Category Archives: Eastern Europe

Welcoming Future Business Association and Chamber Leaders

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Washington, DC area ChamberLINKS participants (from left to right): Frida Mbugua (Kenya), Mariana Araujo (Venezuela), and Nini Panjikidze (Georgia).

This week five young professionals from different countries arrived to the U.S. to partake in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program. The program, which is taking place for the fifth year, matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S.

This year’s participants and placements include:

For the following six weeks, these participants will shadow senior staff of their host organizations to observe and take part in the daily operations of successful associations.

Through the ChamberLINKS experience, the participants will gain valuable skills such as advocacy, membership development, and events management. At the same time, these international participants will provide their U.S. hosts with intercultural understandings such as insights into how associations operate in other nations.

The program also has a long-term impact because the participants bring back what they learned from their experiences to their home organizations after the program ends. For instance, Kipson Gundani, a 2012 ChamberLINKS program participant, raised funds and created momentum to start several new initiatives at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) based on his experience at the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. This included internship programs connecting 50 university students with ZNCC members, evening networking events for ZNCC members, and improving the Chamber’s governance systems by making the board selection process more transparent.

Everyone involved in the program –the international participants, the host organizations, and CIPE – are excited to see what the participants will learn from the next six weeks.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

A Model of Peaceful Revolution

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By Madalina Maria Iancu, 2013 CIPE Blog Competition Winner. Read the other winning blogs here.

There are not many “peaceful” revolutions in the history of mankind, especially during the last decades of our modern history. Even if we think to join these two words — “revolution” and “peaceful” — it does sound a bit unusual.

This is the reason why I chose to write about this example of a totally atypical revolution, which happened recently in Iceland. In my opinion, the Icelandic Revolution is an example of the fact that a revolution doesn’t have to be violent and bloody but peaceful and civilized and with a positive approach things can be changed in order to improve the status quo and to create a better standard of living.

There were also other movements also called “peaceful,” as it is a new paradigm, but still…nothing like Iceland.

One of the characteristics that made this revolution so atypical is its duration. It all started in 2008, when the main bank of Iceland was nationalized, the currency of Iceland devalued and the stock market halted. The country was in bankruptcy. During 2008 – 2009 as a result of the citizen’s protests and demonstrations, both the prime minster and the whole government resigned. New elections were held. In spite of these changes, Iceland remained in a bad economic situation. 

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Celebrating Young Civil Society Leaders from Around the Globe

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On January 24 at the U.S. Department of State, CIPE, Atlas Corps, and the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan co-hosted a welcome event for the new class of Atlas Corps Fellows including five participants of the CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellowship.

As mentioned in a previous post, this year’s Think Tank LINKS fellows represent various regions around the world and either come from leading think tanks back in their home countries or will be serving at top-tier organizations in Washington, DC.

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EuroMaidan: A New Kind of Protest in Ukraine

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On Sunday morning, CIPE Program Manager Zoia Tsybrova braved the cool, rainy weather to observe the EuroMaidan protests forming in the center of Kyiv. The Shevchenko building, where the rally was intended to be held, could not hold all the participants, and it did not take long for people to start walking, meeting friends and family, filling the streets of Kyiv. The mood, says Tsybrova, was euphoric. Not only on Sunday but today as well. Three days later, the people are still there, with a mass of students demonstrating still; the good mood remains, with people handing out hot tea and sandwiches to those on the streets. People are still dressed up for the occasion, smiling, walking with Ukrainian and European symbols, with homemade cards, signs, banners, and flags. 

What was the impetus of this? The protesters were pushed over the edge by the government’s decision to suspend the pursuit of an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The association agreement could have been signed in Vilnius, Lithuania at the EU Partnership Summit on November 28-29. It is a political and free trade deal that has been on the international community’s radar for a number of months as it offered the possibility to Ukraine to begin integration into the European Union.

The deal’s suspension caused a response that was both unexpected and a turnout that was noteworthy, to say the least. Early estimates have put the number of protesters rallying on Sunday at 100,000. Ukraine has not seen a protest this large since the Orange Revolution in the winter months of 2004 leading into 2005.  Following the government’s decision to suspend the pursuit of this agreement with the European Union on November 21, the people have come together in mass rallies again on Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). Over the weekend, protests sprung in other cities around Ukraine, too, from east to west.

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The Counter-Revolution at the Counter of a Store

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I’m not a devoted fan of Rush. My husband, on the other hand, has all the Rush lyrics memorized and he recently pointed out a song that stuck with me called Heresy. The song appears on Rush’s 1991 album Roll the Bones and talks about the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe – something I experienced first hand in Poland.

The song’s opening evokes familiar images from a quarter century ago of the unthinkable becoming real: the Berlin Wall coming down…

“All around that dull grey world
From Moscow to Berlin
People storm the barricades
Walls go tumbling in”

But the song doesn’t dwell on that dramatic moment of euphoria. Instead, the mood shifts quickly to palpable anger over decades of oppression, poverty, and life in fear that spanned both sides of the Iron Curtain due to the ever-present nuclear threat.

Here is how Rush’s lyricist Neil Peart explained his reasons behind writing the song, “The deconstruction of the Eastern Bloc made some people happy. It made me mad. (…) it was all a mistake? A heavy price to pay for somebody else’s misguided ideology, it seems to me, and that waste of life must be the ultimate heresy.”

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After 25 Years, Are Central and Eastern Europe’s Democracies in Danger?

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Romanians protest against President Basescu in January 2012. (Bogdan Cristel/Reuters)

Though some recent machinations remind us that democracy can be a fragile thing, one can observe with guarded optimism that the overall transformation of the Central and Eastern European region to market-oriented democracies has been relatively successful.  To understand where we are today, it’s important to look back to see how far Eastern Europe has come in 25 years.

Many take the Eastern European transitions for granted, noting the existence of market institutions and young democracies before World War II and subsequent Soviet domination, and characterizing the transition as a mere return to business as usual in the region.  This interpretation is flawed, as it fails to realize that what we historically took to be “market institutions” and “democratic practice” in the region prior to post-war communism were deeply flawed and often only skin-deep.

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Business Issues at Forefront of Albanian Elections

Edi Rama

On June 23rd, Albanians took to the polls for parliamentary elections with big implications for the future of their country. With European Union candidate status on the line, this particular election was viewed by the international community as a “crucial test” for Albania’s democratic maturity.  Albania’s candidacy status has been denied its past three attempts at a bid, partially due to the lack of transparency and fairness in its electoral process.

The Socialist Party candidate and former Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, won handily with 53 percent of the vote, ousting the incumbent, Sali Berisha, and his Democratic Party after eight years in power. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe lauded the election as being free and fair, and a marked improvement from the past. In addition, the losing party officially accepted the results for the first time in the five parliamentary elections since 1992.

Another first for this election cycle was the prominence of business issues in party platforms. Jobs and the economy were the number one issues in the campaigns of all three major political parties. Never before have Albanian politicians shown such an interest in engaging with business in a public-private dialogue. It remains to be seen how the new government will continue these conversations now that the election is over, but there is a cautious optimism among business leaders in Albania that there will be a much more supportive atmosphere for genuine cooperation.

CIPE is currently partnering with a broad coalition of business associations and chambers of commerce to help strengthen the ability of the Albanian business community to conduct advocacy and act as a constructive partner in the public-private dialogue with government. By coalescing, the Albanian business community can take advantage of favorable political winds to improve the overall business climate and, thus, climb further up the ladder towards EU accession.

David Mack is Program Assistant for Eastern Europe & Eurasia at CIPE.