The role of Western NGOs in the transition of postcommunist nations to democracy has been well documented. In this study, Paulina Pospieszna follows a different trajectory, examining the role of a former aid recipient (Poland), newly democratic itself, and its efforts to aid democratic transitions in the neighboring states of Belarus and Ukraine.
Belarus is widely regarded as the most authoritarian state in the region, while Ukraine is witnessing a slow, if often troubled, democratic consolidation. Each state presents a different set of challenges to outside agencies. As Pospieszna shows, Poland is uniquely positioned to offer effective counsel on the transition to democracy. With similarities of language and culture, and a shared history, combined with strong civic activism and success within the European Union, Poland's regional policies have successfully combined its need for security and a motivation to spread democracy as primary concerns. Pospieszna details the founding, internal workings, goals, and methods of Poland's aid programs. She then compares the relative degrees of success of each in Belarus and Ukraine and documents the work yet to be done.
As her theoretical basis, Pospieszna analyzes current thinking on the methods and effectiveness of NGOs in transitions to democracy, particularly U.S.- and European-led aid efforts. She then views the applicability of these methods to the case of Poland and its aid recipients. Overwhelmingly, Pospieszna finds the greatest success in developmental programs targeting civil society--workers, intellectuals, teachers, students, and other NGO actors.
Through extensive interviews with government administrators and NGO workers in Poland and the United States, coupled with archival research, Pospieszna assembles an original perspective on the mitigation of the 'postcommunist divide'. Her work will serve as a model for students and scholars of states in transition, and it provides an overview of both successful and unsuccessful strategies employed by NGOs in democracy assistance.