their breadth and quality of analysis, attending to both domestic and international factors and varying contexts and outcomes. These include particularly the work of Whitehead (1996), Carothers (1999, 2004, 2006), Mendelson and Glenn (2002), and Youngs (2004).
IMPROVING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE to democracy, it is valuable to compare trajectories with and without democracy assistance (or with relatively large and small amounts) and trajectories with varied outcomes.
However, for USAID to benefit from ongoing academic research, as well as the studies of Dg assistance being undertaken by think tanks and NgOs, it will be necessary for USAID to organize regular structured interactions between such researchers and USAID Dg staff. As the committee learned from the Stanford conference, academics do not always present their findings in ways that DG policy professionals find relevant; structured exchange with give and take on specific topics allows academics and professionals to bridge gaps in concepts and policy needs more effectively than passive consumption of such research. One major service that the SORA project could perform would be to devise ways for the more regular introduction of scholars’ research on democracy into structured discussions with USAID Dg personnel.