How Democracy Promotion Became a Key Aim of Sweden’s Development Aid Policy

Chapter for the volume Do-gooders at the end of aid, edited by Kristian Bjørkdahl and Antoine de Bengy Puyvallé, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming).

Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 20 Mar 2020

See all articles by Johan Karlsson Schaffer

Johan Karlsson Schaffer

University of Gothenburg - School of Global Studies; University of Oslo - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August 16, 2019

Abstract

Why has Sweden come to occupy a special role as promoter of democracy through official development assistance (ODA)? Among donor countries, Sweden stands out not just because of the state’s comparatively high levels of ODA, but also because a comparatively large pro-portion of the ODA budget is channelled into promoting democracy, human rights and civil society (Youngs 2008; Crawford 2001). After the end of the Cold War, the previously merely nominal official policy goal of fostering democratic development has become a key corner-stone for Swedish ODA, broadly shared by political parties and other stakeholders.

Seeking to explain the seemingly exceptional role Sweden – often seen as an exemplar of the so-called Nordic model – has played in international politics in the post-World War II era, a line of existing research suggests that Nordic foreign policy exceptionalism results from distinct values of solidarity, (social) democracy and equality prevalent in domestic society. However, such culturalist accounts of foreign policy exceptionalisms come with a num-ber of analytical limitations.

In this paper, I seek to provide a different account of Swedish foreign policy exceptional-ism, using democracy promotion through ODA as an illustrative case. For some time now, Sweden has sought to promote democracy through its development aid policy. While policy documents point to historical experiences and predominant conceptions of democracy in Sweden to justify policy, I shall argue that the beliefs governing Swedish democracy promo-tion efforts are not engrained in a primordial national culture, but rather produced through political processes that involve contestation and sometimes result in compromise, sometimes in conflict. The outcome of such processes are also shaped to a large extent by international factors, including major geopolitical events and economic conjectures, changing internation-al norms, and evolving global governance institutions. Empirically, the paper analyzes how policymakers have framed the aims and strategies of democracy promotion in development assistance from the 1960s to the 2010s.

Keywords: democracy promotion, development aid, Sweden, exceptionalism, culturalism, policy analysis

Suggested Citation

Karlsson Schaffer, Johan, How Democracy Promotion Became a Key Aim of Sweden’s Development Aid Policy (August 16, 2019). Chapter for the volume Do-gooders at the end of aid, edited by Kristian Bjørkdahl and Antoine de Bengy Puyvallé, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3438223

Johan Karlsson Schaffer (Contact Author)

University of Gothenburg - School of Global Studies ( email )

POB 700
Gothenburg, SE 40530
Sweden

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130
Norway

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
260
PlumX Metrics