The Committee on Defense of Democracy stages a protest in Warsaw on December 19, 2015.
After the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, Poland became a poster child for democratic and market-oriented transition. While the necessary reforms were difficult and often painful to the average citizen, they did deliver political freedoms and rapid economic growth, reversing decades of totalitarian oppression and decline. Poland became a respected member of the European Union (EU) and a model for other countries in the region. Despite persisting challenges typical for transition countries, such as youth unemployment, the overall institutions of democracy and a market economy appeared solidly in place.
This began to change rapidly after the 2015 elections when the Law and Justice Party (PiS) candidate won the presidency and the party gained a majority of seats in the parliament. Inspired by the policies of Victor Orban and his party in Hungary, PiS began a rapid push to challenge Poland’s democratic institutions—from the Constitutional Tribunal to public media. However, unlike the Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz), PiS does not possess the constitutional majority necessary to pursue such systemic changes, which put it on a collision course with Poland’s judiciary and civil society, as well as EU institutions.
In the last decade, new information and communications technologies (ICTs) have become less expensive and more accessible for people around the world. According to the International Telecommunications Union, more than 3 billion people (nearly 47 percent of all the people on earth) now use the internet. Likewise, by the end of 2016, the total number of mobile broadband subscription was expected to reach 3.6 billion. This growing global usage of ICT has made it easier for citizens and organizations to access information and share data, conduct business online, and virtually network with others. Rapid technological advances, in turn, are poised to have a profound impact on democratic and economic development around the world.
Recipients of the Jose Egardo Campos Collaborative Leadership Awards at the Global Leadership Forum
In today’s world of polarized politics, divisions within societies struggling with the history of divisions feel particularly deep. Countries emerging from conflict, such as Colombia or South Sudan, are striving to make progress toward non-violence and reconciliation. Even in peaceful, mature democracies, the public discourse has become more partisan and polarized than ever. As countries look for transformative leadership to overcome divisions, they struggle with building effective coalitions that could overcome differences and find consensus in key areas.
When one thinks about Ukraine in the context of corruption, the picture typically does not look rosy. The headlines about corrupt oligarchs and continued graft easily come to mind – including recent revelations about the riches disclosed by top officials in their asset declarations. This wealth stands in stark contrast with the financial condition of most ordinary Ukrainians, causing public outcry. Not surprisingly, Ukraine was ranked 130th out of 167 in the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
From Left: CIPE Chair Greg Lebedev, with discussion moderator Andrew Wilson, and speakers Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Chris Maloney, and Beth Tritter at the Democracy and Governance event on September 15, 2016.
Democratic governance and development go hand in hand. Transparency and the rule of law provided by well-functioning democracies create favorable business environments where firms of all sectors and sizes can thrive. In turn, inclusive economic growth lifts populations out of poverty and strengthens public expectations of accountability. To celebrate the International Day of Democracy, CIPE and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) held a joint event on September 15, titled “Democracy and Governance: Key Foundations to Sustainable Development.”
President Obama addresses the White House Summit on Global Development (Photo: VOA)
Looking back at the global development efforts over the last few years, one theme tends to reoccur: too many reforms are owned by the elites and civil society leaders in the capital with too little engagement at the grassroots. This common disconnect was raised at the White House Summit on Global Development, and it looms large over future initiatives of the international community.
At a session devoted to transparency, accountability, and open government Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, talked about how crucial these factors are to unlocking economic development and fulfilling Goal 16 – the enabler – of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She also highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships such as Open Government Partnership (OGP) for advancing this approach and providing a hook that civil societies in countries around the world have been able to latch on to for reforms.
A global growth of demand for accountability and transparency, fueled by the rise of communication technology, is definitely a reason for optimism. At the same time, serious problems persist. Rakesh Rajani, Director of Democratic Participation and Governance at Ford Foundation, emphasized that despite progress and path ahead charted by initiatives such as SDGs and OGP serious challenges remain when it comes to authoritarian backlash and reversals of democratic culture. Even in established democracies such as India non-profit organizations increasingly come under undue pressure. As governments in many countries are clamping down on civic space, international efforts to counteract such trends do not resonate sufficiently with citizens on the ground.
2016 OECD Integrity Forum
This post originally appeared on the Corporate Compliance Trends blog.
Mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services is at the heart of David Ricardo’s comparative advantage argument and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Over the centuries, such exchange through commerce has connected countries around the globe through a web of economic links and lifted millions out of poverty. In the modern era, international agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO) have done much to lower tariffs and increase trade. However, in many countries, non-tariff barriers continue to impede growth and development. Lack of integrity in border control and customs administration is one such key barrier.
As estimated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the loss of revenue among its 180 member countries caused by customs-related corruption is at least USD 2 billion in customs revenue each year. India and Russia alone are losing USD 334 million and USD 223 million, respectively. Beyond monetary losses, lack of integrity in customs also presents big risks for global value chains and security concerns when it comes to criminal activity and illicit trade.
Given this global significance, combatting corruption at the border was an important topic of the 2016 OECD Integrity Forum in Paris conducted under the theme “Fighting the Hidden Tariff: Global Trade without Corruption.” Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, made a powerful case for trade with integrity in his opening remarks:
“Integrity is not just a moral issue; it’s also about making our economies more productive, our public sectors more efficient, our societies and our economies more inclusive. It’s about restoring trust, not just trust in government, but trust in public institutions, regulators, banks, and corporations.”