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Elements of Democratic Governance

Discussion Paper*

June 2006

Elements of Democratic Governance Executive Summary The promotion of democracy has become an explicit focus in aid activities and international relations to an extent that was largely unforeseen prior to 1990. These trends, and Canadas own involvement in international democracy promotion, have been the subject of an informal dialogue amongst Canadian practitioners and officials. The following paper, which emerged from these informal discussions, revisits some basic questions concerning the nature of democratic governance, its value, and some of the contemporary challenges in promoting democracy. It concludes with some preliminary considerations about identifying a distinctive approach and points of comparative advantage for Canada. Canada has traditionally approached democratic governance by emphasizing two of the main pillars of the liberal democratic tradition: citizen participation in the determination of government itself and in the broader decision-making processes by which communities are governed; and a rights platform that supports and protects the role of individuals and minorities in the governance process. Canada has an interest in promoting liberal democratic governance for different types of reasons: for the benefits this may bring to citizens abroad and Canadians alike (in terms of peace, security, prosperity, and development dividends); and insofar as some core liberal democratic values are taken to have intrinsic merit and to be universal in scope. In particular, the participation and protection of individuals as basic elements of governance are taken to be valuable in their own right, and are increasingly perceived as key components of state legitimacy in international relations. However, the contemporary challenges facing democracy are many. In regions where democracy is relatively fresh, concerns about its depth or quality are often linked to doubts about its ability to deliver much-needed goods, such as equitable prosperity, development or security. In other cases, the challenges are different in kind: the values at the heart of liberal democracy may be rejected or seen as problematic. In some fragile states, where the main fault-lines are ethnic, racial or religious in nature, democratization may be undertaken in ways that exacerbate preexisting tensions. Electoral democracies may be characterized by authoritarian tendencies and an incomplete commitment to the rights of some, or all, of their citizens. Attempts to undertake reform in the context of foreign political institutions and processes must therefore be acutely sensitive to local context. This includes the need to understand local institutions and change agents within their national and regional contexts; to effectively select and train those delivering democracy assistance; to consider carefully the sequencing of aid; to have local buy in as a necessary condition of success; to consider the ways in which local institutions or indigenous customs might serve as bridging elements for democratic practices; and to look for areas in which Canada has a comparative advantage or niche expertise to offer. __________________________
* This paper reflects discussions amongst the Democracy Council including: Elections Canada, International Development Research Council, Parliamentary Centre, Forum of Federations, National Judicial Institute, Rights and Democracy, Canadian International Development Agency, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

It is clear that Canada has some well-established expertise in promoting some of the key elements of democratic governance, and that Canadian democracy itself has some unique strengths e.g. the promotion of tolerance and the forging of a common identity across major cultural, linguistic and regional differences in Canada to which some of our niche expertise may be well placed to speak internationally. Canada is also perceived in manner that may, at certain times and places, make it a more trusted partner in delivering assistance that can be sensitive and highly political in nature. This would be further encouraged by an approach and largely demand-driven style in which Canadian organizations seek, in the main, to facilitate reform processes and to assist local actors in achieving their own agendas for democratic change. Elements of Democratic Governance 1 Introduction

.1 The extent to which the promotion of democracy has become an explicit focus of aid activities if not an organizing concept or force in the conduct of international relations is significant in a way that was largely unforeseen prior to 1990. In the last decade, there has been an increase in political aid dedicated to the promotion of democracy; an increase in the number of groups and agencies working in this area; the emergence of new international and regional initiatives organized around the promotion of democratic norms and states; a larger role for multilateral organizations invalidating domestic elections and in attempting to build democratic institutions in weak and failed states; and so on. .2 The relative newness and scale of this enterprise is encouraging many democracy practitioners to reflect on the experiences of the past decade and beyond. With this in mind, the following paper revisits some of the basic questions about democratic governance, chiefly: (1) What are some of the essential elements of democratic governance? (2)Why is such governance desirable? And (3) what are some of the key challenges that arise in promoting democracy abroad and adapting Canadian models? Discussion of the latter includes some preliminary comments about identifying comparative advantages for Canada. 2 Elements of Democratic Governance

