Multiple Principals, Multiple Agents: EU and US Democracy Assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa [Dec. 2014]


Karen Del Biondo

Postdoctoral Scholar at CDDRL, 2012-2013;

Postdoctoral Fellow, KFG Transformative Power of Europe,

Free University of Berlin, 2013-2014


This paper investigates under which conditions the EU and the US take a political or developmental approach to democracy assistance. It aims to find out whether the approach differs among the relevant sources of democracy assistance: the European Development Fund (EDF), European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), Instrument for Stability (IfS), US Agency for International Development (USAID), National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Based on the combination of interests and institutions, it is predicted that a developmental approach is more likely in the case of strategically important countries, but only for USAID, the EIDHR, the EDF and the IfS which are subject to political control. In this case, USAID is expected to be more developmental than the EDF, given the strong political control of the State Department. Based on the combination of ideas and institutions, USAID and the EDF are expected to be more developmental as their main objective is development. In comparison to USAID, the EDF is expected to be more developmental, as the EDF is co-decided with the government. Empirically, the paper analyzes democracy assistance in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ethiopia since 2005. Ethiopia and Kenya are strategically important, and thus we expect a more developmental approach than in Rwanda and Zimbabwe. An analysis of democracy assistance disconfirmed the importance of interests and institutions. Transatlantic differences can better be explained by ideas and institutions, particularly the fact that the EDF is co-decided by the government. Two explanations are put forward for the relative unimportance of interests and institutions. First, it is believed that the openness of the government defines the approach to democracy assistance. Second, people in the field may still maintain some autonomy regarding the approach to democracy assistance.