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New Approaches to Sustainable Democracy-Building
Watson Institute for International Studies,
Brown University
September 19-20, 2003


The workshop seeks to examine new forms of international democracy assistance in the Balkans, which aim to integrate reconstruction with participatory process, and thereby build or foster robust local networks of citizen engagement. The participants, all of whom have direct experience in the region, will focus in particular on the need for new methods of monitoring and evaluation to assess whether how such long-term oriented approaches are working. As programs launched in the Balkans are exported to other parts of the world (including Iraq) there is an urgent need for robust, nonpartisan analysis of their impact in different cultural settings. The workshop seeks to address this issue by bringing together academics and practitioners committed to the principle of reflective practice as a vital component of future attempts at democracy promotion.


he workshop draws on participants' empirical research on and theoretical engagement with democracy-building programs implemented in the former Yugoslavia. In Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo, seemingly new forms of democracy aid draw on models of development assistance and on debates from the 1960s through 1990s on such issues as participation and stakeholding. At the same time, a clear impetus can be seen to decentralize the formerly command economies and top-down government structures of SFRY. A new "holistic" rhetoric of democratization looks beyond party development, voter registration, and a focus on electoral politics, and concentrates instead on ways to integrate reconstruction with participatory process-thereby building or fostering robust local networks of citizen engagement.

The language is inspiring, and the international investment has been considerable. Key components - in particular, USAID's CRDA program in Serbia and Montenegro - are now being exported elsewhere. As yet, though, the effects of these initiatives remain unknown, and the obstacles that they have encountered are not fully analyzed.. Are they inevitable "growing pains," the result of local recalcitrance, corruption, or "immaturity"? Were they an indication that something is fundamentally awry in the vision of those doing the planning? Is it possible, yet, to identify robust models of good practice in democracy assistance emerging from the Western Balkans? The participants seek to address these questions through empirical research into key case-studies from the region. We believe the Balkan experience of recent years can and should shape the discussion of democracy assistance elsewhere, but that careful consideration is necessary before programs are replicated on the grounds of their success, or rejected on the grounds of failure.

A second concern is to explore the value of qualitative forms of project assessment: we wish to see how the current orthodoxies of monitoring and evaluating could be replaced by a form of complex and nuanced story-telling. The current trend seems to be to juxtapose large-scale statistical data (number of citizens served, for example) with "success stories"-outstanding examples where everything reportedly went as planned. More instructive, we suggest, are stories that document, so far as possible, the problems that arise and how they were resolved, as well as stories which pay greater attention to political dimensions at the micro- and the global-level. This method-drawn from classic ethnography, by authors such as Max Gluckman and Clifford Geertz-offers the basis for learning from case-studies, and for concrete proposals for the application of knowledge to other situations.

Paper presenters:
Keith Brown, Watson Institute
Ana Devic, Aarhus University, Denmark
Chip Gagnon, Ithaca College
Victoria Gellis, Fletcher School, Tufts University
Eric Gordy, Clark University
Jeff Merritt, Catalyst International
Paul Nuti, JFK School of Government, Harvard University (formerly ISC country director, Macedonia)
Steven Sampson, Lund University, Sweden
Claire Sneed, Fletcher School, Tufts University (formerly program officer with Mercy Corps in Serbia)
Christophe Solioz, Forum for Democratic Alternatives, Geneva

Paper discussants and chairs:
Charles Call, Watson Institute
Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Patrick Heller, Brown University
Catherine Lutz, Watson Institute
Julia Paley, University of Michigan
Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Watson Institute
Susan Woodward, CUNY
Kay Warren, Watson Institute

FRIDAY September 19, 2003
1) Introduction 9.15-9.30
Keith Brown

2) Power politics, Participant observation and civil society activism (9.30-10.45)
Chair: Catherine Lutz
Christophe Solioz
Ana Devic
Discussant: Susan Woodward

3) Participation and development: models of partnership (11.15-1.00)
Chair: Dietrich Rueschemeyer
Chip Gagnon
Eric Gordy
Discussant: Julia Paley

4) Reflective Practice: Implementing participatory projects (3.00-4.30)
Chair: Chuck Call
Claire Sneed
Paul Nuti
Discussant: Patrick Heller

6.30 pm
PUBLIC LECTURE (part of the Watson Institute Director's Lecture Series)
by Thomas Carothers:
Promoting Democracy Abroad and Fighting Terror: Policy Allies or Rivals?

8.30 pm Dinner - Kabob 'n' Curry

SATURDAY September 20, 2003

5) Models of Evaluation: Story telling and learning (9.45-11.00)
Chair: Chip Gagnon
Victoria Gellis
Jeff Merritt
Discussant: Tom Carothers

6) Translating concepts: the ethnographic perspective (11.30-12.45)
Chair: Julia Paley
Steven Sampson
Keith Brown
Discussant: Kay Warren

7) Concluding discussion: directions forward (2.15-3.30)