.1 A theory or definition of democratic governance and conclusions about its applicability in different contexts faces a number of large challenges. A definition might be derived from a number of sources: from Canadas own democratic experience; from international standards and the growing normative architecture that surrounds multilateral efforts to define and promote democratic institutions; from theories of democracy which reflect, and have informed, the growth of Western democracy itself. .2 This paper does not purport to offer a comprehensive definition of democratic governance. Rather, it attempts to capture some of the key elements of democratic governance; to identify some of the relevant considerations concerning its adaptability in different contexts; and to outline some of the areas and ways in which Canadian expertise might suggest a distinctive 3

contribution to the promotion of democratic governance. .3 In 2005, International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) published a ten-year retrospective that includes a succinct discussion of the trends in international democracy assistance and a summary of the principal veins of Western thought with respect to characterizing democracy itself. The following section draws from IDEAs summary, from some of Canadas own statements on the promotion of democracy, and from reflections offered by some of Canadas own practitioners. 3 Conceptual Issues

.1 Two issues that are not always explicitly addressed in discussions of democracy assistance are ones about the nature of democratic governance and its value. What are the essential elements democratic governance and why are they desirable? Cast more broadly: what do we mean by "democracy" (as a system-wide type of governance) and what good is it? The answers are not easy to formulate, though they have important implications, including for the kind of programming a country undertakes in this area and for the way in which aid and other programs are categorized and reported as democracy assistance. They are also germane to the larger objectives that frame or orient such programming, and, ultimately, to the kinds of public justifications that are given for democracy assistance. .2 The core procedural elements of democratic governance are often not contested: there needs to be both competition and popular participation in the determination of government itself. This yields a procedural' conception of democracy about which there is significant consensus in terms of the minimal conditions that would have to obtain in order for the basic governing institutions and practices of a state to be considered democratic.1 Competition, or "contestation," occurs most publicly in the form of multi-party elections, which presuppose freedom of expression and association, and a party and electoral system in order to determine government on the basis of a peaceful, public expression of options and differences. Popular participation gives meaning to the notion of popular sovereignty' or collective self-determination, and hinges crucially on the right to vote.

International IDEA summarizes the main trends in these terms (IDEA, Ten Years of Supporting Democracy Worldwide, 2005, chapter 1). There are other semantic debates not characterized here and the above is a very cursory explication of the concept of democracy within the Western tradition. A number of one-party states would maintain that they are also democratic, and that the relevant distinction is not between democratic and undemocratic governance, per se, but rather between different kinds of democracy, e.g. between representative' and participatory' democracies. A number of one-party states would be "democratic" according to the conceptual boundaries for which they argue, though they would not satisfy the minimal procedural requirements for democracy in the terms noted above. One might continue this debate at the semantic level about what is actually meant by "democracy" but at a certain moment the semantic arguments can be sidelined by talking more directly about the value of free speech and multi-party politics, or those aspects of governance that separate liberal democratic systems from others, including one-party states.

.3 Most of the key differences over definitions of "democracy" arise with respect to how robustly the concept of democracy should be characterized beyond its core procedural aspects. "Liberal" and "social" definitions maintain the core procedural content but adopt more expansive accounts of the rights and institutions by which a democracy is defined.2 Liberal definitions emphasize civil, political, property and minority rights; they also place increased, explicit emphasis on institutional checks and balances, accountability to citizens, and equality with respect to representation and participation. Social definitions of democracy adopt the procedural and liberal content (and the inherent constraints on the exercise of majority rule), while expanding the notion of what it means for a state to be democratic to include the protection and promotion of social and economic rights. .4 In brief, Canadian practice has been not simply to promote democracy in its procedural form, but rather liberal democracy, with its emphasis on the enshrinement of rights and protection of individuals and minorities. Some of Canadas initial forays into the promotion of democratic development were aimed largely at fostering greater participation in decision-making and political processes. The report that led to the creation, in 1988, of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development underlined this approach: ...The notion of democracy we have adopted, and which we believe must define and inspire Canadian assistance in this area, is quite simply the participation of citizens in decision-making which affects their lives...The ultimate objective is to assist the population to develop the ability to intervene on its own behalf in the decision-making process at the local, regional and national level and to assist the public powers to create institutions to safeguard the rights and liberties of citizens.3 .5 The decision to focus on the rights and political engagement of citizens was anchored not in the promotion of a particular Canadian brand or model of democracy or development, but rather in principles contained in the International Bill of Rights. This unites the two principal strands of the liberal democratic tradition: on one side, the centrality of participation in shaping and legitimating decision-making processes and the formation of government itself; on the other, a rights platform to support and protect the role of individuals in the democratic process. .6 A tentative and simple matrix that captures some of the key aspects of constitutional liberal democracy might include the elements shown below. It should perhaps be re-emphasized that the following list is provisional and is not intended as a definition; by no means does it offer a list of individually necessary and jointly sufficient elements, including the relations between them, that would serve as a formal definition of liberal democratic governance. The undertaking is far more modest and is simply meant to capture some but not all of the basic ingredients of democratic governance; and some but not all of the key points of engagement between formal institutions


As quoted in Gerald Schmitz, The Role of International Democracy Promotion in Canadas Foreign Policy, IRPP, Vol. 5, no. 10, November 2004.

and civil society actors.

