Thursday, October 27, 2005

Vanderbilt Research Finds U.S. Assistance for Democracy Building Works

To: International Desk, Education Reporter

Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, 615-322-NEWS (6397) or ; or Leigh Ann Wojciechowski, 412-624-4238 or

NASHVILLE, Oct. 27 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Devoting American dollars to democracy building in more than 100 foreign nations has resulted in significant increases in democratic governance around the globe, according to a new study by Vanderbilt University and University of Pittsburgh professors. The study was presented Oct. 27 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

"We found that when the United States spends money to promote democracy in foreign countries, it works," said Mitchell Seligson, Centennial Professor of Political Science and a fellow of the Center for the Americas at Vanderbilt.

"Unlike all prior published research, our data set is based upon an exhaustive survey of the entire democracy portfolio of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) since the end of the Cold War," Seligson said. The study, titled "Effects of U.S. Foreign Assistance on Democracy Building: Results of a Cross-National Quantitative Study," also differs from most previous ones by covering virtually all nations eligible for foreign assistance, and it uses a sophisticated statistical model to draw its conclusions. Another difference is that this grant measured the specific impact of spending on democracy building, rather than the impact of all types of U.S. foreign assistance on increasing democracy

The quantitative study, which covers the entire post-Cold War period from 1990 through 2003, found USAID spending on its "Democracy and Governance" programs had a significant positive impact on democracy. The study also found that the limited amounts of money spent produced only a limited impact on democratic growth. Researchers used data from Freedom House, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes democratic values as one of several measures of each country's level of democracy. Seligson and his University of Pittsburgh colleagues Steve Finkel and Anibal Perez-Linan found that for every 10 million additional dollars of U.S. democracy assistance, a country is predicted to be one-quarter of a point higher on the Freedom House general democracy index, which ranges from two to 14.

The only negative impact the study found for U.S. assistance for democracy building was in the area of human rights. Seligson said there are probable explanations for the correlation between U.S. foreign aid for human rights and reports of increased human rights violations.

"It is quite possible that when the U.S. government gives money to foreign non-governmental human rights organizations, it emboldens them to report or publicize the extent of human rights problems to a greater degree."

Seligson was the principal investigator for the grant from the Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation in Development, a consortium that includes the American Association of Universities and the American Council on Higher Education. The grant was made in cooperation with USAID, the major contributor to democracy promotion worldwide.

The full study will be available by Nov. 30 at .


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