Helpdesk Research Report: Impact of election assistance

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Impact of election assistance: Please summarise the number, type and headline findings from any impact evaluations completed in the last 10 years on election assistance (programme specific or broader). Restrict evaluations to those that have used rigorous evaluation processes, summarise impact evidence and not lessons learned, and try to identify planned evaluations as well as existing evaluations.

Helpdesk response

Key findings: There is a large body of evaluation literature relating to election assistance and it is difficult to accurately quantify the number of studies available. This report identifies a sample of impact evaluations undertaken in the last 10 years that apply a rigorous methodology. ‘Rigour’ is taken here to mean any approach that uses systematic, transparent and empirical research to investigate the impacts of an intervention. This includes a range of quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods designs.

Evaluations undertaken by, or for, bilateral and multilateral donors have primarily used rigorous qualitative or mixed methods designs. These evaluations suggest the following main impacts.

  • UK Department for International Development (DFID): Electoral assistance through UNDP has contributed to successful elections and a reduction in conflict, though this assistance has been less successful in building sustainable capacity.
  • European Union (EU): Perceptions in southern Africa are that the EU is particularly effective in terms of electoral assistance as they put pressure on authoritarian regimes, push for higher democratic standards, have improved a number of key organisations and institutions, and improved voter education.
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): UNDP has made significant contributions to strengthening electoral systems and, with the help of donors and partners, allowed elections to happen where they otherwise would not have been possible. The UNDP is strong at technical assistance, but has been inconsistent in promoting normative values which would have improved programme effectiveness.
  • USAID: A quantitative analysis has shown a significant positive impact on democratic change of USAID assistance, and in particular of USAID electoral assistance.

A smaller number of evaluations of electoral interventions have applied an experimental or quasi-experimental methodology, some of them randomised-control trials. These demonstrate impacts in:

  • informing voters about candidates
  • informing voters about corruption
  • election-monitoring technology
  • social networks
  • village committees
  • international observers
  • voting training.