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Darcy Thompson

PhD student (parental leave)


European Democracy Promotion: Positive Policies, Poor Practice


  • Darcy Thompson

Summary, in English

In the post 9/11 era the effort to strengthen democracy in weak and fragile states has become a common undertaking of prominent international actors in their foreign policy agendas. In much of the academic and policy discourse democracy assistance has been framed as a solution to political instability and under-development in troubled states. With the case of the Middle East and North Africa region, the absence of accountable, representative governments had been deemed a major source of global, as well as regional insecurity even before the recent ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions.

The pro-democracy uprisings and the subsequent violence which has ensued affirm the ‘democracy as a world value’ argument frequently cited in much of the democratisation literature and policy reports. While this notion has been widely criticised, international actors continue to favour external democratisation efforts as a means of fostering regional development and security. In the wake of the Arab Spring events it is likely that the international community will strengthen their democracy assistance efforts. However, this research paper asserts that current democracy assistance policies administered by key international actors’ fail to actually advance democracy despite the promotion of a discourse which endorses democracy and the need for external intervention.

The European Union’s democracy assistance efforts in the Middle East/North Africa region (MENA) are the focus of this investigation. Preliminary research suggests that EU democracy policies – namely the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – do not match the discourse on democracy and democracy assistance promoted by the EU as well as academics working in the field. This paper asserts that a gap exists between democracy assistance discourse and democracy assistance practice (via policies) which continues to go unaddressed in academics as well as the policy making world. This gap calls into question how democracy assistance policies are designed by investigating the degree of knowledge transfer taking place between discourse and policy. By challenging the normative assumption that discourse informs policies this paper explores underlying motivations prompting international actors to intervene.

Using discourse analysis, this investigation firstly compares EU democracy assistance discourse with EU democracy assistance in practice by looking at specific policies in place. Secondly this paper questions the broader motivations for and effects of external intervention in this field.


  • Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Other Social Sciences


  • democracy
  • democratisation
  • EU
  • Middle East/North Africa (MENA)
  • European Neighbourhood Policy

Conference name

GLOBALIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Rethinking Interventions and Governance

Conference date


Conference place

Goteborg, Sweden