Two distinct approaches to international democracy assistance have emerged in recent years: the political approach and the developmental approach. They vary with respect to their underlying conceptions of democracy and democratization and their methods and areas of focus. U.S. democracy promotion makes use of both approaches; European democracy support efforts largely favor the developmental approach. Neither approach is necessarily preferable overall; both have multiple strengths and weaknesses. The existence of two core approaches is evidence that democracy aid is diversifying to adapt to a more challenging international political landscape.

Democracy-aid providers are moving away from one-size-fits-all strategies and are adapting their programs to diverse political contexts. Two distinct overall approaches to assisting democracy have emerged in response.