Democratic Element Elections

Institutional Aspects - Independent electoral commission(s)

Civil Society Aspects - Political Parties - Citizen and Youth Engagement organizations - Rules governing the creation, funding, and administration of parties - Functions fulfilled by political parties and other organizations - Effective representation of interests, including those of women and minorities - Human rights organizations - Groups representing thematic rights issues (e.g. womens rights, environmental groups) - Groups representing vulnerable members of the population - Academics and universities - Primary and secondary educators - Range and effectiveness of civil society groups - Mechanisms for interaction with political process - Legal standing - Role of education

Possible Indicators:

- Free, fair, and regular elections - Free if substantive rights are protected, contested by multiple parties - Fair if procedural guarantees are in place

Human Rights

- Courts - National and sub-national human rights institutions (commissions and ombudsmen) - Government departments with mandate for promotion and protection of human rights - Arms-length institutions with mandates for promotion and protection of human rights - Constitutional/legal protections - International commitments - Independent commissions and other institutional mechanisms for redress - Political/economic/social/ cultural barriers to effective implementation/enjoyment of rights

Possible Indicators:

Court/Judicial system - Judges, courts - Law Commissions - Arms-length institutions with mandate to support and train

- Bar associations - Law firms - Law faculties - Legal Aid

Possible Indicators:

- Well-trained and independent judiciary - Rules governing appointment and terms of office - Relations (formal/informal) with executive and legislative branches - Rules governing due process and judicial decision-making - Institutions/organizations/ businesses dedicated to the dissemination of information, including national and subnational networks - Relevant government departments and agencies, regulating/promoting the flow of information - Regulations/policies governing communications and technology - Ownership and control of media and means of communication - Impediments to free flow of information - Legislature (upper and lower chambers) - Legislative committees - Arms-length institutions with mandate to support legislators - Size, composition, powers - Governing rules and relationship with executive - Mechanisms for accountability

- Adequate training for legal experts - Access to judicial system for citizens


- Groups dedicated to the protection of journalists/free speech - Education and institutions dedicated to the professional training of media personnel

Possible Indicators:

- Limitations on/protections of free speech - Treatment of journalists/CSOs - Legal standing - Support for programs to train and enhance media - Political parties - Associations of legislators - Associations of former legislators - Lobby groups - Effectiveness of parties, lobby groups - Insertion in the political process and rules governing financing and operation - Legal standing - Lobby groups


Possible Indicators:


- Executive office and advisors

Possible Indicators:

- Size, composition, powers - Effectiveness of mechanisms - Governing rules and relationship for citizen interaction with with legislature executive - Mechanisms for accountability - Auditor General - Courts - Police, secret service and military complaint and review commissions - Ethics commissioner - Powers, mandate - Relations with executive and legislature - Terms of office - Professional civil service - Auditor general - Comptroller - Administrative courts and tribunals - Mechanisms of accountability, including anti-corruption measures/agencies - Codes of ethics and rules governing malfeasance - Relations with executive and legislature - Levels of government - Key branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) - Key documents establishing basic rights of citizens and institutions/procedures of government - Media - Human Rights Organizations

Civilian oversight mechanisms

Possible Indicators:

- Rules governing access to information - Extent of critical review of oversight mechanisms/institutions - Public service commissions - Ombudsmen - Ethics Commissioner(s)

Public sector management, including public finances Possible indicators

- Rules and practices governing advancement/promotion - Reviews conducted of institutional performance


- Associations of officials at national and sub-national officials - Political and legal advocacy groups - NGOs, CSOs

Possible Indicators

Clearly defined levels and branches of government, including relationships between - Effectiveness and interaction of different levels of government - Entrenchment of basic rights and procedures by which government and key offices are filled - Definition of procedures for amending constitution

- Platform of constitutionallyprotected rights and procedures by which citizens engage with different levels and branches of government

