Academic articles

Dodsworth, Susan and Graeme Ramshaw. 2021. ‘Democracy’s Development Dividend’, Journal of Democracy, 32(1), pp. 126-138. [Accepted manuscript available on request].

The belief that democracy hinders development remains deeply entrenched among much of the development community. This belief persists due to a failure to update “received wisdom” as new evidence has come to light and an overreliance on a small number of authoritarian “success stories” that rarely receive the scrutiny they deserve. In addition, the contributions that democratic institutions make to development tend to be “quiet successes,” and so are easily overlooked. This makes it important for democracy-support practitioners to highlight the developmental dividends of their work, encouraging development practitioners to work with, rather than around, democratic institutions.

Dodsworth, Susan. 2019. ‘Double Standards: The Verdicts of Western Election Observers in sub-Saharan Africa’, Democratization, 26(3), pp. 382-400. [available via Open Access on journal website]

This article tests whether Western election observers apply a ‘double standard’ to elections in sub-Saharan Africa. It demonstrates that they do: Western election observers were statistically less likely to allege that significant fraud had occurred in an election in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to an election of the same quality held elsewhere, throughout the period from 1991 to 2012. This discrepancy exists despite controls for other factors commonly thought to influence the verdicts of observers, such as the strategic interests of Western countries. Yet there is variation over time. Between 1991 and 2001, the double standard is partly explained by ‘progress bias,’ a tendency to tolerate flawed elections that improved on those held previously. From 2002 to 2012, observers’ application of a double standard is much harder to explain. In that period, the analysis points to several factors that discourage Western observers from alleging fraud, including the risk of triggering electoral violence and a desire to protect relationships with strategic partners. It also identifies factors that make allegations of electoral fraud more likely, including the precedent set by past allegations of fraud and – unexpectedly – higher levels of foreign aid. None of these factors, however, account for the regional discrepancy.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2018.Ten challenges in democracy support – and how to overcome them‘, Global Policy, 9(3), pp. 301-312. [Accepted manuscript available on request].

Democracy supporters face tough times. Authoritarian reversals across North and sub-Saharan Africa, combined with a lack of progress in the Middle East and Central Asia, have dampened funders’ enthusiasm for the endeavour. To better understand these setbacks, we identify ten challenges in democracy support. These are the challenges of: (i) difficult cases; (ii) authoritarian backlash; (iii) adapting to context; (iv) confronting politics; (v) managing uncertainty; (vi) unintended side-effects; (vii) a tight funding environment; (viii) defining and demonstrating success; (ix) competing priorities; and – exacerbating all the rest, (x) a limited evidence base. While much has been written about the need for more coordinated and politically intelligent engagement to meet these challenges, far less has been said about the need to improve our evidence-base and the way in which policy-oriented research is produced. We identify several strategies that policy makers and practitioners can use to advance the field. All require better bridges between research, policy and practice, so we offer concrete suggestions about how such bridges can be built.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2018. Political risk in development: Learning from the UK’s democracy aid‘, Public Administration and Development, 38(2), pp. 53-64. [Read-only version available here. Accepted manuscript available on request]

Risk, particularly political risk, is inescapable in development. Donors have devised tools to manage it, but many of their solutions, including political economy analysis, have changed little on the ground. This paper contributes by presenting a novel analytical framework that helps to translate analysis into action. This framework is based on a review of programs delivered by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and so has been developed in the context of a particular subset of aid: democracy assistance. Political risk has an extremely strong influence on this type of aid, and so it provides a valuable example. Our framework centres on two trade-offs inherent in the provision of aid for democracy support. The first relates to the type of approach employed in a program; should it focus on a thematic issue or a specific event, or should it focus primarily on an institution and its processes? The second concerns the scope of a program in terms of who it includes. Understanding the costs and benefits of these trade-offs will help development practitioners to make decisions about political risk in a more rigorous and transparent way and, potentially, to shift from a culture of risk-aversion, to one of informed risk-taking.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2018. ‘The promise – and pitfalls – of collaboration with development organizations and policy makers in Africa’, African Affairs, 117 (466), pp. 130-145. [Accepted manuscript available here]

