Working Paper
Foreign Aid in Dangerous Places

The Donors and Mali’s Democracy

Mali long seemed a model, low-income democracy. Yet, in a few short weeks in early 2012, more than half of the territory came under the military control of an Islamist secessionist movement, and a military coup deposed the democratically-elected government in the capital. Given the substantial amount of foreign aid received by the democratic regime in the years before these events, this paper asks whether or not foreign aid could have done more to prevent the present outcomes. The paper concludes that it is very difficult to make such an assessment. On the one hand, aid can be credited for helping strengthen key elements of vertical accountability that are necessary for democracy. On the other hand, aid was not very successful at reducing several of the underlying, structural constraints that were to prove the country’s undoing in 2012.