.7 The design of the matrix is intended to suggest that many of the elements of democratic governance have both (a) an institutional dimension and (b) a public interface that provides for citizen engagement with the formal institutions themselves. For example, as political institutions, democratic legislatures are filled on the basis of elections, and governed according to rules set out in legal and constitutional provisions, along with conventional rules. But their functioning also depends on the existence and operation of groups such as political parties, lobby groups and other associations through which citizens interests are aggregated, represented and ultimately reflected in the work of legislatures. .8 This approach also coheres with some of the original thinking that defined Canadas approach to the promotion of democracy abroad. It is motivated by the consideration that, as one Canadian practitioner suggested, ...democracy should be understood both as a political structure, as well as a space within which citizens can participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect their lives. In this optic, building an enduring democratic system involves building the trust between government and governed and strengthening the nexus between institutions and citizenship. In terms of assisting the development of democratic practices and institutions, this approach also suggests that there will be a variety of entry points with respect to a particular element: assisting with the development of a new constitution might, for example, be approached both as an exercise in system design and as one in which the capacity of local stakeholders to inform the design process itself are both seen as integral parts of democratic governance. .9 The inclusion of possible indicators is highly provisional and not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. Rather, they are simply meant to indicate some of the assessment criteria that would be relevant to a determination of the existence and quality of democratic governance. The criteria by which the formal institutions are assessed would include the rules governing the functioning of the institutions themselves, their composition, the creation of mechanisms of accountability, etc. Those pertaining to civil society would include the rights platform which supports citizen engagement, and the composition, functioning, and effectiveness of such groups, etc. Even then, such a snapshot would at best help to capture some of the key formal and informal elements of democratic governance. It would be subject to the important caveat that many exogenous factors not reflected in such a matrix e.g. the economic, social, cultural and other countryspecific realities that surround the political process itself will bear intimately on the quality of democracy that is, in practice, achieved. 9

.10 Democratic governance, in whichever terms it comes to be defined, need not be taken as a synonym for good governance, though it will often be considered as a necessary (but not sufficient) condition of the latter. Certainly, not all democratic governance will, in fact, be good either in design or in output and it perhaps remains an open question if all good (political) governance is necessarily democratic.4 At any rate, the kind of distinction between governance that is good and that which is democratic is a clear one in principle: it is one between the quality and the type of governance. 4 Normative Issues

