Promoting Democracy and Promoting Autocracy: Towards A Comparative Evaluation

  •  Peter Burnell    


Canada may be about to create a publicly-funded Centre for Advancing Democracy. However, at the present time there is international speculation that autocracy promotion is increasing, now that the global wave of democratisation has stalled or gone into retreat. Some prominent authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes have gained in confidence; their potential to influence politics in other countries attracts growing attention. If international democracy promotion is to measure up to the challenge that this could pose then comparative evaluations of the performance of international support for democracy and for autocratic rule should be undertaken. Evaluation endeavours across this political divide face shared similarities and major complicating differences too. These make meaningful comparisons problematic. Nevertheless, new democracy promotion initiatives should employ whatever can be learned from studying autocracy promotion, so as to maximise their chances of success. Canada’s proposals for advancing democracy abroad offer a timely opportunity to address the challenge of comparing democracy and autocracy support, and in doing so become a world leader in the field.

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