Sheila Carapico examines the paradoxes of political aid in the Arab world [VIDEO]

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As part of the Arab Reform and Democracy Program's speaker series, University of Richmond Political Scientist Sheila Carapico discussed findings from her ground-breaking study Political Aid and Arab Activism: Democracy Promotion, Justice, and Representation (Cambridge University Press, 2013) which explores two decades’ worth of projects sponsored by American, European, and other transnational agencies in four key sub-fields: the rule of law, electoral design and monitoring, female empowerment, and civil society. European and US-based scholars and practitioners have debated the purposes and sometimes the (limited) macro-effects of programs designed to promote transitions from authoritarianism to democracy in Middle East countries. Yet this discussion often lacks analysis of on-the-ground experiences or ignores the cumulative wisdom of local counterparts and intermediaries. Carapico discussed controversies and contradictions surrounding projects in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq (the three main cases) and Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon (where democracy brokers also work) to help explain why so many feminists and other advocates for justice, free elections, and civic agency concluded that foreign funding is inherently political and paradoxical.