Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
Evidence exists that democracies are particularly stable, yet also that processes of democratisation are highly susceptible to conflict, especially if democratisation occurs in the aftermath of violent conflict. New research from the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) indicates that external democracy support can help mitigate the destabilising effects of post-conflict demo¬cratisation. Since the 1990s, democracy support has been integral to most peacebuilding efforts. Supporting free and fair elections or a vibrant media seems well-suited for fostering peace: Democratic institutions can actively deal with societal conflicts, in sharp contrast to authoritarian regimes, which often rely on repression. However, altering power relations through more political competition can also trigger power struggles, which newly emerging democratic institutions may have difficulty containing. Therefore, questions arise regarding countries that have embarked on a process of democratisation after civil war: Can democracy support help to mitigate destabilising effects, or does it reinforce them? If it can foster peace, how should it be designed in order to avoid renewed violence?
The wisdom or folly of supporting democracy to build peace after civil war has caused controversy, yet has rarely been tested empirically. This briefing paper summarises findings from DIE research that addresses this gap. The results demonstrate that:
External democracy support that accompanies post-conflict democratisation can help to foster peace after civil war. Importantly, it does not trigger renewed violence.
These results can provide guidance to policy-makers when engaging in post-conflict situations:
Donors should actively accompany post-conflict democratisation processes with substantial democracy support. They should not refrain from offering such support until stability has already proven to be sustain¬able, since it can make an important contribution towards strengthening peace and help in avoiding destabilising effects.