A growing number of academics and development organizations are engaging in collaborative research projects. Increasingly, this includes efforts to co-produce research, rather than simply share information. These new ways of doing research raise important ethical and practical issues that are rarely discussed but deserve attention – especially in Africa. The continent is the region of the world in which these new approaches are particularly prevalent, and one where the challenges those approaches create tend to manifest in distinct or acute ways. In this Research Note, we draw on a collaborative research project with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to illuminate these difficulties. We also offer suggestions for how to manage the challenges that arise when academics and development organizations conduct research together. Ensuring that such collaborations are both effective and ethical is not easy, but it must be done if we are to develop better informed policy and scholarship.

Dodsworth, Susan. 2017. ‘How does the objective of aid affect its impact on accountability? Evidence from two aid programs in Uganda’ Journal of Development Studies, 53(10), pp. 1600-1614. [Accepted manuscript available here]

Recent research indicates that the political impact of aid, including its impact on accountability institutions, is contingent on its objective. This article explains how this occurs. It relies on evidence from two aid programs in Uganda, one targeted at poverty reduction and one at democratic governance. I argue that the stated objective of aid programs masks a deeper cause; individual aid managers’ views of what development entails and how it should be pursued. The evidence suggests that the ‘almost revolution’ in which development has purportedly confronted politics is far more partial, contested, and uneven than many admit.

Book chapters

Dodsworth, Susan. 2019. The Challenges of Making Research Collaboration in Africa More Equitable in Encyclopedia of African Politics (Oxford University Press: Oxford).

Collaborative research has a critical role to play in furthering our understanding of African politics. Many of the most important and interesting questions in the field are difficult, if not impossible, to tackle without some form of collaboration, either between academics within and outside of Africa – often termed North-South research partnerships, or between those researchers and organizations from outside the academic world. This chapter examines the challenges that arise in these types of collaborations, and how they can be made more equitable.

Policy papers

Dodsworth, Susan, Eloïse Bertrand and Jamie Hitchen. 2021. Learning from Success: The Implementation of Election Observation Recommendations in Sub-Saharan Africa (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

International election observers invest significant time and energy in making recommendations designed to improve the integrity and credibility of elections. Yet our collective knowledge in this area remains limited – especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the region where elections are most likely to be observed. What kinds of recommendations tend to be implemented? Why? And what can we do to make these recommendations more useful? This paper examines the implementation of recommendations made by several leading international observers in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda. It reveals both similarities and differences in the factors that shape the implementation of recommendations between these countries.

Keutgen, Julia, and Susan Dodsworth. 2021. Addressing the global emergency of shrinking civic space and how to reclaim it: A programming guide (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

Over the last 10 years an increasing number of governments have adopted new laws and practices that constrain civic space, a trend that has important consequences for the work of democracy assistance providers. This guide provides advice to democracy assistance providers seeking to respond to this challenge.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2020. Political trust: The glue that keeps democracies together (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

This paper reviews existing research on political trust, explaining why it is important, what we know about it, and – perhaps most importantly – what we don’t. It argues that if practitioners, such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, are to foster greater levels of political trust, research into that phenomenon needs to become more innovative.

Sarah Birch, Fernanda Buril, Nic Cheeseman, Alistair Clark, Staffan Darnolf, Susan Dodsworth, Larry Garber, Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero, Tanja Hollstein, Toby S. James, Vasu Mohan and Koffi Sawyer. 2020. How to hold elections safely and democratically during the COVID-19 pandemic. (British Academy: London).

