Reaffirming the Euro-Atlantic Commitment to Democracy and Private Enterprise

Protesters at the March for Europe protest on July the 2nd, 2016 in London.

The outpouring of anti-globalist sentiments from both right and left in many western democracies is teaching those of us who support a global economic architecture many valuable lessons on how we should look toward reforming our international institutions of trade and finance. The rise of nationalism and populism in western democracies is a reaction to the perceived loss of sovereignty and economic exclusion that many ordinary citizens have felt as a result of the growth of transnational institutions, be they the European Union, the World Trade Organization, or more focused initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In reaction, citizens have been reclaiming their desire for sovereign power through exercising their democratic franchise at national polls, especially in the Euro-Atlantic family. Whether a backlash to Brussel’s Euro-bureaucracy through Brexit and the rise of populism in Central Europe or the increasing influence of anti-globalization politics within both U.S. political parties, we need to recognize that these assertions of political will are legitimate forms of grievance. While we may be disheartened by the message at times, we must at least take heart that these grievances play themselves out in a democratic process (albeit one that seems increasingly under fire). In essence, citizens are using their local ballot boxes to push back at international institutions that they otherwise feel powerless to influence.

Sadly, despite its benefits in terms of global prosperity, globalization has become viewed as the provenance of the elite, the well connected, and the wealthy. While multinationals advertise a world of global brands, good times, and freedom, these images don’t reflect the lives of many. The opportunities to better one’s life through a good job or entrepreneurship promised in our global economy aren’t always available, and when the promise of globalization doesn’t deliver, people turn to those institutions that promise them more control over their lives. In the best case, they turn to those things that define their identity and interests, in the worst case some turn to violent extremism.

What then can we learn from the trends we are observing today, I would suggest two points: Firstly, the institutions of trade, commerce, and governance, both regional and global, must be seen to deliver the goods to a wider community of people and be more democratic in their actions, and they must apply the principles of good governance – fairness, accountability, trust, and responsibility – when designing their functionality. For example, the rise of nationalist politics in Central Europe is not a wholesale rejection of European values, most citizens of the region appreciate the democracy, rule of law, and prosperity that the EU has provided. Rather, they feel disheartened by a system that discounts citizen participation in the setting of norms and regulations in a distant capital. Institutions that govern global trade are similarly seen by have-nots around the world as out of touch with local conditions. The EU needs to figure out how to be more democratic and responsive in its policy setting, and the way in which the world negotiates trade deals needs to be more transparent, accountable, and inclusive.

Secondly, globalization itself must also democratize in a way that enables more to access its benefits. Micro, small, and medium business are learning to trade across borders via e-commerce, we need to fast-track our rule setting to ensure that this sector can grow and compete. Governments must put in place the physical infrastructure to speed its adoption, but also the legal infrastructure to guarantee a level playing field, protect data, and ensure a reliable and free internet. Through the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, governments must also live up to their commitments to ease the non-tariff barriers to trade that exist at many of our borders and that stand in the way of small businesses trading across frontiers. It’s a very exciting opportunity, but one which requires attention from our leaders to make sure we do it right.

What is troubling to many is that our inward looking instincts are coming at a time when we need to be paying greater attention to how we reform all of these institutions. Do we build the framework for global trade based on our Euro-Atlantic values of openness, free enterprise, and fairness, or do we allow non-democratic nations that rely on closed door deals, crony ties, and authoritarianism to set the rules?

Next week, my organization CIPE will be gathering in Brussels with many of our partners from across Central Europe to sign a declaration reaffirming our own Euro-Atlantic commitment to democracy and private enterprise. The purpose of this admittedly modest action is to make a broader statement about our desire to forge a renewed commitment to regional and global economic systems based on the principles of democratic dialogue, free markets, and rule of law that guarantees a level playing field. We and our partners are convinced that a balance must be found between the desires for greater local control of citizen destiny based on democratic values, and the prosperity brought about by freer trade and common standards.

By extension, the need for continued leadership by the world’s democracies in the design and governance of our trading alliances is crucial if we want to do business in a world based on the principles of economic freedom, rule of law, and fair competition. In that way, we can assure that the promise of prosperity given to us by global growth can be made more accessible to all. Failure to do so puts the future of our liberal democratic order in jeopardy.

Andrew Wilson is the Managing Director of the Center for International Private Enterprise. 

Democracy that Delivers #69: Oraib Al Rantawi on opportunities for public-private dialogue in Jordan

Guest host Anna Kompanek with podcast guest Oraib Al Rantawi

On this week’s Democracy That Delivers podcast, director of the Al Quds Center for Political Studies, Oraib Al Rantawi, talks about how he moved from being a journalist to the head of the Al Quds Think-Tank. Al Rantawi was a reporter and journalist from 1978-1993, covering a wide array of topics for pan-Arab newspapers, including the civil war in Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Al Rantawi and guest host Anna Kompanek further discuss Al Quds partnership with CIPE, working for the past decade to engage political parties in Jordan with the economic reform process. They discuss the progress that has been made since the beginning of the partnership, as well as the political climate in Jordan and the opening space for public-private dialogue.

This podcast was recorded in the field, and the sound quality may vary.