.1 With respect to the larger objectives or reasons for which democracy and good governance ought to be promoted, three types of justifications might, in broad terms, be offered. In the first instance (and from the standpoint of development agencies in particular) fostering governance that is both good and democratic in nature is primarily a question of promoting the best enabling environment for the effective use of aid money: good governance is taken to be a necessary condition of the optimal use of development funds with a view to reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. .2 In much the same way that good governance is pursued in order to achieve developmental goals, democratic values and institutions are, secondly, pictured as means to the achievement of desirable political or economic ends, such as security, peace, or prosperity. In other words, democratic political systems are instrumentally valuable in the realization of other goods or objectives. Some, if not many, of the goods in question such as peace or prosperity can be both intrastate (good for their citizens) and interstate (good for the international order) in nature. The "Democratic Peace Proposition" that mature democratic states do not go to war -- is perhaps the most common thesis regarding the international utility of democratic states.5 The security agenda of many Western states is predicated on similar reasoning: efforts to promote inclusive, accountable, democratic structures are ultimately good for the security of individuals, for particular states, and for international security more generally. .3 Thirdly, some core liberal democratic values are taken to have intrinsic merit and to be universal in scope. This is the sense in which democratic governance might be promoted as an "end in itself," that is, for reasons that are not solely contingent upon the added benefits that governing democratically may achieve. This is a stronger claim, different in kind, and is the more controversial and difficult case to make. The core idea can be articulated in different ways, but invariably turns on the notion that what is intrinsically valuable about liberal democracy is the
USAID views democracy and good governance as mutually reinforcing yet distinct in nature. For instance: Democracy as reflected in free, fair, and competitive elections is not strictly necessary for good governance. And it is quite possible to have bad governance under the formal structures of democracy.... (USAID, Promoting Democratic Governance, However, particularly where democratization and state-building take place concurrently, such as in failed and fragile states, the proposition likely fails to reflect the tenuous nature of democracy and the proximity of potential conflict, be it conflict with a neighbouring states or within a single state.
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central importance it attaches to the protection and participation of individuals in the very definition of the system itself. .4 A few cursory remarks might be added concerning the relationship between democratic governance and legitimacy. Legitimacy within a democratic system of governance is often also seen to be a function of some of the basic principles and procedures of the system itself. Those wielding power are accountable to citizens through the regular holding of free and fair elections; government is legitimate insofar as it arises from the consent of the governed. More robust characterizations of legitimacy are possible. Liberal democrats will posit that legitimate forms of government not only arise from the consent of the governed but also protect basic rights and freedoms and thereby recognize inherent limits on the exercise of the state's own power. .5 The concept of legitimacy and, in practice, what it takes, subjectively, for citizens to feel that their governments are legitimate may, in the end, require more yet. It may hinge not simply on the processes and restraints according to which the use of power is authorized, but also on the aims and performance of government itself. But whatever the formula for legitimacy' may be, the participation and protection of individuals in the basic design and workings of a political system might be seen as some of the essential ingredients not just of democratic but also of legitimate forms of government. In this account, the two are closely tied. .6 Internationally, at least two developments are striking in this regard in the post 1989-1991 period: the extent to which the international community has come increasingly to treat "free and fair" elections as a more fundamental constituent of legitimate government; and that there is now an expanded international role in legitimating the elections by which (some) governments are formed i.e. this is no longer necessarily taken to be a strict matter of domestic competence. Both might be seen, in part, as a natural outcome of greater international involvement in the management of intrastate conflicts, post-1990. The UN and other regional organizations have been drawn not simply into the business of state- and institution-building, but also into validation' exercises such as the monitoring of domestic elections. .7 A corollary to these trends has been a greater focus in international and regional fora on the normative architecture' that underpins multilateral efforts to promote free and fair elections' and democratic institutions. One implication seems to be that international legitimacy is coming to be seen perhaps far less in terms of sovereignty in the traditional sense, involving a national governments ability to exercise effective control over a given territory, and more in terms of a governments ability to meaningfully demonstrate that its rule is based on the will of those it claims to represent and legitimately govern.6 The holding of free and fair elections is often seen, in this interpretation, as a sine qua non condition of legitimate government based on popular

For example, the argument in favour of an emerging democratic entitlement' in international law is covered in Democratic Governance and International Law, Fox and Roth, 2000, chapter 1.


