Thomas Carothers

Vice President for Studies
Carothers is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, comparative democratization, and U.S. foreign policy relating to democracy and human rights.


JD, Harvard Law School
MSc, London School of Economics
AB, Harvard College


English; French; Spanish

Contact Information


Thomas Carothers is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He directs the Democracy and Rule of Law Program and oversees several other Carnegie programs, including Carnegie Europe in Brussels, the Energy and Climate Program, and the D.C.-based Europe Program.

Carothers is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, comparative democratization, and U.S. foreign policy relating to democracy and human rights. He has worked on democracy-assistance projects for many organizations and carried out extensive field research on aid efforts around the world. He also has broad experience relating to human rights, rule of law development, civil society building, and think tank development in transitional and developing countries.

He is the author of six critically acclaimed books and many articles in prominent journals and newspapers. He has worked extensively with the Open Society Foundations (OSF), previously serving as chair of the OSF Global Advisory Board and currently serving as chair of the OSF Think Tank Fund.  He is a distinguished visiting professor at the Central European University in Budapest and was previously a visiting faculty member at Nuffield College, Oxford University, and Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Prior to joining the Endowment, Carothers practiced international and financial law at Arnold & Porter and served as an attorney adviser in the office of the legal adviser of the U.S. Department of State.

His recent publications include “Democracy Aid at 25: Time to Choose” (Journal of Democracy, January 2015), Closing Space: International Support for Democracy and Human Rights Under Fire (2014), and Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution (with Diane de Gramont, 2013).

  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace April 16, 2013
    Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution

    The overdue recognition that development in all sectors is an inherently political process is driving international aid providers to try to learn how to think and act politically.

  • Book Review September 17, 2008
    Democracy and Discontent

    The next U.S. administration will have to go beyond simply righting the wrongs of President Bush’s democracy promotion policies and reformulate the United States’ understanding of the relationship between its own democracy and the struggling democratic systems it seeks to help abroad.

  • Washington October 23, 2006
    Confronting the Weakest Link: Aiding Political Parties in New Democracies

    Political parties are the weakest link in many democratic transitions around the world—frequently beset with persistent problems of self-interest, corruption, ideological incoherence, and narrow electoralism. Thomas Carothers draws on extensive field research to diagnose deficiencies in party aid, assess its overall impact, and offer practical ideas for doing better.

  • Washington January 1, 2006
    Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge

    Promoting the rule of law has become a major part of Western efforts to spread democracy and market economics around the world. Although programs to foster the rule of law abroad have mushroomed, well-grounded knowledge about what factors ensure success, and why, remains scarce.

  • Washington January 1, 2005
    Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East

    The United States faces no greater challenge today than successfully fulfilling its new ambition of helping bring about a democratic transformation of the Middle East. Uncharted Journey contributes a wealth of concise, illuminating insights on this subject, drawing on the contributors’ deep knowledge of Arab politics and their experience with democracy-building in other parts of the world.

  • Washington September 1, 2004
    Critical Mission: Essays on Democracy Promotion

    Demand for practical knowledge and lessons about how the United States and other countries can more effectively promote democracy around the world has never been higher. This timely book by Thomas Carothers, one of the foremost authorities worldwide on democracy-building, helps meet that need.

  • Washington October 27, 2000
    Funding Virtue: Civil Society Aid and Democracy Promotion

    A diverse, distinguished group of democracy experts and civil society practitioners from both donor and recipient countries analyze civil society aid in five regions, including country case studies of South Africa, the Philippines, Peru, Egypt, and Romania.

  • Washington December 31, 1999
    Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve

    This book examines democracy aid programs relating to elections, political parties, governmental reform, rule of law, civil society, independent media, labor unions, decentralization, and other elements of what Carothers describes as "the democracy template" that policy makers and aid officials apply around the world.

  • Africa's New Leaders
    Washington December 31, 1999
    Africa's New Leaders: Democracy or State Reconstruction?

    This is an important resource for policy makers and others forced to deal with countries where democratic change is both complex and protracted.

