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Democracy Assistance and NGO Strategies in Post-Communist Societies

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Since the end of the Cold War, Eastern Europe and Eurasia have been host to a virtual army of Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs)-from the United States, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe-all working on various aspects of institutional development, such as helping to establish competitive political parties and elections, independent media, and civic advocacy groups, as well as trying to reduce ethnic conflict. Little is known-although much good and bad is believed-about the impact of this assistance, carried out on a transnational level in cooperation with local political and social activists. This study, based at Columbia University, was designed to address this gap.

Funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the project involved seventeen investigators with social science and regional expertise who followed a common research design for sixteen case studies in twelve countries. Many of them had worked in or previously evaluated democracy assistance projects. The case studies they examined included: political parties and elections in Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia; independent media in Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia; women's NGOs in Russia, Poland, and Hungary; environmental NGOs in Russia and Kazakhstan; civic education NGOs in Romania, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan; and the reduction of ethnic conflict in Bosnia, Estonia, and the states that are home to the ethnic Hungarian and Roma diasporas.