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Photo: “IMG_1965“, by Tom Page, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Monkos, Aleksandra. “Democracy Promotion under Populist Rule? The Case of Poland’s Democracy Aid in Ukraine.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, October 20, 2021.


The credibility of democracy promotion provided by countries experiencing democratic backsliding has raised many doubts lately. The goal of this exploratory paper is to examine Poland’s efforts to promote democracy through foreign aid in Ukraine. I find that after winning the elections in 2015, the populist government in Poland started to transform democracy aid both at the level of development cooperation policy and in practice in Ukraine, one of the biggest beneficiaries of Polish aid. Rather than explicitly questioning or limiting aid as an instrument of democracy promotion, support for civil society and human rights has been reduced, and the involvement of Polish NGOs, especially those strongly committed to transferring democratic values abroad, declined. Such changes are perceived as another layer of Poland’s democratic backsliding rooted in the anti-pluralism of the Law and Justice party. Thus, this paper enriches the debate on populism by showing the latter’s effects on democracy promotion.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.