The Journal of Field Actions, together with Civicus, has just published a special issue “Stories of Innovative Democracy at the Local Level: Enhancing Participation, Activism and Social Change Across the World.” When put together, the 13 articles provide a lively illustration of the wealth of democratic innovations taking place around the world.
Evidence suggests it has. Excerpts from paper by Masayuki Kudamatsu:
Does democracy promote development? Despite a large number of empirical studies of this question, the evidence remains inconclusive since it is difﬁcult to establish causality running from democracy to development: democracy is likely to be endogenous to socio-economic factors that also affect development (Lipset 1959). As democracy at the national level is clearly not randomly assigned across countries, the empirical challenge is to disentangle the effect of democracy from other confounding factors to the largest possible extent. This paper revisits this question in the context of human development in sub-Saharan Africa. Speciﬁcally, I investigate whether the democratization sweeping the region in the 1990s has reduced infant mortality.
My ﬁndings are as follows. After democratization in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, infant mortality drops by 1.2 percentage points (12% of the sample mean). This result is robust to controlling for country-speciﬁc linear trends in the birth year of babies, country-speciﬁc birth-order dummies, country-speciﬁc quadratic trends in the mother’s age at birth, and country-level covariates such as per capita GDP, the incidence of wars, and the amount of foreign aid. Except for a couple of outlying cases, there is no such reduction in infant mortality in countries where the dictator holds multiparty elections and stays in power by winning them or where leadership change takes place in a nondemocratic way.
Interesting paper by Yuen Yuen Ang, Political Scientist at the University of Michigan:
Authoritarian states restrain online activism not only through repression and censorship, but also by indirectly weakening the ability of netizens to self-govern and constructively engage the state. I demonstrate this argument by comparing I-Paid-A-Bribe (IPAB) — a crowd-sourcing platform that collects anonymous reports of petty bribery — in India and China. Whereas IPAB originated and has thrived in India, a copycat effort in China fizzled out within months. Contrary to those who attribute China’s failed outcome to repression, I find that even before authorities shut down IPAB, the sites were already plagued by internal organizational problems that were comparatively absent in India. The study tempers expectations about the revolutionary effects of new media in mobilizing contention and checking corruption in the absence of a strong civil society.
And a brief video with Yuen Yuen
Adding pieces of evidence to the ROI of citizen participation. Highlights are mine:
Participatory budgeting, via which the common citizen is given the ability to interact with the elected politicians in the drafting of the local budget, became a popular political reform in Brazilian municipalities in the 1990s and attracted widespread attention across the world. This paper investigates whether the use of participatory budgeting in Brazilian municipalities in the period 1991-2004 has affected the pattern of municipal expenditures and had any measurable impact on living conditions. I show that the municipalities that made use of this participatory mechanism favoured an allocation of public expenditures that closely matched the ìpopular preferences and channeled a larger fraction of their total budget to key investments in sanitation and health services. I also found that this change in the composition of municipal expenditures is associated with a pronounced reduction in the infant mortality rates for municipalities which adopted participatory budgeting. This suggests that promoting a more direct interaction between service users and elected officials in budgetary design and implementation can affect both how local resources are spent and associated living standard outcomes.
You can read the full paper here [PDF].
Podcasts of the “Democracy and Resistance” conference, held last June, are available here. A good start in my opinion are the podcasts of Jane Mansbridge and Yves Sintomer .
Below, the list of podcasts. (Hat tip ABC Democracy)
Introduction: Regina Kreide
Democracy in Crisis?
Hartmut Rosa: The Politics of Speed and the Loss of Resonance: How Social Acceleration Causes Democratic Alienation
Hauke Brunkhorst: Crisis of Democracy in Europe
Jodi Dean: Occupy Wall Street: Claiming Division
Costas Douzinas: Athens Revolting: Disobedience and Resistance in the Crisis
Forms of Resistance
Chris Thornhill: Revolutionary Constituent Power and the Transnational Constitutional Order
Rada Ivekovic: Sovereignty, Resistance, Citizenship and Subjectivation in a New Context
Robin Celikates: Civil Disobedience and the Question of Violence
Banu Bargu: Biopolitics and Human Shields
Gertrud Koch: Mass and/as Medium
Juliane Rebentisch: Theatrocracy: The Scene of Democratic Sovereignty
Andreas Niederberger: Participation Reconsidered: Constellational Citizenship and the Plurality of Means and Forms of Democratic Participation
Andreas Kalyvas: Radical Democracy and Constituent Power
Yves Sintomer: Citizen Participation – A Response to the Global Crisis?
Oliver Marchart: Democratic Protest and Its Discontents
Jane Mansbridge: Resisting Resistance
Masayuki Kudamatsu (2006)
Does democracy help babies survive in sub-Saharan Africa? By using retrospective fertility surveys conducted in 28 African countries, I compare the survival of infants born to the same mother before and after democratization to identify the eﬀect of democracy. In measuring democracy, I adopt a theoretically motivated deﬁnition of democracy: universal suﬀrage and contested elections for executive oﬃce. I ﬁnd that infant mortality falls by 1.8 percentage points, 18 percent of the sample mean, after democratization. The size of the reduction is larger for babies born to mothers from disadvantaged groups. I also ﬁnd that the replacement of a chief executive by democratization is the driving force behind these results. Additional evidence suggests that improvements in public health service delivery, not an increase in aﬄuence, are the key mechanism in which democratization has reduced infant mortality.
Download [PDF] here.
Here’s something new by Pippa Norris. Definitely worth reading
“Making Democratic Governance Work : How Regimes Shape Prosperity, Welfare, and Peace”
This book focuses on three core questions. Is democratic governance good for economic prosperity? Has this type of regime accelerated progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, social welfare, and human development? Does it generate a peace-dividend and reduce conflict at home? Despite the importance of understanding these questions and the vast research literature generated, remarkably little consensus has emerged about any of these issues. Within the international community, democracy and governance are widely advocated as intrinsically desirable and important goals. Nevertheless, alternative schools of thought continue to dispute their consequences – and thus the most effective strategy for achieving a range of critical developmental objectives. Some believe that human development is largely determined by structural conditions in each society, such as geographic location, natural resources, and the reservoir of human capital, so that regimes have minimal impact. Others advocate promoting democracy to insure that leaders are responsive to social needs and accountable to citizens for achieving better schools, clinics, and wages. Yet others counter that governance capacity is essential for delivering basic public services, and state-building is essential in post-conflict reconstruction prior to holding elections. This book advances the argument that both liberal democracy and state capacity need to be strengthened in parallel to ensure effective development, within the constraints posed by structural conditions. Liberal democracy allows citizens to express their demands, to hold public officials to account, and to rid themselves of incompetent, corrupt, or ineffective leaders. Yet rising public demands that cannot be met by the state are a recipe for frustration, generating disillusionment with incumbent officeholders, or, if discontent spreads to becomes more diffuse, with the way that the regime works, or even ultimately with the promise of liberal democracy ideals. Thus governance capacity is also predicted to play a vital role in advancing human security, so that states have the capacity to respond effectively to citizen’s demands. The argument is demonstrated using systematic evidence gathered from countries worldwide during recent decades and selected cases illustrating the effects of regime change on development.
You can order the book here.