Does democracy lead to development or is it the other way around? Very few puzzles in academic and policy circles have generated as much research and scholarship as this question – and the debate remains far from settled. The stakes have never been higher. Most countries in the world today are formal democracies, but while it is widely recognised that institutions matter for development, what institutions matter most, when and why is less clear. There seems to be growing disillusionment across both the developed and the developing world about the way democracy works, and concerns about whether democratic systems can deliver for their populations in terms of both social and economic wellbeing. At the same time, the phenomenal success of countries like China and other 'Asian Tigers' in lifting people out of poverty has increased the appeal of authoritarian models of development.

What does this imply for the promise of democracy, and are there indeed more effective models to promote development, growth and equity? This event will explore whether and how these democracies have been able to make a difference in the lives of their populations, what kinds of challenges they face in doing so, and what similar emerging democracies can learn from their experiences.

A full event summary, as well as video content, is available here.

Introductory Remarks

  • Ann Bernstein, Centre for Development and Enterprise, South Africa


  • Simon Schwartzman, President, Institute for Studies on Labour and Society, Brazil
  • Eswaran Sridharan, Academic Director, University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India, India
  • Alina Rocha Menocal, Research Fellow, Politics and Governance and Development Progress, ODI, UK


  • Anne Applebaum, Director, Transitions Forum, Legatum Institute, UK

Closing Remarks

  • Kevin Watkins, Executive Director, ODI, UK


  • 13 May 2014, 13:00 - 14:45 BST
  • Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ, UK

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An ODI public event in the Elections, legitimacy and transitions: lessons from emerging democracies series. This event was also linked to the Legatum Institute's Democracy Works project, which looks at the relationship between democracy and growth in developing countries.