  • Washington January 1, 1996 Washington, D.C.
    Assessing Democracy Assistance: The Case of Romania

    This landmark study, an examination of U.S. democracy assistance efforts in Romania, is the first comprehensive analysis of the workings—and failings—of U.S. democracy assistance in one country.

  • CBC September 12, 2013
    Syrian Chemical Weapons Plan

    A Russia-brokered deal, which seeks to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, provides the Obama administration with breathing room but fails to solve the fundamental issues driving the Syrian conflict.

  • BBC World News July 1, 2013
    Uprising in Egypt

    The U.S. government should refrain from doing anything that would suggest interference in Egypt’s internal developments and instead support a peaceful resolution by domestic civilian actors.

  • RT CrossTalk November 5, 2012
    Exporting Freedom?

    The United States must balance its goal of democracy promotion with its economic, political, and security interests.

  • Foreign Policy Association October 28, 2011
    U.S. Response to the Arab Spring

    U.S. ambivalence toward the popular democratic outbursts of the Arab Spring stems from Washington’s economic and security concerns in the region.

  • CSIS June 28, 2011
    What Does the Arab Spring Mean for Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus?

    The Arab Spring has more in common with events in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s than Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. The impact of events in the Middle East for states outside the region will depend on the legitimacy and adaptability of their regimes.

  • KERA July 23, 2008
    A League of Democracies

    Carnegie's Thomas Carothers gives an in-depth interview on the proposed "League of Democracies" with Dallas’ NPR-affiliate, KERA. Carothers discusses the problems a league or concert of democracies would face in defining and selecting democratic member states—further undermining the credibility of U.S. democracy promotion efforts around the world.

  • Thomas Carothers
    Worldview May 19, 2008
    Improving U.S. Democracy Promotion Policy

    In his second inaugural, Bush put democracy promotion at the top of his foreign policy agenda and argued that the events of his first term proved that our freedom is inextricably linked to the freedom abroad. Thomas Carothers discusses the reputation of U.S. democracy promotion in the world and what a post-Bush administration can do to reclaim democracy promotion credibility in the world.

  • European Parliament
    February 18, 2015 Brussels
    How to Fix EU Democracy

    To everyday citizens, the EU institutions appear distant, obscure, and elitist. With populism and Euroskepticism on the rise, how can the EU win back the trust of its people?

  • February 4, 2015 Washington, DC
    Why Corruption Threatens Global Security

    Corruption is an unexpected link in the world’s multiplying security crises.

  • November 19, 2014 Washington, DC
    Understanding Hungary’s Political Path

    Hungary offers an important example of the problems that an apparently consolidated democracy can encounter. It also poses a test for the European Union and the United States on how to respond when democracy comes under stress in an EU member state.

  • November 5, 2014 São Paulo, Brazil
    Rising Democracies Network Meets in Brazil

    Carnegie’s Rising Democracies Network met in Brazil to engage with local and regional actors and exchange ideas for cooperation toward international democracy and human rights support.

  • September 11, 2014 Washington, DC
    New Thinking on Governance, Aid, and Development

    No issue in international development is as important, or vexing, as the relationship between governance and development.

  • Turkey; Police
    April 14, 2014 Brussels
    Closing Space: Democracy and Human Rights Support Under Fire

    International support for democracy and human rights faces a serious challenge after its increased influence in the last decades.

  • March 5, 2014 Washington, DC
    Closing Space in Democracy and Human Rights Support

    International support for democracy and human rights faces a serious challenge after its increased influence in the last decades.

  • January 21, 2014
    The Third Way: Emerging Political Forces

    A number of significant challenges face emerging political parties in the Arab world.

  • November 6, 2013 Washington, DC
    Aiding Democracy in Africa: A Critical Assessment

    Aiding democratic progress in Africa faces an array of ongoing and emergent challenges, ranging from chronically weak state capacity to rising pressures in some parts of the continent from Islamist extremists.

  • November 5, 2013 Washington, DC
    Rethinking European Democracy Support

    European support for democracy faces a series of challenges stemming both from the results of the Eurozone crisis and from the difficult state of democracy worldwide. In order to confront these challenges, the EU must rethink its approach.

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