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Colton Mitchell

Extra Credit: Little Known Agents of Democratization



This talk was about how many countries that have recently democracized are now
reaching out to aid their regional neighbors with democratization. Often we put the context of
democratization as the West helping everyone else in the world become democracies. This
context is seriously lacking the very important interactions betweeen new democracies and their
neighboring autocratic countries.
While the west offers money and a model of democracy to strive for they often lack the
knowledge to teach nations how to go about changing their governments, this is where their
newly democratic neighbors come in. Civil societies that caused the changes in the democratic
country will often continue their work outside of the country, sharing knowledge of how they
affected change. They come in and advise countries on how to use the US aid (money) by telling
them what laws need to be passed and what steps need to be taken in order to reach the western
ideal. Without this advice it would be much harder for countries to undergo democratization.
Not only do these regional agents offer something different than the international foreign
agents of democratization, they also have two distinct advantages when working with other
countries. Regional agents have connections and knowledge of the surrounding area, these
people live here and know the customs of the land. Being connected with the region they are
trying to help makes it much easier to share ideas with influential people and to avoid cultural
blunders that foreigners tend to make. One example of the power of connections is when the
incumbent and newly elected presidents of Ukraine both claimed victory of the election. While
many countries in the west were trying to resolve the matter they turned to their neighbor, Poland
to help mediate the dispute. The second advantage is credibility, people in neighboring countries
Colton Mitchell

know that these civil societies know what they are doing because they just did it in their own
countries.
These regional agents are not without their disadvantages. They lack the money and reach
of western agents. They are also still democracizing themselves which means they could be
pasing on bad examples like human rights violations. Finally, there motivations may get in the
way of their work with democratization. For example, Poland may be supporting the anti-russian
and pro-western groups rather than the groups that favor democratization.
While these regional groups are nto without their limitations and disadvantages it is clear
that they play a critical role in democratization. Without these groups helping their neighbors the
process of democratization would be much slower and less effective. Without these groups
helping to strengthen one another there would most likely be larger waves of reverse-
democratization as well.