What is democracy’s value? The Influence of Values on the Effectiveness of Democracy Promotion

The project “What is democracy’s value?” contributes to the research that informs the implementation of goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Agenda as well as to theory building in academic research on political regime developments. It examines the impact of societal and individual values on the effectiveness on democracy promotion. Two questions will be answered: First, how do value emphases affect the effectiveness of democracy promotion? Second, with which instruments can democracy be effectively promoted under these conditions of contested values?

Project Lead:
Julia Leininger

Project Team:
Merran Hulse
Daniel Nowack

Tina Freyburg, Universität St. Gallen

Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)

Time frame:
2015 - 2018 / completed

Project description

The decreasing international legitimacy as well as stagnating democratisation processes across the globe challenge the credibility and effectiveness of democracy promotion. Why do studies on effectiveness of democracy promotion reveal a mixed record? How can goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Agenda (i.e. building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions) be implemented successfully under these conditions?

The research and policy advice-project „Is democracy of value?” aims at investigating the importance of value orientations in international democracy and governance promotion. It is assumed that the interaction of societal value orientations and political attitudes of the actors that participate in the democracy promotion process influence the effectiveness of democracy and governance promotion. Not only are international actors’ value orientations expressed through the promoted objectives (i.e. democracy), but also through the choice of the instruments of democracy promotion. Secondly, the project considers how well the actors’ societal and political value orientations (with regards to the promotion objective as well as its instruments) fit. Only if these are sufficiently similar to one another, support is expected to be effective. Thirdly, the formation of democratic value orientations is an important contribution to the consolidation of democratic structures.

The comparative analysis examining under which conditions values can positively impact the effectiveness of democracy promotion addresses two empirical domains. The transferability of particular democratic principles, such as political equality, is examined by means of legislative reforms (i.e. family law and LGBTI); the value constellations on democratic processes are investigated by looking at attempts of extending presidential term limits. African societies are the regional focus of the project.

The research project connects to public and scientific discourses about the universality, resp. the context-dependence of democracy and contributes to the identification of supportive normative prerequisites as well as of adequate instruments for effective democracy promotion. A particular analytical value-added to the research on democracy promotion is achieved by integrating the micro-level in the analysis.