Democratization in Malawi: Responding to International and Domestic Pressures

In: African and Asian Studies
Nikolas G. Emmanuel Department of Political Science Centre for the Resolution of International Conflict, University of Copenhagen

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Donors hope that their foreign aid can be influential, far beyond the development projects that they fund. Frequently, aid providers attach political conditions to their monies in the hope that these demands can serve as catalysts to improve the governance in the recipient. This is called a political conditionality approach. Few countries have felt the weight of conditionality as much as Malawi did in the 1990s. Here, donors were able to use aid sanctions to successfully encourage democratization, while strengthening the demands of domestic opposition forces. This paper argues that three factors were critical in this process: 1) aid dependency, 2) donor coordination, and 3) a strong and persistent domestic opposition. With their combined weight, foreign donors and Malawian civil society were able to change the tide in this once highly authoritarian country.

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