Assessing Democracy Assistance: The Case of Romania

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Assessing Democracy Assistance: The Case of Romania

By Thomas Carothers
The Carnegie Endowment, 1996
144 pp. $12.95
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Carothers, a lawyer who has worked for USAID and other private organizations assisting democratic development where communist tyrannies once stood, now gives a timely reflection on the broader balance sheet as a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Characteristic of those in the field, Carothers does not root his efforts in theories of democracy, but offers a brisk, pointed assessment of political parties, elections, the rule of law, parliament, civil society, trade unions, and the media. Some points are useful and should have been obvious: the outsider's contribution can only be marginal. Some are pedestrian: when the do-gooders pursue their own agenda, failure can be relied upon, as in the International Republican Institute's efforts to bolster opposition parties. There are, however, some eye- opening points. Promoting civil society has been an article of faith in U.S. policy, and civic advocacy groups have been stressed in Romania because of their prominent role in American civil society, but churches and other social movements have virtually been ignored. What American democracy builders take to be universal features often reflect Americans' own special, sometimes parochial, qualities. All in all, the advice is incisive, level-headed, and appropriately modest.