Strengthening democracy: one of the tasks of German development policy

07.11.2018 - Article

Germany has agreed with more than half of its partner countries to make “democracy, civil society and governance” a priority area of development cooperation, writes the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ).

Conference sketch: people from different countries sitting in the same boat.
Conference sketch: people from different countries sitting in the same boat.© Vigilux Pressefoto / Meike Boeschemeyer

All support measures in this priority area are in essence concerned with political reform processes. Germany bases its approach on the democratic state governed by the rule of law and on the principle of the social market economy. The aim is to increase the legitimacy and transparency of government actions and to improve supervision of how power is exercised.

Protecting, respecting and ensuring human rights, promoting freedom of opinion and freedom of the press and combating corruption and abuse of Office are key aspects of Germany’s development work. A further priority is strengthening socially disadvantaged sections of the population and making political participation possible for them.

Promoting political participation

Poverty can only be tackled effectively if the poor and disenfranchised are given the possibility to articulate their interests and play a part in political processes. Political participation means involving all members of society in a transparent decision-making process – over and above participation in free, universal and fair elections. That transparency is crucial since reforms can only generate a long-term impact if the people of the country subscribe to them and consider them legitimate.

Germany’s contribution includes efforts to:

  • Strengthen civil society by supporting the establishment of civil society organisations and political participation by the people,
  • improve state effectiveness by, for instance, enabling state actors to deal with public participation in a competent manner, and
  • create public institutions and a legal basis to facilitate political participation.

Cooperation with state and non-state actors

German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) in Berlin.
German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) in Berlin.© dpa

The strategy and form of development cooperation applied depends on the situation in the partner country. If the government shows itself to be pro-development, Germany supports it in its efforts to modernise and introduce or reinforce democratic principles. Steps are also taken to improve the economic and social factors that help a democracy to flourish.

However, where a regime uses state violence and oppression to hold on to power, cooperation with the government and its administrative bodies is not possible. Instead, German development cooperation activities then concentrate on supporting non-state forces for reform and strengthening civil society. Political foundations are important partners in these efforts.

Germany also engages in multilateral cooperation, including United Nations and European Union programmes, aimed at promoting democratisation.


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