Since the 1990s, democratisation has become a central goal and tool of many development agencies. As well as having intrinsic capacities relating to civil and political rights, democracy is argued to promote economic growth and pro-poor development. This paper reviews the growth of democratisation in developing countries, and discusses the agencies, institutions, and structural factors driving this phenomenon. It considers the evidence for pro-poor impacts of democratisation. Democracy tends to promote individual civil and political rights more than other political systems. However, where formal democratic institutions are created without support for political voice and freedoms, pro-poor impacts are limited. There is little evidence supporting claims that democratisation promotes economic development. Indeed, tensions can arise between democratisation and economic development in some contexts. Rather than adopting a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to democratisation, the paper concludes that it is important for states to develop tailored solutions to collectively defined problems of political and economic development.