Upcoming conference – ECPR General Conference, Potsdam, 10-12 September

I am going to be speaking at the ECPR General Conference in Potsdam in September, as part of a panel on ‘Democratization & institution-building: Recasting the structure-agency debate in democracy promotion & “transitology”‘,  in the section ‘Political Development Between Democratization & Conflict’.

The paper will be titled ‘Donor-funded Civic Education in Kenya, 2000-2009: From democratisation to conflict‘. Donors have been funding the National Civic Education Programme (NCEP) in Kenya since 2000 in an attempt to enhance democratic knowledge and strengthen political participation following the transition to democratic politics. NCEP was originally driven by donors, which led to conflict with the government, who argued that donors were using NCEP to interfere in Kenya’s politics. The curriculum was deemed unfit for purpose, focusing on a narrow set of skills delivered using largely traditional pedagogical methods.

A revamped NCEP addressed some of these concerns by transferring management to a consortium of Kenyan NGOs and the development of a more sophisticated curriculum, delivered through innovative, participatory methods. However, the post-election violence in late 2007–early 2008 highlighted large gaps in both democratic knowledge and engagement that was supposed to have been strengthened through civic education. Donors are now questioning how civic education failed to mitigate against such conflict but do not recognise that their own involvement in NCEP contributes significantly to its weakness.

Drawing on interviews with donors, civil society actors, academics and government, conducted in 2006 and 2008, this paper examines the relationship between donors and NCEP preceding and following on from the post-election violence. For all of its pedagogical innovation and increased local management, NCEP still suffers from interference from its external funders, who are wary of getting too involved in politics and who favour Western-style approaches to civic education that emphasise philosophical debate regarding the formal rules of the game in democratic politics as opposed to dealing with the informal rules of the game that undermine Kenyan politics, such as ethnicity, inequality and corruption. This is resulting in a civic education programme for Kenya that cannot bring about the sort of citizenship it needs for the development of a stronger, institutionalised democratic politics.

Now I just need to write it…watch this space for updates!

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