Julia Grauvogel / Christian von Soest

Claims to Legitimacy Matter: Why Sanctions Fail to Instigate Democratization in Authoritarian Regimes

GIGA Working Paper, No. 235, October 2013

International sanctions have been one of the most commonly used tools of Western foreign policy in the post‐Cold War era to instigate democratization globally. However, despite long‐term external pressure through sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United States and/or the United Nations, nondemocratic rule in cases such as Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Syria has proven to be extremely persistent. In this paper, we analyze a new global dataset on sanctions from 1990 to 2011 and assess which international and domestic factors account for the persistence of nondemocratic rule in targeted regimes. The results of a fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) of 120 episodes of sanctions provide new insights for the research on both sanctions and authoritarian regimes. Most significantly, sanctions strengthen nondemocratic rule if the regime manages to incorporate their existence into its legitimation strategy. Such a "rally‐round‐the‐flag" effect occurs most often in cases where comprehensive sanctions targeting the entire Population are imposed on regimes that enjoy strong claims to legitimacy and have only limited linkages to the sanction sender.

Related Research at the GIGA

Related Research Tabs

GIGA Authors

Dr. Julia Grauvogel

Senior Research Fellow
Speaker Research Team

Dr. Julia Grauvogel is a senior research fellow at the GIGA Institute for African Affairs. She is also the spokesperson for the GIGA Research Team “Interventions and Security,” as well as editor of the journal Africa Spectrum. Her work focuses on authoritarianism, the legitimation strategies of non-democratic regimes, and international sanctions. Currently, she heads the research project “The Termination of International Sanctions: Causes, Processes and Domestic Consequences,” funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG).

Dr. Christian von Soest is a lead research fellow at the GIGA Institute for African Affairs (IAA) and head of the GIGA Research Programme 2 “Peace and Security.” His work focuses on sanctions and other foreign policy interventions, conflict processes, and the domestic and international politics of authoritarian regimes. He leads the GIGA’s contribution to the project B3: “Conflict and Cooperation at the Climate-Security Nexus,” forming part of the “Climate, Climate Change, and Society” (CLICCS) Excellence Cluster of the University of Hamburg (www.cliccs.uni-hamburg.de/research/theme-b/b3.html).

Recent Publications by the Authors

Julia Grauvogel / Navin Bapat / Bryan Early / Katja B. Kleinberg

The Design and Enforcement of Economic Sanctions

International Studies Perspectives, forthcoming

Gesine Ames / Julia Grauvogel

Burundi before the Elections: Continuity instead of Change

GIGA Focus Africa, 04/2020

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

A Heated Debate: Climate Change and Conflict in Africa

GIGA Focus Africa, 02/2020

Julia Grauvogel / Hana Attia

How Do International Sanctions End? Towards a Process-Oriented, Relational, and Signalling Perspective

GIGA Working Paper, No. 320, January 2020