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Ethics, Compliance, and Oversight in International Development: Lessons from the UK

Photo Credit: DFID (via Flickr)

Although the international development community aspires to noble ends, the firms and organizations therein are not free from the same ethical lapses that can befall corporations with more naked profit motives. Adam Smith International (ASI), the largest international development contractor for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), can attest to that point. In February 2017, ASI suffered a major blow when DfID froze all future contracts with ASI after uncovering unethical behavior on the part of ASI. These firm-specific compliance issues open up abroader conversation about the roles of ethics, compliance, and the public in international development.

ASI earned their DfID sanction by hiring an ex-DfID employee who then used their access to proprietary DfID documents to help ASI gain inside information into how to win DfID contracts. ASI also sought to influence the results of parliamentary hearings by engineering the content in letters of support from its beneficiaries. In both of these cases, ASI sought to cover up their wrongdoing with more deception. Taken together, these cover-ups revealed a toxic culture that had been given the time and space to fester.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #68: Stone Conroy on How Business Associations Can Help With Peacebuilding

Left: Guest Stone Conroy, with hosts Jenny Anderson and Julie Johnson

On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships at the Alliance for Peacebuilding Stone Conroy discusses the processes and vehicles that organizations can use to resolve conflict. He also discusses the need to engage a wide range of players in these efforts including businesses, non-profits, governments, the media, military, academia, and others. Conroy also talks about the drivers behind conflict, and identifies “a sense of injustice” as one of the most powerful forces for dissatisfaction that can lead to violence.

Conroy describes situations in both Nigeria and Northern Ireland where business and business associations were the key to building peace and conflict resolution. He talks about the convening power of business associations and how they can gather a wide range of stakeholders to address a conflict situation. Lastly, he discusses a new, cutting-edge Alliance project bringing together peacebuilders, spiritual leaders and neuroscientists to look at how the brain can be “rewired” to be more peaceful. Pilot projects are planned for Minneapolis, Chicago, and in Bogota, Colombia.

Learn more about the Alliance for Peacebuilding here and follow Stone on Twitter @Stone_Conroy.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

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Using Technology to Strengthen Policy Advocacy across South Asia

CIPE training session in Kathmandu, Nepal

Throughout South Asia, women in business have faced several barriers to achieving full civic and economic participation. To tackle these challenges, the South Asia Regional Women’s Economic Network has helped amplify women’s empowerment in the region. Supported by CIPE, the network has been able to effectively advocate for policy reforms that create more opportunities for women-owned businesses. This network is comprised of women business associations from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka.

The achievements of the network continue to show that now, more than ever, focusing on women’s economic growth is key to strengthening democracy. For example, Multan, in South Punjab, and Peshawar—both cities in turbulent regions—are home to large artisan communities consisting mainly of women working on hand embroidery and handcrafted textiles. Despite challenges for women to participate economically and politically, both the Southern Punjab and Peshawar Women’s Chamber pushed the government to change a policy that was impeding the earning potential of women artisans. Eventually, the State Bank issued policy instructions that led to lengthening the amount of time that artisans have to pay back their loans. Extending credit will help them in fulfilling orders, and allows them to plan purchases and sales further in advance, with less pressure for rapid repayment.

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M&E, Technology and Network Outages in Kenya

Workshop participants in Nairobi

This piece originally appeared on the Panopoly Digital Blog

Last week, I was in Nairobi, Kenya with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and their Kenyan partners from a wide variety of organisations, including civil society organisations and business membership associations from across Kenya. I was delivering a two-day training workshop on monitoring, evaluation and communication, how to use technology for those M&E and advocacy activities, and how to think about digital security.

CIPE strengthens democracy worldwide through private enterprise and market reforms. In Kenya, it works with partners to build policy and regulatory reform and provide services to regional members. Since Kenya’s devolution and decentralisation of government launched in 2013, CIPE’s Kenya partners have been working with their audience at a local level to ensure that local governments are accountable to their citizens.

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Democracy that Delivers #67: How Property Rights Are Key to Sustainable Economic Growth

From Left: moderator Anna Kompanek, with panelists Sylvia Luchini, Bill Endsley, Dr. Jolyne Sanjak, and Jane Katz

On the Democracy that Delivers podcast this week, we are sharing the recording of an event CIPE recently co-hosted with the International Real Property Foundation on the topic The Role of Property Rights and Property Markets in Sustainable Urbanization and Economic Growth. Listen to experts discuss how property rights and the institutions that support them –ranging from appropriate regulation to transparent financial markets– are key to sustainable development. Robust private property markets promote social stability, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote economic growth.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for equal rights, in particular by the poor and the vulnerable, to ownership and control over land and other forms of property. The SDGs also call for inclusive and sustainable urbanization, an imperative echoed at the recent United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT III). Important progress has been made. Yet, billions of people around the world today still remain without access to secure property rights and the means to build sustainable settlements and economies.

This event took place on the sidelines of the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty.

Panelists: 

  • Bill Endsley, Secretary General, International Real Estate Federation – US Chapter
  • Jane Katz, Director of International Affairs and Programs, Habitat for Humanity International
  • Sylvia Luchini, Managing Director, International Real Property Foundation
  • Dr. Jolyne Sanjak, Chief Program Officer, Landesa
  • Anna Kompanek, Director for Multiregional Programs, CIPE (discussion moderator)

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

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