The COVID-19 pandemic poses major challenges for those charged with overseeing electoral processes, but the innovative ways in which practitioners are addressing these challenges indicate that elections can be safely held even under pandemic conditions. These innovations also represent opportunities for strengthening electoral practices and making them more resilient to a variety of other risks. This briefing draws on existing experience of elections held during the COVID-19 pandemic and previous health crises to address five areas of vulnerability: inclusive and accountable electoral management, poll worker safeguarding, interinstitutional collaboration, feasible and effective election observation, and the risk of electoral violence.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2018. Just add women? Parliamentary committees and the health sector in Africa. (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

A growing body of evidence shows that women have a substantive impact when they are included in legislatures, particularly when it comes to health. Yet, our understanding of how women in parliament achieve this impact remains poor. This policy paper helps to fill this gap by examining the extent to which parliamentary committees provide women in African parliaments with an avenue for influencing laws and policies in the health sector. It maps the inclusion of women in parliamentary committees across sub-Saharan Africa and presents a case study of Malawi, where in 2017 female legislators made use of parliamentary committees to influence a new law on HIV and AIDS – an issue of vital importance to women.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2017. Defending democracy: When do parliaments protect political space? (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

Governments seeking to close political space have a number of tools at their disposal. One popular tactic is to suppress civil society by restricting foreign funding, controlling registration and imposing onerous reporting requirements. Parliaments often aid and abet executives in this process, even in purportedly democratic states. This paper examines when parliaments protect political space by rejecting restrictive civil society laws. In doing so, it identifies several factors that shape the success (or failure) of international efforts to motivate legislatures to defend democracy. Two paired comparisons – one of Kenya and Uganda, and another of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – expose the importance of local actors and the critical role of the incentives that face individual legislators.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2017. From strategy to implementation: The case of civil society (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

This paper demonstrates the challenges that those working to strengthen democracy confront in putting their strategies into practice, using the Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s (WFD) work with civil society as an example. The paper situates WFD’s support to civil society within its broader strategy, considering why WFD supports civil society and where it fits in its theory of change. It then explores how WFD implements that strategy on the ground using a current programme in Macedonia as an example. The paper analyses strategy and implementation in light of existing research on the role of civil society in democratization and the way in which the international community supports it. This allows us identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach, as well as options for mitigating risks and windows of opportunity for increasing impact. These have implications beyond WFD – DFID’s recent Civil Society Partnership Review demonstrates that other organisations face similar issues.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2016. More than ideology, more than elections: A strategic approach to sister-party support. (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

Support to political parties is perhaps the most difficult, and most criticized, form of democracy promotion. Despite this, there is relatively little research identifying how it might be made more effective. This policy paper draws on the body of practice accumulated by UK political parties, through programmes funded via the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to help fill that gap. It examines what their distinctive approach to political party strengthening contributes to democracy promotion and identifies where these approaches work best. The evidence suggests that the sister-party model – a model centred on relationships between parties with similar ideological positions – has value, but that it would be more effective if it were deployed more strategically. When adopting this model, democracy promoters should be more selective about who they work with, where they work, and the kind of work they do.

Dodsworth, Susan and Nic Cheeseman. 2016. Navigating Trade-offs in Parliamentary Strengthening. (Westminster Foundation for Democracy: London).

Parliamentary strengthening involves trade-offs, both in the choice between issue-based and institutional approaches, and in the choice of who a programme will include. Democracy promoters cannot avoid these trade-offs, but with systematic evaluation of past programmes they can navigate them more effectively. This policy paper draws on the Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s experience in parliamentary strengthening to suggest how this might be done. In doing so it demonstrates the utility of greater collaboration between academic researchers and democracy promoters. It also illustrates the gains that can be made when those who undertake parliamentary strengthening make their experience public knowledge.

Dodsworth, Susan. 2012. The Policy Implications of Evolving Aid Modalities. (Institute for the Study of International Development: Montreal) funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

This policy paper examines two main issues. The first is how CIDA can realize the benefits of untying aid more effectively. The second is that of outcome or results-based conditionality.