Category Archives: Middle East and North Africa

Is Local Government in Libya the Solution?

Heavily armed vehicles belonging to the military council of the self-declared autonomous region of Cyrenaica, which are deployed to protect oil ports, drive past at a checkpoint, near the east of the city of Sirte March 14, 2014. Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity. The standoff over control of oil exports threatens to deepen dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government. Picture taken March 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (LIBYA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS ENERGY) - RTR3H6EP

Mahmoud Bader is CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). This post also appeared on The Atlantic Council blog.

As Libya faces numerous challenges with the existence of federalists and militia groups, the question of decentralization grows in urgency. Libyans need to bolster local government in an effort to leave their past behind and meet their everyday needs, but lack the adequate legal and constitutional framework to ensure better governance. As Libya struggles to fill the remaining seats in the Constitutional Committee, it must also consider the language it plans to adopt to protect the decentralization process.

The move towards local governance emerged during the 2011 revolution when local councils arose to handle city affairs, an arrangement that continues today. Libyans welcomed the change. With the former regime centralized in Tripoli, citizens traveled inordinate distances from all over the country to complete tasks that they could have handled in their own cities, including basic bureaucratic services like stamps and signatures that could easily have been provided in other cities.

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The Power of Chocolate

Watch an interview with Lina Hundaileh (video in Arabic, summary in English).

Watch an interview with Lina Hundaileh (video in Arabic, summary in English).

Jordan ranks among the lowest countries in the world on the World Economic Forum’s measurement of women’s economic empowerment. This lack of economic empowerment tends to correspond to decreased political empowerment, with reduced levels of activities such as voting.

Although women represent over half of university graduates in Jordan, they constitute a paltry 16 percent of the workforce. More than 26 percent of Jordanian women with bachelor’s degrees remain unemployed, compared to just 9.1 percent of male graduates. However, women are finding ways to overcome barriers to their economic participation by starting their own businesses. The Jordan Times reported in February that 38% of all Jordanian entrepreneurs are women, exceeding the international average of women’s participation in the field.

Lina Hundaileh epitomizes this entrepreneurial spirit. After the German company where she worked closed down their Jordan office, Lina decided to create her own job by opening a chocolate factory. She was not deterred by her lack of experience in running a business or making chocolate. It did not faze her when others laughed at her plan. She was determined to succeed and did not view failure as an option. And she loved chocolate.

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Advancing Private Sector Participation in Iraq

CIPE partner the Iraqi Businessmen Union leads a public-private dialogue session in Baghdad, Iraq.

CIPE partner the Iraqi Businessmen Union leads a public-private dialogue session in Baghdad, Iraq.

The Iraqi private sector continues to pursue steps towards building a modern market economy. Over recent decades, Iraq’s institutions supporting the economy became highly centralized as authoritarian rule sought to enhance state economic and political control. In Iraq today, government officials and the business community recognize the need to transform the economy into a modern, market-economy, capable of providing jobs and opportunity to all citizens. Achieving this goal, however, has proven to be a slow and arduous process.

Since 2003 CIPE has supported the Iraqi business community in its efforts to participate more effectively in the country’s economic transition. CIPE has partnered with business associations and civil society to develop provincial and regional business agendas and draft policy papers that increase the information available on issues inhibiting private sector growth.

To supplement the efforts of CIPE’s local partners, CIPE commissioned surveys to measure the views of Iraqi businesses, most of which are small sole-proprietorships, towards the prevailing economic conditions, factors affecting business growth, and a host of other key policy and economic issues.

In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service Article, Program Officer Jenna Mace presents key results from CIPE’s most recent Iraqi Business Survey. The article includes a discussion of trends in the costs of corruption and opportunities for women, as well as the business community’s views of economic conditions.

Read the entire article here.

John Zanikos is Assistant Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

The Need for Constitutional Protection of Private Enterprise

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Constitutions can play an important role in protecting economic liberties, in addition to political liberties. As the state’s foundational legal document, the constitution can provide the essential framework for establishing commercial freedom and promoting the development of the private sector. For example, CIPE partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) is developing proposals for the constitutional protection of private enterprise during a future transition period in Syria.

Different countries have taken a variety of approaches in tailoring their constitutions accordingly, which should be examined in determining how Syria’s next constitution will promote and protect private enterprise.

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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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Working on Its Own Development: Visiting a KnowHow Mentee in Tunisia

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Louis Delcart is the Director of Internationalisation and Innovation at  VOKA – Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce Halle-Vilvoorde. He is serving as a mentor to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Centre through CIPE’s Knowhow Mentorship program. 

Tunisia is, for us Europeans, a touristic paradise, like Spain or Turkey. But it is also a country with an ancient civilization, dating from centuries before: Queen Dido, Hannibal and the Carthaginians, Pompey the Great and his African conquests, the Beys of Tunis and the corsairs attacking European ships from the pirates near Mahdia. They all are part of 3,000 years of rich history.

It was also in this country that the Arab Spring started in 2011. Within three weeks time, the popular uprising chased out the country’s autocratic leader, Ben Ali. A democratic process was started, with the election of Ennahda, a moderate Islamic party, to power. After three years, the love of the people for its new government is over. But Tunisia’s subsequent political development has been different from its neighboring countries: a technocratic interim government was recently formed and a new constitution is being edited, discussed, and voted on article by article in the parliament. Tunisia is – at least to this point — not missing its turn towards democracy.

It is in this context that I was invited by CIPE to mentor a chamber of commerce in this country. I was given a choice between two regional chambers, and I selected the one with the most elaborate strategic plan, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Centre (CCI-Centre) in Sousse, which made me curious.

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Decentralization for Better Public Services in Lebanon

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The executive director of  Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), Sami Atallah, was recently on MTV, a Lebanese independent media channel, to discuss the importance of decentralization and local governance. During the interview, Atallah argued that instead of relying on the central government, the public should advocate for and expect their local municipalities to deliver goods and services.  CIPE is supporting LCPS to help achieve this objective, including strengthening the internal grant transfer system in Lebanon.

Watch Atallah’s interview (in Arabic) from 29:40 onward.