Implications of External Democracy Promotion

Jonas Wolff in HSFK Working Paper No. 5 on the conflicts of objectives brought by external democracy promotion using the example of Bolivia

Promoting democracy from the outside, by definition, implies promoting political empowerment and self-determination. While this creates obvious problems for any external policy oriented at changing authoritarian regimes, for post-transition countries mainstream thinking on democratization suggests a rather easy task for would-be democracy promoters: Cooperation with the elected government strengthens the democratic regime, while democracy assistance that supports institutional capacities and civil society participation simultaneously contributes to the consolidation and the deepening of democracy.


Jonas Wolff argues in his working paper Self-Determination and Empowerment as Challenges to Democracy Promotion. US and German Reactions to Bolivia's "Democratic Revolution" that this view is far too linear and simple. Not only in authoritarian contexts, post-conflict societies and cases of coerced democratization, but also in the broad range of “normal” post-transition countries, democracy promotion is confronted with a series of conflicts of objectives associated with the nature of democracy as self-determination and of democratization as political empowerment.


The paper outlines this general argument and illustrates it with a view to Bolivia and to US and German reactions to the ongoing “democratic revolution” in this South American country.