28. November 2017 | EDP Wire | Nora Berger-Kern

Review of “External Democracy Promotion and Diversity Among International Agencies – Evaluating Variances in the Impact of the UNDP and the EC in Rwanda” by Simone Beetz

This EDP wire contribution presents a review of Simone Beetz’ 2017 empirical analysis on “External Democracy Promotion and Diversity Among International Agencies – Evaluating Variances in the Impact of the UNDP and the EC in Rwanda”. Simone Beetz is currently a public relations manager at Goethe University Frankfurt. Her book – a revised version of her dissertation – was published by Budrich UniPress. For more information please click here.

In her book, Beetz analyzes and compares the results of external democracy promotion policy by two international agencies, namely the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission (EC), in Rwanda since the first parliamentarian and presidential elections in 2003 up to 2013 with a selective outlook until today. Given the fact that there are “common democracy promotion policies” (Beetz 2017: 283) and since both organizations “share a common framework and address a broad range of democratic dimensions” (Beetz 2017: 17), Beetz assumes that these two international agencies should have a similar impact on democratization in Rwanda. Interestingly, she finds results to differ notably, even though both the UNDP and the EC are supposedly promoting “similar interests and strategies according to the liberal paradigm” (Beetz 2017: 283) and even though the establishment of democracy is said to be a norm in the field of international relations. Analyzing the reasons for the differing policy results and addressing impact variances in relation to theoretical assumptions thus becomes Beetz main research objective.

In order to analyze the impact of external democracy promotion policies from both the UNDP and the EC, Beetz develops a broad-based analytical evaluation tool. She starts by defining democracy promotion as the main aim of international organizations and describes how democracy influences international agencies. By working her way through different approaches of democracy theory, Beetz points out their differences, similarities and contradictions in order to develop five dimensions of democracy.

By taking different components of democracy theory and integrating them into a concept for evaluating international agencies’ democracy promotion impact, Beetz is creating a broad-based analytical tool, enabling her to address variances in the impacts on democratization in Rwanda with a connection to theoretical assumptions. Her comparative impact evaluation builds the foundation for the empirical analysis and therefore enables Beetz to identify international agencies’ variances in external democracy promotion.

The dimensions Beetz is integrating in her tool derive from Beetham’s and Diamond’s 1994 model of the so-called pyramid of democracy, which consists of four interrelated areas; these areas are further distinguished into “free and fair elections, open and accountable government, a democratic society, and civil and political rights” (Beetz 2017: 57) and she also borrows from Diamond and Morlino’s 2005 approaches to democracy. The dimensions consist of the following analytical components: multi-party elections, institutionalization, the rule of law, economic development, civil society and political culture.

In her comparative case studies, Beetz not only compares the agencies’ approaches to external democracy promotion in Rwanda, but goes further to compare each dimension of democracy in order to define characteristics for their differences. In fact, as some researchers have already assumed in different, rather state-related cases, the impact on democratization of the two organizations isn’t quite similar. Rather, Beetz identifies four major outcomes in her empirical analysis:

(1) Although both agencies emphasize as their main goal the spread of democracy worldwide, the EC and the UNDP do not share a common view on democracy. Their strategies and implementation of external democracy promotion differ: before the genocide, the “’one size fits all’ approach” implemented by both organizations turned out to have a mainly negative impact on democratization in Rwanda (Beetz 2017: 155), since then, “broader modifications of the liberal model paradigm” in each organizations’ democratization approach became visible (Beetz 2017: 37).

(2) The roles of both organizations have changed over time “due to institutional changes and concept adaptions” (Beetz 2017: 37), and contrary to expectations, there is not much interaction between the UNDP and the EC on the ground or on the strategical level either.

(3) Beetz finds that the motives of actors influence the impact on democratization and since the democracy promotion concepts are different, the strategies are too, which results in impact variances on the ground. In comparison with the EC for example, the UNDP is pursuing a broad-based approach to democracy and has a stronger impact on civil society or institutionalization. The EC in return has a greater impact on economic development.

(4) Ultimately, Beetz finds that by categorizing and measuring these variations on the institutional, the state and the grassroots level, a concept of variances can be conceptualized, which includes various dimensions of democracy and which can be applied for various agencies. The concept of variances enables the researcher to distinguish between the following three factors:

  • Principles of democracy promotion
  • Forms of democracy promotion and
  • Quality of democracy promotion.

The principles of democracy promotion Beetz identifies include: “priorities/inferiorities, individualist/collective, and innovative/conservative” (Beetz 2017: 288). Forms of democracy promotion include: “centralized/decentralized structures, direct/indirect influence, and monetary/non-monetary” factors and finally, as regards to the quality of democracy promotion, Beetz identifies the following factors: “moderate/intense, selective/continuous, and inclusive/exclusive” (Beetz 2017: 288).

Generally, Beetz’ reason to choose Rwanda for her research is linked to the overall subject of external democracy promotion: after the genocide, efforts to establish democracy in Rwanda turned out to be the focal point of many international organizations, even though the government of Rwanda seems to favor economic development over the establishment of democratic structures.

For her analysis, Beetz has chosen both the UNDP and the EC for their exceptional role as key actors in external democracy promotion: both have engaged in the field of democracy promotion for several years in a large number of countries, where they are generally based for quite a while and offer extensive support. Although there are a number of organizations situated in Rwanda, in order to conduct a comparative empirical analysis, Beetz has decided to go for the UNDP and the EC since they seem “to be the most similar actors in democracy promotion on site, champion a common democracy norm, and have the closest coordination opportunities through their multilateral agreements” (Beetz 2017: 35).

In her empirical survey, Beetz is working with both qualitative and quantitative data, consisting of primary documents, semi-structured interviews, indexes and analysis. On the basis of the data, Beetz defines UNDP’s and EC’s roles as international actors and strategies within the field of democracy promotion. Her research points out different advantages and disadvantages of each external democracy promotion approach, such as for example the ability to have greater impact on specific areas such as economy or civil society. It also explains the reasons for the occurring variances.

Beetz’ empirical analysis offers in-depth information on the EC’s and the UNDP’s external democracy approaches in light of international organizations being so far underrepresented in external democracy promotion research. Her detailed and well researched analysis of the EC and the UNDP in Rwanda allows for insights in the conceptual diversity of the international organizations’ external democratization approaches that have been so far been neglected.



Nora Berger-Kern is a Master of International Studies / Peace and Conflict Studies candidate at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main since 2017. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and works as a student research assistant for the EDP network at Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). Her research interests include human rights, international humanitarian law and humanitarian interventions. 

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