sovereignty.7 5 Context: Challenges to Democracy

.1 A list of contemporary challenges facing democratic governance is likely to be extensive and to include considerations that are different in kind. The following sections identify merely some of the different kinds of relevant challenges, along with others that arise in adapting our own models and knowledge to suit foreign contexts. The ultimate goal of an extended treatment of this topic would be to arrive at a clearer notion of the elements or principles of a distinctive Canadian approach to the provision of democracy assistance and to confronting some of the current challenges facing democracy. .2 Concerns about the efficacy and quality of democratic governance have, roughly speaking, kept pace with the rise in the sheer number of democratic states. The concerns are certainly not unique to the South or to transitional states where democracy is new. The notion of a democratic deficit has variously been applied to some of the well-established institutions of older democracies, and, as well, to some of the international institutions, non-state actors and others that have come to play a more predominant role in a globalized world. .3 Concerns about the depth or quality of democracy in states or regions where democracy is relatively fresh are often linked to doubts about its efficacy about the extent to which democratic governance is robust or substantial enough to adequately address fundamental problems. Where democratic governance is promoted as a means to the achievement other important objectives, such as peace, development or security, it may be seen as ineffective if the desired results do not obtain. This is a challenge the likes of which is not unfamiliar in many contemporary criticisms of democracy, with some arguing that it does not deliver, or does not deliver enough, or does not deliver quickly enough be it equitable prosperity, development, security or other goods. .4 Latin America is instructive in this regard. Conclusions contained in a 2004 UNDP report on the state of democracy in Latin America were re-confirmed and extended in reports concerning public perceptions of democracy in the region, issued after the UNDP survey.8 A main preoccupation, reflected in both public perception and empirical data, is about the extent to which democratic governance can effectively generate equitable prosperity throughout the region. Real GDP per capita did not significantly increase over a 20 year period, while the absolute
The international acceptance of a states responsibility to protect its citizens reflects convergence around the norm that sovereignty implies not just effective control but also the will and capacity to provision some of the basic public goods that are essential to individual security and wellbeing. Similarly, the above interpretation suggests that sovereignty is fundamentally anchored in, and should be responsive to, popular will it does not simply arise from, nor merely aim to achieve, the wielding of effective control within the boundaries of a given territory. See in particular Oxford Analytica reports of November 4, 2005, Strong economy does not help democracy, and of May 13, 2004, Doubts over democratic development.
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number of Latin Americans living in poverty increased, in a region that registered significant democratic gains but maintains the highest levels of inequality in the world. Findings suggested that politics and political parties were not well-regarded; they were seen as largely irrelevant to addressing fundamental issues of social rights and justice. It was found that over half of Latin Americans would favour authoritarian rule if it were to solve economic problems. .5 A separate set of challenges concerns the values of democratic governance themselves and the ways in which they are put into practice. In some cases, there may be a fundamental aversion to governance based on liberal democratic values (an aversion that may at times be rooted in the maintenance of elite or partial interests); in others, governance may be democratic in many of its formal and procedural aspects, but fail to achieve a substantive commitment to a form of governance that is, in practice, inclusive and tolerant with respect to all members of society. Governance may be democratic in its formal or procedural aspects yet retain authoritarian and illiberal tendencies.9 In some weak and failed/fragile states, democratization can be undertaken in ways that, while incorporating some of the essential attributes of democracy such as free speech, the formation of political parties, and the holding of elections serve to exacerbate preexisting tensions along ethnic, racial or religious lines. .6 Democratic governance might, then, be rejected or resisted, or seen as undesirable, for different sorts of reasons, ranging from the values on which it is based or its perceived ineffectiveness in producing other benefits, to the way in which it might negatively impinge on the interests of local actors or elites. Part of the challenge in selling' democracy is to show that it can be flexible and sensitive to local circumstance; that it permits of degrees' or grades' in implementation over time; that it can be effective in achieving other goals; and that, at its core, it is persuasive and powerful in its appeal to the democratic empowerment and protection of individuals. As the views of Canadian practitioners also suggest in following section, a clear sense of which indigenous actors favour enhanced democratic governance, and on what basis, should inform any effort to support indigenous efforts to promote democratic governance. 6 Canadian Practice

.1 In addressing the many challenges inherent in democracy promotion, accepted doctrine is that an understanding of local/national context is fundamental, including analysis of the way in which such factors as economic wealth, institutional history, ethnic divisions, social class, etc., affect
Thomas Carothers argues that most so-called transitional states are located in a democratic gray zone characterized by considerable diversity in political patterns: ...what is often thought of as an uneasy, precarious middle ground between full-fledged democracy and outright dictatorship is actually the most common political condition today of countries in the developing world and the post-communist world. (T. Carothers, The End of the Transition Paradigm, Journal of Democracy Volume 13, Number 1 January 2002). Carothers offers a basic typology of states that occupy that democratic gray zone based on the syndromes they exhibit: those which suffer from a static and ineffective pluralism; and those in which a single party, personality or movement has come to dominate. In both cases, states are weak and, though perhaps democratic in many formal aspects, the quality or depth of democratic governance is poor.


the formal political process. One objective is to ensure that the design of democratic assistance is informed by an appreciation of the structural features that impinge on democratic governance. Perhaps more fundamentally, democratic assistance comes to be seen -- by some, at least -- as less about building a fixed set of democratic institutions and more about assisting the process of altering political relations within a given society. .2 Reflections from some of Canadas practitioners confirm, at a practical level, the importance of a number of aforementioned considerations in undertaking democracy programming: They underscore the importance of understanding local institutions and change agents, and the need to connect such an understanding with an appreciation of more general dynamics at play in the reform and political processes. The effective selection and training of those delivering assistance is critical, including the study of local contexts in order to adapt and translate Canadian experiences in the most appropriate fashion. The importance of determining a sequence of aid delivery that is appropriate to local circumstance is often emphasized. Local buy in is a necessary condition of success. As one Canadian practitioner emphasised: Every evaluation of democracy development programming has shown that without the precondition of local commitment and engagement, outside assistance, no matter how badly needed, is likely to be ineffective or of marginal benefit. Local institutions or indigenous customs might serve as valuable bridging elements for democratic practices, particularly where democracy assistance is conceived fundamentally to be the kind of activity that should respond and adapt to local demand and custom. The most useful types of Canadian engagement often occur in areas where Canada has a comparative advantage or niche expertise to offer. Local Knowledge .3 Many Canadian organisations active in promoting democracy are relatively specific in the institutions or themes which comprise the focal point of their work. In this respect, the type of local knowledge that is required varies both according to the nature of the institutional or thematic focus and the time-frame for engagement. For instance, some types of assistance, such as that undertaken to support electoral processes, is more short-term in nature, and characterized by a need for higher volumes of time-sensitive information in order to deliver electoral assistance. Longer-term engagement might, by contrast, require that a more detailed understanding of the workings of a host institution be assembled and modified over time. .4 At least three types of information are of particular relevance with respect to local institutions. First, practitioners need a thorough understanding of the essential characteristics of the institution in question, including such things as its performance, organizational capacity, culture, prevailing values, previous efforts to reform or strengthen the institution, etc. Such 14

