The transition problems facing young democracies have shaken the conviction held by many people that democracy is conducive to economic development and stability. The poor performance of young democratic systems tends to delegitimize democratization processes among the population and to offer authoritarian elites, who point to the apparent recent successes of authoritarian development models, a chance to roll back democratic developments. Western promoters of democracy have been discredited by the excesses of the "war on terror," but also the double standards used by some Western governments in a good number of partner countries. At the same time, the emergence of new actors like China restricts the options open to Western efforts to promote democratization by deploying incentives and sanctions as a means of generating external pressure.
While established approaches and instruments may continue to claim validity, in the medium term democracy promoters are likely to find themselves in a difficult environment. It is therefore imperative that those intent on promoting democracy make optimal use of their own potentials and focus the resources available to them. One useful method may be found in the development of tailor-made approaches based on sub-strategies for countries displaying similar patterns (clusters). Cluster strategies can stimulate and foster fundamental strategy debates by operationalizing the results of transformation re-search, serving to set priorities and develop specific mixes of instruments derived from concrete cluster conditions.
Democracy assistance must seek to strengthen confidence in the ability to perform of the democratic model and step up its efforts to highlight, by discursive means, the long-term benefits of the democratic model. In this connection the model of social democracy has proven to be a comparative advantage: aiming to realize economic and social rights, it caters to the expectations of citizens in developing countries.
Marc Saxer works for the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in Berlin. He is Co-Coordinator of the Dialogue on Globalization Program and head of desk for Global Security at the Department for Global Policy and Development. His work focuses on global and regional governance mechanisms.