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WP/028 Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Limits of Foreign Aid on Malawi’s Democratic Consolidation

Since the era of one-party rule, Malawi’s relationship with the donor community has proved erratic and contentious. During the second term of Malawi’s current president, Bingu wa Mutharika, this trend has continued apace, with important implications for the consolidation of the country’s nascent democracy. Donors providing democracy aid have assisted with the conduct of elections and improved the technical capacity of parliamentarians. However, inconsistency across programme cycles, the concentration of funding around elections, and a reluctance to support political parties hinders the size of democracy aid’s long-term impact. Development aid, particularly general budget support, has tended to further sideline the role of parliament and indirectly has provided the incumbent party with an electoral advantage through support for the country’s fertilizer input subsidy programme. To prevent an erosion of democracy caused by violations of civil liberties, donors often have threatened to withhold aid to Malawi. Yet, they frequently only proceed with these threats when concurrent concerns exist over economic governance, including corruption and management of the exchange rate.
WIDER Working Paper
WP/028 Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Limits of Foreign Aid on Malawi’s Democratic Consolidation
Danielle Resnick
Publication date:
March 2012
ISBN 13 Web:
Copyright holder:
Copyright year:
democratic consolidation, donor relations, foreign aid, general budget support, Malawi
D72, F35, N47
This working paper has been prepared within the UNU-WIDER project ‘Foreign Aid and Democracy in Africa’ directed by Danielle Resnick, which is a component of the larger UNU-WIDER programme ‘Foreign Aid: Research and Communication (ReCom)’. UNU-WIDER gratefully acknowledges specific programme contributions from the governments of Denmark (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danida) and Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency—Sida) for the Research and Communication (ReCom) programme. UNU-WIDER also acknowledges core financial support to UNU-WIDER’s work programme from the governments of Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), the United Kingdom (Department for International Development), and the governments of Denmark and Sweden.
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