Promoting Democracy in the Western Balkans After the Global Economic Crisis
Adam Fagan & Indraneel Sircar, 2012
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Donor assistance for the Western Balkans, which began two decades ago in response to violent conflict and complex transitions during the collapse of Yugoslavia, has engendered harsh criticism from academics, commentators and domestic elites and publics. Although much of the aid has been targeted towards civil society development, international donors have become heavily involved in attempts to consolidate as well as induce change, and to also spread western values and facilitate the integration of the region within European and global structures. In so doing they have had to navigate a far more difficult set of hurdles than in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, in political climates often hostile or ambivalent to external intervention. With donor activities now increasingly directed to other parts of the world (in particular, the Middle East and North Africa), and the global financial crisis triggering the most profound rationalization of donor funding and priorities, democracy promotion and the development of civil society in the Western Balkans is under immense pressure. At this critical time, as never before, "it is important: to take stock of the past and current strategies; to review the practices and priorities of international donors; to identify what has worked and what has failed; and to offer recommendations for effective leadership and deployment in the (long) period leading up to EU enlargement. Donors, investors, local civil society activists as well as the academic community each require strategies for improving the current situation in order to foster long-term sustainability of the civil society sector in the Western Balkans.