2019 Democracy and Human Rights Evaluation

Supporting State-Building for Democratisation? A Study of 20 Years of Swedish Democracy Aid to Cambodia

Henny Andersen, Karl-Anders Larsson, Joakim Öjendal

Since the 1990s, democracy and human rights have been an important objective in Swedish development cooperation. This study evaluates Sweden’s democracy assistance to Cambodia during the period 1997–2017.

The study is based on extensive document review and stakeholder interviews in Cambodia and Sweden. It includes three major ‘blocs’ with different hallmarks regarding analytical approach and methodology.

The report was presented during the seminar Tjugo år av bistånd till Kambodja – vilka är resultaten?


  • The authors find that Swedish support has promoted democratic development in Cambodia, particularly at local level.
  • Development assistance has strengthened Cambodia’s civil society and education system.
  • Structures for local self-government and education, as well as civil society capacity development, have been crucial in generating impact. A long-term approach in development assistance is another crucial factor, as is mutual respect in the partnership.

The report includes the following recommendations:

  • Continue development assistance to Cambodia to promote democratic development in the country. Support should be based on risk analysis, be flexible and be ready to deal with political and economic changes in the country.
  • Support to civil society needs to supplement support to the state.
  • Democracy support should focus on strengthening interaction between state actors and between state and civil society. Support should be based on research into political and economic processes at all levels of society.
  • Support should take account of cultural and political conditions. Institutional support alone is not enough to promote democracy and human rights.

Henny Andersen, Consultant on development assistance evaluation

Karl-Anders Larsson, Consultant with long experience of Swedish development cooperation

Joakim Öjendal, Professor at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg