Strengthening Civil Society in Africa: The Role of Foreign Political Aid
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Strengthening civil society through the provision of financial resources and technical assistance is viewed by aid donors as an effective means of fostering political pluralism and consolidating fragile democracies in developing countries. Starting from the premise that donors lack a well‐defined notion of civil society which obscures its conflictual nature, this article considers a range of potential problems that aid donors might encounter in relation to the process of democratic consolidation when supporting civil society organizations. It argues that since donors are not well‐equipped to handle these types of interventions, they need to avoid undermining the autonomy and legitimacy of recipient organizations: their absorptive capacity is limited, only certain types of organization are able to contribute effectively to democracy promotion, and little is known about their impact. The objective of strengthening civil society may be laudable but since it is a difficult and potentially hazardous area for external intervention, donors should proceed cautiously and with modest expectations about what might be achieved.
Is part of seriesIDS Bulletin;47.2A
Rights holderInstitute of Development Studies