Donors and implementers of international development programs increasingly emphasize the goal of self-reliance: working with local partners in a way that builds capacity and ensures sustained results toward a country’s development agenda and eventually eliminates the need for foreign assistance, says Fernanda Buril, a Research Specialist at the Center for Applied Research and Learning at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
Assessing sustainably of the outcomes of assistance programs is not, however, an easy task. Impact evaluations that can rigorously capture long-term outcomes are rare as they are time consuming, costly and difficult to execute, she observes. So IFES revisited 25 years of democracy assistance programs in post-conflict countries, consulting 88 local participants and 28 program implementers, including members of electoral commissions, civil society organizations or political parties who participated in programs with the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Among the conclusions….
Well-prepared institutions were those that had incorporated new staff or equipment maintenance into their own budgets, who had learned how to raise sufficient funds for operations and who had institutionalized technical expertise and created internal mechanisms for dissemination of information. Partners recognized that, when democracy assistance providers provided practical tools and materials to support these efforts, they contributed the most to the autonomy of local institutions. For instance, financial monitoring systems, electoral dispute resolution databases and organizational budget planning tools first introduced over 10 years ago were often still in use.
Fragile and developing democracies are natural targets of authoritarian regimes seeking to expand their sphere of influence, writes Buril, a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Especially in light of this threat, our goal must be not to simply help partner institutions around the globe to survive another election, but to create solid democratic foundations on which we can build together to shield from these authoritarian incursions. RTWT