Southern Perspectives on international assistance to democracy and human rights: Is donor support fit for purpose?

27 April 2023  12:00 - 13:30

Virtual Event | Organised by Thinking and Working Politically, The Policy Practice | Held in (BST) University of Birmingham in English
Contact details: [email protected]
Defending against authoritarianism
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Democracy and human rights have been under increased pressure globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute’s latest report has found that advances in democracy over the last 35 years have been wiped out, and that 72% of the world’s population live in autocracies in 2022. In this challenging context, international development agencies have been adjusting how they support democracy and rights objectives. Lessons are being learned about how aid can be most effective, including by using thinking and working politically approaches. These are often presented and  acted upon from the perspective of donor agencies or implementers of democracy and human rights programmes, through donor funded reviews and evaluations, such as the latest UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact report on the UK’s approach to democracy and human rights. This webinar aims to flip the global conversation. It starts from the perspective of democracy and human rights activists from the Global South, rather than aid agencies. It asks what they consider to be good practice in terms of the provision of external support, what has undermined their efforts, and what can be done differently.


Dr. Kojo Assante

Director for Advocacy and Policy Engagement at Ghana Center For Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana)

Kojo leads a team of researchers, program officers, and communication specialists at CDD-Ghana to translate the Center’s research into content for advocacy, inform policy engagements, and promote effective governance and inclusive development in Ghana and beyond.

Before taking this role in February 2018, Dr. Assante was Senior Research Fellow at CDD-Ghana, and he has also served as the Center’s Head of Research and Programs. He has led and managed several of the Center’s most significant research projects, and as part of that he has worked closely with a variety of donors, including FCDO and the World Bank. Kojo is a trained barrister and legal policy and governance specialist with considerable experience and expertise on issues such as anti-corruption, social accountability, local government, human rights, natural resource governance, and the politics of development. He holds a Masters in Africana Studies from the State University of New York at Albany, NY, and a PhD in International Policy and Development from the University of Manchester, UK.

Caroline Gaita

Caroline is a strategic communication and governance specialist, writer, media and public relations practitioner, and experienced non-profit director with more than 15 years’ experience supporting both State and non-State actors in institutional strengthening, public policy and general impact communications. She is well versed with policy and legislative review and monitoring issues and processes. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Mzalendo Trust, Kenya’s premier Parliamentary Monitoring Organization. Prior to joining the non-government sector, she worked at various private sector and government agencies.

Sakuntala Kadirgamar

Sakuntala Kadirgamar is the Executive Director of the Law and Society Trust – a human rights research and advocacy organisation in Sri Lanka. She has a Phd in Jurisprudence from the University of Sydney Australia and received her LLB from the University of Colombo and a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Reading, UK. She was the Senior Constitution Adviser at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral assistance (IDEA) and the Head of the Asia Program (IDEA), based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has served as an Adviser to the Mediation Support Unit of the United Nations as the Gender and Inclusion Advisor and as an Adviser on Constitutions and Power Sharing. She was also an Adviser at the National Dialogue Conference of Yemen and a Senior Constitution Adviser to the United Nations Political Office for Somalia and to the UNDP in Nepal. Sakuntala is a senior governance expert with extensive experience providing policy and technical advice on constitutions, governance reform, transitional justice, the design of electoral systems and political party reforms, and mainstreaming gender and social inclusion and the sustained promotion of human rights. She has worked in fragile states and post conflict transitions in contexts of extreme political volatility, change and uncertain transitions. She has been called upon to play a key role in providing policy advice to diffuse political and social tensions and to advance new governance and development initiatives that ensure the inclusion of diverse political factions, minorities and women.

Ayesha Khan

Ayesha is Senior Research Fellow in the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion programme at ODI, a global affairs think tank based in London. Previously she worked for thirty years in Pakistan as a gender and development researcher. She is author of The Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Activism, Islam and Democracy, published in 2018.


Chair: Laure-Hélène Piron, Director, The Policy Practice

Laure-Hélène is a Director of The Policy Practice with over 25 years of experience in development policy and management with expertise in political economy analysis, democratic governance, rule of law, human rights, conflict and fragility and institutional development. She was the lead researcher and author of the UK Independent Commission on Aid Impact’s review for the of the UK’s approach to democracy and human rights. She is a core trainer in The Policy Practice/ODI Political Economy in Action course and facilitates political economy and adaptive management processes. She also contributed to the recent updates of the UK and Australian governments’ guides on political economy analysis.  Laure-Hélène has worked for the UK Department for International Development as a senior governance adviser and team leader both in London and Afghanistan.


Closing remarks: Alina Rocha Menocal

Alina is the Director of the Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice (TWP CoP), hosted at the University of Birmingham, and Principal at The Policy Practice. Until June 2022, she was a Principal Research Fellow at the global affairs think tank ODI, which she joined in 2005 and where she remains a Senior Research Associate. From 2016 to 2020, she was Senior Democracy Fellow in Applied Political Economy Analysis (PEA) at USAID. She was also one of the founding members of the TWP CoP in 2013.