Democracy that Delivers Podcast #85: Hans-Joachim Hogrefe on Refugees and Economic Growth

From left: podcast guest Hans-Joachim Hogrefe, with guest host Stephen Rosenlund and host Ken Jaques

This week’s guest is Hans-Joachim Hogrefe, director of policy and advocacy at Refugees International, a nonprofit organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people.

Hogrefe was a panelist at CIPE’s LIFE (Livelihood Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship) project launch on September 15. LIFE aims to develop entrepreneurship skills and drive job creation for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

In this podcast, Hogrefe explains that the LIFE project will benefit the Turkish economy by providing refugees with formal jobs and integrating them into Turkish society. Hogrefe believes that this project could also play an invaluable role in other countries with large refugee populations.

A native of Germany, Hogrefe moved to the United States as a fellow with the American Political Science Association. As a fellow, Hogrefe worked closely with the late U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the only Holocaust survivor to have served in Congress and a human rights advocate. Hogrefe credits Lantos for influencing the trajectory of his career as a champion for human rights. Following his fellowship, Hogrefe worked for the Physicians for Human Rights and the U.S. State Department.

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

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Funding for the LIFE Project in Turkey provided by the United States Government

Open Internet Principles for Democracy: Stand Up for Free Online Speech in the Face of Oppressive Governments

Credit: Missoula Current

Over the last two decades, the internet has profoundly changed how societies operate. People around the world now access and share information at an unprecedented rate. The business community, in particular, has used the internet to increase innovation and productivity, spurring global economic growth. In addition, the internet has transformed the relationship between governments and citizens, as many people use e-democracy tools to demand increased transparency and accountability.

Unfortunately, recognizing that the internet is now one of the most valued ways for people to connect, authoritarian states and declining democracies are increasingly closing the space for open internet. Governments around the world are now taking actions to quash dissent, intimidate independent voices, and prevent the open sharing of ideas in the most significant communication medium of our time. For example, pro-military forces in Myanmar used online censorship to silence independent bloggers and media. Several newspapers have also revealed Russia’s use of troll farms to promote posts of pro-Putin commentaries to harass opponents. At the same time, the new and rapidly evolving nature of the internet means that many citizens are unaware or misinformed of how their fundamental rights such as to speech, assembly, and association apply in a digital world.

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A Call for Democratic Re-engagement

Protest in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Lukasz Kaminski.

Every year on September 15, the United Nations’ International Day of Democracy offers an opportunity to reflect on the state of democracy and the challenges facing it. This year’s theme spotlights the need to strengthen democratic institutions against a backdrop of increasing disparities of economic opportunity.

In Central and Eastern Europe, those disparities have become more prominent in recent years, heightening the need to re-examine assumptions about the region’s transitions. Although the region made great strides in building democratic institutions and growing market economies over the course of two decades, the quality of—and support for—democracy has started to decline. Corruption has become a way of life in Hungary, where the government doles out public money based on political loyalty and friendships. In Poland, the government has exerted undue influence over the judiciary system, depriving citizens of their fundamental democratic freedoms.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #84: Johanna Mendelson-Forman on Food Diplomacy

From left: guest host Stephen Rosenlund, podcast guest Johanna Mendelson-Forman and host Ken Jaques

This week’s guest on Democracy that Delivers is food diplomacy expert Johanna Mendelson-Forman. She is an adjunct professor at American University and distinguished fellow with the Managing Across Boundaries Initiative at the Stimson Center.

Mendelson-Forman explains the little-known social benefits of food. For example, food builds a sense of community by connecting people with food from a different culture. Food also reduces social tensions and division because of the bond created with others while enjoying the pleasurable act of eating together.

She also explains that food is also a major source of employment because it provides jobs for people who grow and transport food.

Finally, Mendelson-Forman discusses the importance of CIPE’s partnership with the Stimson Center to create the LIFE (Livelihoods Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship) project. LIFE aims to develop entrepreneurship skills and drive job creation for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The LIFE project will launch on Friday, September 15.

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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Promoting Government Transparency and Empowering Citizens through Open Data

Young participants at the Code for Good Hackathon for Girls Who Code in New York (via Flickr)

As our lives become increasingly digitized, governments must respond to calls to make information available for public consumption on the Internet. Proponents of open data advocate for the release of information collected by governments in formats accessible to all citizens. But what is open data, and how can it help people make sense of their world?

Governments routinely collect facts affecting constituents and regarding a variety of topics including health, the environment, and the economy. According to Open Knowledge International, a global non-profit committed to empowering civil society to harness the power of open data for social impact, data is considered “open” when it is accessible, reusable, and available to all. It is not enough for governments to partially release data or limit its distribution. Instead, for a government to be truly open, datasets must be published in full, in machine-readable formats, and on a central, accessible online platform. Governments should also publicize the release of data, rather than publish information silently. Data.gov, a website administered by the U.S. government, is an example of a government making data publically available online. The website’s information is organized into 14 categories including climate, health, education and public safety.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #83: Jeffrey Smith on Political Change in Gambia

From left: podcast guest Jeffrey Smith, guest host Toni Weis and host Ken Jaques

This week’s guest is Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a startup nonprofit that provides campaign advice and public relations support to pro-democracy leaders in Africa.

Smith aims to bring the international spotlight to Gambia, which is recovering from a more than two-decades-long dictatorship. Political and civil rights were nonexistent during the presidency of Yahya Jammeh, a former military officer who ruled the country from 1994 to 2016. Vanguard Africa partnered with Gambia’s presidential candidates in 2016 to campaign against Jammeh, who lost the election.

Despite this accomplishment, Smith says Vanguard Africa’s work in Gambia is unfinished; a country cannot transition from dictatorship to democracy overnight. The nonprofit is now focused on holding the new government accountable. To aide with the transition, CIPE has partnered with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish a national business council for the private sector.

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

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

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes.

 

Private Sector Plays Crucial Role in Improving Public Services in Arab Nations

Electricity workers repair cables in Sidon, Lebanon (via The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

When governments have exclusive control over the provision of goods and services, citizens are trapped without an alternative. Because the state monopolizes the entire market, there is no competition to ensure fair prices, sufficient quality, and satisfactory customer service. Taxpayer money is poured into government services, ostensibly to improve their quality, yet private citizens rarely see improvements. For example, many homes and businesses in Lebanon lose power for hours on a daily basis. Public servants are similarly inefficient, making basic bureaucratic procedures a nightmare.

The Lebanese Institute for Market Studies (LIMS), an independent economic think tank in Beirut, advocates for the implementation of free-market economic policies in Lebanon. LIMS’ current work focuses on the government’s inability to reliably provide electricity throughout the country. With CIPE’s support, LIMS launched a campaign to create awareness of the need to repeal the electricity subsidy, stop government investment in the sector, and open the sector to private competition. As a result of LIMS’ advocacy efforts, the Lebanese government announced in February that it would repeal the electricity subsidy this year. The government also announced in June that it decided not to lease Turkish power-generating ships after Lebanese officials discovered bidding process irregularities. These decisions represent progress towards LIMS’ reform objectives.

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