Risk, politics and development: Lessons from the UK’s democracy aid

Susan Dodsworth, Nic Cheeseman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


Political risks are inescapable in development. Donors keep them in check with a range of tools, but existing options provide little guidance about how political forms of risk can – or should – shape program design. This paper presents a novel framework that offers practical guidance on how to think about and manage some of these risks. This is based on a review of programs delivered by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which provides a specific type of aid: democracy assistance. Political forms of risk have a strong influence on that aid, so it provides a valuable example. Our framework centres on two trade-offs inherent in the provision of aid for democracy support. The first relates to the type of approach employed in a program; should it focus on a thematic issue or a specific event, or should it focus primarily on an institution and its processes? The second concerns the scope of a program in terms of who it includes. Understanding the costs and benefits of these trade-offs will help development practitioners to make decisions about political risks in a more rigorous and transparent way and, potentially, to shift from a culture of risk-aversion, to one of informed risk-taking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-64
JournalPublic Administration and Development
Issue number2
Early online date2 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2018


  • foreign aid
  • development
  • political risks
  • democracy support
  • political economy analysis


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