Christian von Soest / Michael Wahman

Sanctions and Democratization in the Post-Cold War Era

GIGA Working Paper, No. 212, January 2013

Previous research, which has focused mostly on pre‐1990 dynamics, has shown that sanctions have a negative impact on the level of democracy in targeted authoritarian countries. Given this finding, it is puzzling that democratization has become the most common Goal of sanctions issued against authoritarian states. This paper studies how sanctions have affected democratization in targeted countries since the end of the Cold War and asks whether "democratic sanctions," those that explicitly aim to promote democracy, are in fact counterproductive. Contrary to the earlier research, this analysis demonstrates that sanctions do not generally decrease the level of democracy in targeted countries. Using a new data set covering sanctions for the period 1990–2010 and cross‐sectional time‐series analysis, the study shows that sanctions have an insignificant but positive democratic effect. More importantly, it finds that "democratic sanctions" have a statistically significant positive effect on democratic development in targeted countries. This positive outcome can be explained by the smaller selection effect associated with this specific sanction type. The high cost of conceding to "democratic sanctions" makes authoritarian regimes less likely to give in to senders’ demands before sanctions are implemented. The high‐cost argument is corroborated by a supplementary test that demonstrates that democratic sanctions in particular make authoritarian institutions and rulers more instable.

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GIGA AutorInnen

Dr. Christian von Soest ist Lead Research Fellow am GIGA Institut für Afrika-Studien (IAA) und Leiter des GIGA-Forschungsschwerpunkts 2 „Frieden und Sicherheit“. Er forscht zu Sanktionen und anderen externen Interventionen, Konfliktprozessen und autoritären Regimen. Er leitet den Beitrag des GIGA zum Projekt B3 “Konflikt und Kooperation im Nexus von Klima und Sicherheit“, des Exzellenzclusters „Klima, Klimawandel und die Gesellschaft“ (CLICCS) der Universität Hamburg (

Aktuelle Publikationen der AutorInnen

Sandra Destradi / Christian von Soest

Internationales Krisenmanagement

in: Frank Bösch / Nicole Deitelhoff / Stefan Kroll (eds.), Handbuch Krisenforschung, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 2020, 233-248

Christian von Soest

Eine hitzige Debatte: Klimawandel und gewaltsame Konflikte in Afrika

GIGA Focus Afrika, 02/2020

Christian von Soest

Individual Sanctions: Toward a New Research Agenda

CESifo Forum, 20, 2019, 4, 28-31

Marcus Tannenberg / Michael Bernhard / Johannes Gerschewski / Anna Lührmann / Christian Von Soest

Regime Legitimation Strategies (RLS) 1900 to 2018

V-Dem Working Papers, 2019, 86