When Does U.S. Democracy Assistance Work?

May 05, 2010
12:00 am - 12:00 am

When Does U.S. Democracy Assistance Work? from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.


Valerie Bunce
Cornell University

About the Event

Under what conditions does U.S. democracy assistance contribute to democratic progress? Scholars and activists do not have a good answer to this important question, as assessments to date of U.S. democracy aid have been based upon either individual case studies (which are unrepresentative) or statistical analyses (which overlook key political dynamics on the ground). The failure to compare the roles of all the actors engaged in struggles for democratic change is also problematic.

Leading democracy scholar Dr. Valerie J. Bunce identified factors that enhance the impact of U.S. democracy and governance assistance by comparing eleven elections that occurred in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia from 1996 to 2008. Each of these elections featured a significant role for U.S. aid.

However, while elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus had the predictable effect of maintaining authoritarian rule, elections in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan had the surprising outcome of producing a victory for the opposition. What explains these contrasting results, and what does that tell us about U.S. democracy assistance?

About the Speaker

Dr. Valerie Bunce is professor of government and international studies at Cornell University, where she served as chair of the Department of Government from 2001 to 2007. She has also taught at Central European University (Budapest) and the University of Zagreb, and recently served as the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

A leading expert on Central and Eastern Europe whose research focuses on comparative democratization and international democracy promotion, Dr. Bunce has written several books, including Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State (1999). She is also the co-editor (along with Michael McFaul and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss) of Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World (2009).

During her fellowship, Dr. Bunce is completing the final version of her new book (co-authored with Sharon Wolchik), which is tentatively entitled Defeating Authoritarian Leaders: International Diffusion and Democratizing Elections in Mixed Regimes (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press) and will begin a new project on “Tricks of the Authoritarian Trade: Stopping Democratic Change.”