Category Archives: Global

Keeping the Economy on the Radar, Even in the Hardest Times

A new job category in Aleppo -- "the crosser" who ferries good across the border under dangerous conditions. (Photo: Syrian Economic Forum)

A new job category in Aleppo — “the crosser” who ferries good across the border under dangerous conditions. (Photo: Syrian Economic Forum)

In Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war, people continued to go to school and attend theater performances. One woman once told me how, to get to her university, she would take a taxi to the line between East and West Beirut, dash to the other side behind overturned trash dumpsters to avoid snipers, and then catch another ride to university — always with a change of clothing in case she could not get home again for a while.

Not every war sees people able to defiantly and bravely continue school and go to the theater, but the story underscores an important point left out of most news reports: conflict is not a permanent state…even during conflict.

Media reports show the most bullet-ridden, shell resounding, civilian-fleeing dramatic moments, but even in situations of all-out war, pockets of fighting revolve and front lines move. Whenever there is a lull in violence, civilians generally try to make life go on as much as they can, however they can. And that includes the economy. Farmers will return to their fields and factories will resume operation as often as possible, and people will buy, sell, and barter what they need to survive. And yes, sometimes they even study for exams by candle in hallways lined with mattresses during shelling (another story I once heard from another Lebanese).

Recently, a group of CIPE staff with experience in conflict-affected settings formed a task force to do some more thinking about CIPE’s own projects in conflict-affected areas. We found it interesting that we work with local groups in areas that range from unstable to war-torn, but that we rarely think of them as “conflict projects” per se. So we started throwing around a lot of questions: is it worth even thinking of our projects through a conflict lens ? (Short answer: yes.) What is our approach to conflict and is it unique? What are the various ways CIPE has either reacted programmatically to conflict, or designed programs to be conflict sensitive?

We’re still thinking, but we have started to articulate what we think we know (more on that at the end of this post). So here it goes…

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Fighting Kleptocracy

The world -- including global financial centers -- needs to come together to fight kleptocracy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The world — including global financial centers — needs to come together to fight kleptocracy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Corruption is often thought of as an individual problem where a corrupt official abuses his or her government position for personal gain. But what happens when an entire government, or the ruling class of an entire country, is engaged in corruption? When corruption becomes systematic and institutionalized, the damage is much greater – and the tools to fight it increasingly require international cooperation.

Two weeks ago the World Movement for Democracy held its eighth international conference in Seoul, Korea. Discussions of the corrosive effect corruption have on democratic renewal abounded throughout the conference. However, a discussion on kleptocracy chaired by the National Endowment for Democracy’s Carl Gershman brought out the enormous scale of illicit cash flows from kleptocratic governments, and the direct influence they can have on enabling authoritarian push-back was made clear. Presenters on the panel highlighted the need for both international coordination on efforts to improve investigation, journalism, and the tracking of money flows, and also support for in-country efforts to strengthen local watchdogs and activists.

From the CIPE perspective, we offered a strategy based on the old adage “follow the money”: to contend with and reduce capital flows from illicit gains we need to understand how such funds are siphoned off, how they move around the world, and what institutional responses we can promote to slow and stop them. Kleptocrats often use a mixture of state and private institutions to steal money, and then establish complex networks of shell companies and other fronts to launder funds. They then use global financial institutions to move “clean” money into markets where it can be securely invested.  A comprehensive strategy is needed to combat this complex crime at all levels.

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Global Entrepreneurship Week Q&A with Karen Kerrigan

kerrigan_karenKaren Kerrigan is the president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and a board member and former chair of CIPE. For more than twenty years Kerrigan’s leadership, advocacy and training work has helped foster U.S. entrepreneurship and global small business growth.She regularly testifies before the U.S. Congress on the key issues impacting entrepreneurs and the economy, and has been appointed to numerous federal advisory boards including the National Women’s Business Council, the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialog, the U.S. Treasury’s Taxpayer Advisory Panel, and the National Advisory Committee for Labor Provisions of U.S. Free Trade Agreements. Kerrigan regularly engages with the President’s cabinet and key advisors, and has participated in several White House economic summits, scores of events hosted by the U.S. SBA, U.S. Treasury Department and other federal government agencies and departments.  She has written hundreds of Op-Eds and newspaper columns, and regularly appears on national television and talk radio programs.