information should be collected from different sources or angles, including local actors from inside and outside the institution in question. (In practice, inside actors have a propensity to exaggerate the degree of commitment to change and to downplay the impediments to reform.) Information of this kind is useful, among other reasons, in determining where change can occur within an organization possibly, as separate from where it is most badly needed or sought. Promoting change in surer or safer areas can build confidence and have positive effects on other parts of the organization. .5 A second type of information pertains to the environment surrounding a particular institution, including the political system, socioeconomic conditions, other stakeholders and international actors. As one practitioner noted: The commonest weakness of democracy programming has been to treat the institution in question as an island unto itself, unconnected to the surrounding environment....The institutions that most need strengthening (like judiciaries and legislatures) are often too connected to the surrounding environment to be able to develop the institutional autonomy necessary for effective functioning. Situating particular democratic institutions in their broader political context helps to identify the extent to which there is real will and capacity for change or impediments to change in other parts of the system itself.

Third, those who deliver assistance need to identify key partners, including those who favour change within the organization and those on the outside who might act as local/national capacity builders and deliver programming in their own right. The latter involves learning more about indigenous capacities for training and education, and is motivated, in part, by a recognition that building local capacity helps to enhance direct stakes in reform and to avoid suspicions concerning the hidden agendas of those working in this area. By helping people achieve their own agendas for democratic change rather than exporting our own, noted one expert, Canadians can and often do earn a rare degree of trust in democracy promotion. Canadian Approach and Comparative Advantages .7 The suggestion has been made that the latter that is, an approach in which Canada seeks to facilitate reform processes and to respond to demands for democratic change that exist independently of external involvement -- might, in fact, be one of the defining elements of a distinct Canadian approach to democracy assistance. It would reflect a demand-driven approach to assistance, and implicitly builds on a number of the previous conclusions, including the importance of establishing local buy in and agents of change, and the greater likelihood of success in assisting or facilitating as opposed to driving indigenous processes of change. .8 Identifying Canadian strengths or areas of comparative advantage might be done in different ways. One might ask: (1) what sort of experience and expertise has Canada accumulated through its aid programs and arms-length and other institutions, and where, in that regard, has Canada built expertise that perhaps distinguishes it from other countries? A second question might be: (2) What are the unique aspects or strengths of the Canadian democratic system itself and how are these aspects reflected or focussed in the kinds of assistance that Canada delivers? Another approach might be to ask: (3) Are there particular geographic regions or institutional fora in 15 15

which Canada has particular strengths or advantages, or a history of positive engagement on which to build? .9 Canadas arms-length (and other) institutions have accumulated considerable experience with respect to delivering assistance focussed on some of the key elements of liberal democratic governance. By way of one example, one organization suggested the following five broad clusters as among the potential areas in which Canada would have a comparative advantage: public sector management (broadly conceived to include public administration reform, financial management and the interface between public and private corporate sectors); sub-national governance, including fiscal federalism; the participation of civil society in public decision making; legal and judicial reform; and anti-corruption. Other potential strengths could be added. .10 In addressing strengths within Canadas own system and the institutional fora in which Canada might have a special role to play, a number of answers might also be given. Multicultural and linguistic policies have often been suggested as areas in which innovative approaches have been taken to promoting tolerance and common identity across major cultural and linguistic differences in Canada. Federalism in the Canadian context also works in a number of unique ways to accommodate within a single nation vast spaces and important regional differences. With respect to arriving at a more comprehensive assessment of the particular countries, regions, or institutions in which Canada may have a special role to play, a fuller discussion is clearly warranted, and would also need to be informed by consideration of Canadian priorities and capacities for increased engagement and how these might connect with, or reflect, niche expertise for Canada.

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