2014 Democracy and Human Rights Mapping, Review

International Party Assistance – What do we know about the effects?

Lars G Svåsand

International party assistance (IPA) has become part of the international efforts to assist new democracies, andhence part of international democracy assistance. Well-functioning parties and party-systems are considered to perform essential functions in democratic systems. IPA is nevertheless controversial for several reasons.

The point of departure for the study is to answer the question, what do we know about the effects of international assistance to political parties in new democracies, and to reflect upon implications for Swedish aid in this field. The author has made a review of the literature on research in this field as well as of evaluations of donor interventions and programs.

The report was presented during the seminar International party assistance – does it matter?


  • Based on the literature on parties and on evaluation reports of IPA programs it is hard to draw conclusions about their effects.
  • There seem to be limited effects of international party assistance, and rarely any transformative impact, even though there are examples of positive outcomes. One cannot expect that support for (opposition) parties will yield positive change in the short term.
  • It is necessary to be realistic about what IPA can be expected to achieve, given the scarce resources that are allocated to IPA and the need for a long-term perspective.
  • Contextual factors are very important and support must be “tailored-made” in order to contribute to the higher goal of democratic consolidation.

Lars Svåsand, Professor emeritus, University of Bergen