Effects of Swedish and international democracy support

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 prioritised 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 base 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 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.

Key questions
  • How strong is the existing evidence base on the impact of democracy aid on democracy outcomes?
  • What data and indicators of democracy and democracy aid have the strongest validity and reliability for analysis?
  • Does democracy aid promote processes of democratization and democratic consolidation?  How has Swedish aid performed in particular? What are the main transmission channels through which democracy aid impacts democracy?
  • What types and modalities of democracy aid are most effective? How is this mediated by local contextual factors and institutions? Are there significant differences between bilateral and multilateral aid?
UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The research addresses SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Main subject

Theme: 2019-23, Transforming states