chapter  3
17 Pages

Democracy promotion and civil society aid: The EU approach

Introduction The aim of the third chapter is to describe and analyse the policies and programmes developed by the European Union in the field of democracy promotion, with a particular emphasis on civil society strengthening and micro-level support to democratization. These policies cut across various headings of the EU’s institutional structure and most of them (e.g. democracy aid, technical assistance, etc.) are implemented directly by the European Commission, through the EuropeAid office for development cooperation and external assistance.1 Throughout the years, the EU has managed to acquire a distinctive approach to the external promotion of democracy. This approach, as underlined in the Democracy section of EuropeAid’s website, understands democratization as a multifaceted process requiring top-down institutional reform as much as bottom-up mobilization and participation:

Democratisation cannot be seen as a uniform process. [. . .] Each country and society is free to choose and develop its own model, in a locally driven process, but those models must be consistent with universal human rights principles as expressed in relevant international and regional conventions. Support for democratisation should employ a long-term perspective, as well as a multi-actor and multi-sector approach. The Commission’s support to democratisation pursues both a top-down and bottom-up approach. This includes democratic institution building, such as capacity building of parliaments and local governments, electoral support and observation, reform and training of the judiciary, and anti-corruption measures. It also covers civil society programmes, including projects supporting non-state actors in their advocacy, information and education activities in the areas of human rights and democracy, as well as lobbying to secure political change or to monitor the actions of public institutions.2