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Representational Models and Democratic Transitions in Fragile and Post-Conflict States

Authors Goldstone, Jack Andrew
Issue Date 2010
Source World Development Report background papers, World Bank, Washington, DC , 18 Sep 2010
Summary The notion that relatively poor pre-industrial countries, including those just recovering from or even struggling with violent conflicts, should be encouraged and aided in quickly setting up democratic institutions is relatively recent. Throughout the cold war, and up through today's dealings with such countries as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and China, most advanced Western industrialized countries were content to deal with, and even support, authoritarian governments provided they were seen to be providing orderly conditions for economic investment and growth, and not posing an immediate military threat to their neighbors or to Western nations. Although acts of blatant suppression of human rights such as China's military action against Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989, or Burma's crushing of the democratic opposition in 1988 were roundly condemned by the international community, the latter did not generally engage in active promotion of democracy in authoritarian states. Although the U.S. did seek to support dissidents in communist countries, especially in the U.S.S.R. and eastern Europe, there were many voices, including proponents of the 'Asian path to growth,' policy professionals, and economists who argued that a period of authoritarian rule was both desirable and necessary for poorer states in order to create state institutions capable of reshaping their economies, promoting economic efficiencies, and ensuring the sustained investments in public goods needed to put poor countries on track for rapid economic development. Building democracy in war-torn and corrupt states seemed to offer hope for addressing all of their key problems. First, democracy would make governments accountable to their citizens for pursuing sound policies, reducing problems of corruption and ineffectiveness. Second, democracy would give legitimacy to governments that had previously based their authority mainly on coercion and patronage to privileged elites, thus building popular support and improving stability. Third, popular participation in inclusive regimes would end discrimination that had previously empowered particular ethnic or religious or regional groups who exploited others.
Language English
Format Working paper
Access Find@HKUST