Foreign aid and Malian democracy.



* In Mali aid has had a positive impact on some areas of democratic consolidation such as strengthening the economy and civil society, election support and conflict resolution.

* Three significant structural problems were not addressed properly by donors; weal institutions of accountability, regional cleavages, and gap between elites and the average Malian.

* Unequal distribution of foreign aid between the centre and periphery further exacerbated the marginalization of certain regions and donors' slow response time to increasing discontent in some regions may have had a direct impact on the reoccurrence of conflict.

* In some cases aid has sustained the existence of weak executive accountability, hindering checks and balances as well as citizen participation.

In a few short-weeks in early 2012, the northern territory of Mali came under the military control of an Islamist secessionist movement followed by a military coup. Prior to this the donor darling Mali had long been considered a model low-income democracy, with western donors providing the country with aid amounting to around 12-15 per cent of the country's GNI, totalling around 50 per cent of the government's annual budget. The question of whether donors, possessing such an economic lever, could have done more to help avert the recent political turmoil rises?

What has foreign aid to Mali done for democratic consolidation?

While democracy aid to Mali only accounts for about one per cent of total aid it appears to have had reasonable success. It is worth noting that due to foreign aid and capacity building efforts Mali's civil society has expanded significantly, from a handful of national organizations in the 1970s, to 8,542 associations and 1,125 NGOs officially registered in the late 2000s.

Furthermore economic aid may also have helped promote democratic consolidation through its impact on economic growth. If democratic theory is correct in its belief that economic transformation contributes to democratic consolidation, then any positive effect that aid has had on economic improvements in the country should translate to positive effect on Mali's democracy.

In addition to foreign aid strengthening both the economy and the civil society democracy assistance may have had some positive impact through efforts to facilitate conflict resolution, and electoral assistance. However, three crucial areas in which aid donors could have done more to improve the situation and help to...

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