Effects of Swedish and international democracy aid

Democracy aid is a significant component of development cooperation. As a share of total aid, it has increased steadily since the mid-1990s. In 2018, countries in the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) devoted roughly 10 per cent of overseas development assistance (ODA) to this area. Sweden, whose bilateral democracy aid reached 30 per cent in 2018, is consistently one of the highest contributors among DAC donors.

While the world has witnessed significant progress towards democracy, especially since the end of the Cold War, recent years show concerning trends in democratic backsliding. Such trends have worrying global implications for civil liberties and political rights, as well as for inclusive development and international stability.

In 2019, Sweden launched the ‘Drive for Democracy’ initiative, making support for democracy central to its foreign policy, including security, development, and trade policy. Implicitly, such an initiative entails the message that supporting democracy not only is intrinsically important, but also has been instrumentally effective.

This report reconsiders the evidence on democracy aid. It asks: Does democracy aid ‘work’? How? Under what conditions might it work better? It draws both on a new systematic review of the existing literature and on a new international comparative analysis using multiple advanced econometric methods. The analysis covers 148 countries during the period 1995-2018.

Download report on EBA website