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Promoting Democracy: The Force of Political Settlements in Uncertain Times, Manal A. Jamal

Reviewed by Erin A. Snider

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Over the last two decades, scholars have devoted increasing attention to understanding how democracy aid may promote democratization and evaluating the impact of such aid. Despite a growing critical scholarship on such aid, relatively less attention has been paid to understanding how democracy aid actually works in practice. The politics embedded in the enterprise have often been absent from such work and are, frankly, difficult to capture without significant field research and engagement with both the donors and recipients of democracy aid. Manal A. Jamal’s book Promoting Democracy is thus an important and timely contribution.

Jamal asks why Western democracy promotion efforts seem more successful in some contexts than in others. The puzzle motivating her study is the divergent outcomes in two cases of conflict-to-peace transitions in the Palestinian territories and in El Salvador. Prior to the Oslo Accords and the Salvadoran peace accords, the activity and reach of mass-based organizations in Palestine and El Salvador suggested the basis for what could be an effective civil society. An influx of Western donor aid to both followed after the accords. Salvadoran civil society ultimately thrived, while that in Palestine became demobilized and polarized over time.

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