Medhawi Giri interviewed Kerrigan for CIPE.

How did you get started in the path to entrepreneurship and what motivated you initially?

My path to entrepreneurship was a journey. Before starting out on my own, I had a variety of career experiences that helped me build critical skills that are necessary for successful entrepreneurship.  These skills and experiences provided me with confidence and know-how.  The motivation to start my own business came about when several factors aligned.  I saw a need in the marketplace. I had a desire to work on my own terms and innovate and create with fewer restrictions. In addition, I wanted financial independence. Of course, I was passionate about my idea and business opportunity and felt confident in my ability to execute. The bottom line is I wanted more freedom, and entrepreneurship allowed for that.

When you were getting started, how difficult was it to bring your idea to life and to make a business out of it?

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Learning From Each Other: Empowering Women Through Business Member Organizations

Participants at the ITCILO training in Turin.

Participants at the ITCILO training in Turin. (Photo: ITCILO)

As many previous CIPE blog pieces have pointed out, empowering women entrepreneurs leads to inclusive economic growth around the world. This point was further explored in a recent McKinsey report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth:

“We consider a “full-potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, and find that it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26 percent, to annual global GDP in 2025 compared with a business-as-usual scenario.”

One way to increase the number of women entrepreneurs is by addressing the bottlenecks that prevent women from becoming business owners or circumstances that prevent them from expanding their businesses. And this can be done through policy reforms via business associations and chambers. To this end, CIPE and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO) held a joint week-long training-of-trainers session “Women Empowerment through Business Member Organizations (BMOs)” at the ITC-ILO campus in Turin.

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With More People Than Ever Online, Internet Freedom Continues to Decline

Source: Freedom House

Source: Freedom House

Out of the three billion internet users today around the world, most live in countries where the internet is not free. According to Freedom House’s latest report, Freedom on the Net 2015, which examined internet freedom in 65 countries, global internet freedom has declined for the fifth year in a row. The freest country is Iceland, and the least free is China. The report was compiled by analyzing laws and practices relevant to the internet, testing the accessibility of select websites, and interviewing various sources.

Overall, governments around the world censored information of public interest, while expanding surveillance and limiting privacy tools. Some key figures include:

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Benchmarking Public Procurement


Did you know that public procurement — goods and services bought by governments — accounts for around one-fifth of global GDP? Or that in most high-income economies public procurement takes up a third of total public spending, and in developing countries even more – about half?

These figures represent a significant share of national wealth. If channeled properly, public procurement provides indispensable benefits to a society, such as infrastructure, hospitals, and schools. Yet, if squandered, public procurement can set back the economy and contribute to massive corruption. In fact, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) estimates that corruption drains 20-25 percent of procurement budgets globally, which amounts to staggering $2 trillion per year.

The World Bank’s recent report, Benchmarking Public Procurement 2016, goes beyond the aggregate numbers to compare data on regulatory environments that affect the ability of companies to do business with the government in an open and transparent way.

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What to Do About Post-Soviet “Frozen Conflicts”

Over the past several months, CIPE intern Ann Sander Nielsen conducted in-depth research and analysis of one of the most troubling features of the break-up of the Soviet Union: the secessionist wars of the early 1990s, which ended without clear military or political resolution, leaving behind so-called “frozen conflicts” and leading to the emergence of new, unrecognized, separatist states.

These issues are topical today, with the unrecognized Russian annexation of Crimea, the annexation of South Ossetia, and the ongoing separatist conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region, among other developments, demonstrating that the post-Soviet space is still struggling to chart its political direction and settle on its borders.

The recent signing by Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, viewed by some as the first step on a long road toward eventual European integration, may create additional pressure to resolve the status of the breakaway regions in these countries.

I worked with Nielsen to publish her research in this month’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, which looks at the political and economic factors that shape the de facto states of Eurasia’s frozen conflict zones.

Nielsen has also used her research to prepare a series of case studies, which CIPE will be releasing on this blog over the coming weeks, analyzing specific conditions in a number of the separatist regions in more detail. The first of those will look at Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region.

Read the article here.

Marc Schleifer is the Regional Director for Eurasia & South Asia at CIPE.