Fostering Civil Society to Build Institutions: Why and When
We revisit the ubiquitous claim that aiding civil society improves institutional outcomes. In our model, a vibrant civil society initiates public debate in a reform process otherwise dominated by partisan interest groups and politicians. Civil society involvement can alleviate or aggravate adverse selection problems that arise because interest groups are better informed about reform consequences than politicians. Since aid increases the cost to the politician of excluding civil society, it affects institution building. We show analytically, and illustrate empirically, that the welfare implications of fostering civil society critically depend on the specifics of local politics, thereby casting new light on the experience of civil society aid in transition and developing countries.