Corrrupt Land Grabs Imperil Burma’s Democratic Transition

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The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to own property [and] no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” In Burma, a country in the early stages of its emergence from a half century of military rule and central economic planning, property rights violations could threaten democracy itself.

Burma lacks many institutions necessary for a market-oriented democracy, such as a reliable court system, dependable electricity, and accessible financial services. The country’s physical infrastructure is also woefully inadequate. Paramount among these issues is rampant corruption and terrible public governance – issues that manifest in the “land-grabbing epidemic” which is sparking protest and civic unrest.

Read the rest of this article at the Thomson Reuters blog.

The Two Main Challenges Facing African Civil Society Organizations

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The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit concluded last week and the delegations have returned home, but conversation about U.S. engagement with Africa still continues in DC. Two weeks ago, on the eve of the summit, CIPE and Freedom House initiated a dialogue on advancing political and economic freedom in Africa and on Wednesday, CIPE and the Society for International Development-Washington, DC Chapter concluded summit events with a discussion on African civil society and its sustainability by bringing together civil society practitioners. The discussion revolved around possible solutions to two main issues civil society is facing in the developing world: a dependency on donor funding and draconian laws restricting civil society.

The panelists included: Lars Benson, Senior Program Officer for Africa at CIPE, Jeremy Meadows, Senior Democracy Specialist for Bureau for Africa at USAID, and Natalie Ross, Program Officer for the Aga Khan Foundation, USA. The discussion was moderated by Richard O’Sullivan, co-chair for the SID-Washington Civil Society Workgroup.

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Focus on Youth Entrepreneurship in Peru and Nepal

CIPE recently published two new case studies on youth entrepreneurship programs in Peru and Nepal. Learn more about the dynamic young entrepreneurs who make these programs a success below.

Anil Parajuli

Nepal

parajuliAnil Parajuli attended the 11th Arthalaya program in early 2011 when he was pursuing his Bachelor’s in Development studies. After attending Arthalaya, he started a honey farm named “The Busy Bee” in a suburban town south of Kathmandu. He produces organic honey and sells it to selected clientele in Kathmandu. Anil says “It was Arthalaya that taught me it is important to get started and any small exchange that is based on voluntary exchange and value addition is a big contribution to the overall development of a society.” Arthalaya inspired him to continue his education in entrepreneurship by pursuing a MBA in Entrepreneurship at Kings College. He plans to open a resort near his honey farm once he graduates.

Antonella Romero Jimenez

Ica, Peru

EmprendeAhora ignited the entrepreneurial spark in Antonella Romero Jimenez when she was a participant in 2010. Hailing from the Ica region of Peru, Antonella had not previously given much thought to starting her own business, claiming that in her region “there had never been a program that promoted entrepreneurship among youth.” During the EmprendeAhora educational program, Antonella learned how to create her own business plan and afterward decided to open two cafes called “Káva – Café Peruano” at two universities in the Ica region. Antonella understands the impact entrepreneurship has on her country, saying “it fosters economic development and generates employment for myself and others in my region. Káva itself provides jobs for 12 people – all young women between the ages of 19 and 22.

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The Future of the U.S.-Africa Economic Relationship

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Last week Washington hosted nearly 50 African heads of state at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Countless meetings and conversations that took place not just among government officials but businesses, international organizations, and non-profits (including CIPE and Freedom House) brought Africa into the spotlight. Yet the most important aspect of the Summit is still ahead: what did we learn and how can this knowledge guide the way forward?

One of the most informative outcomes of the Summit to me was the launch of a report Africa and the United States: A defining relationship of the 21st century at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Presidential Plenary. The report was jointly produces by the U.S. Chamber and Investec Asset Management (IAM), a global investment management firm founded in 1991 in South Africa. Hendrik du Toit, Investec’s CEO, unveiled the report and discussed its findings with a panel of corporate leaders.

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How Youth Are Working to Solve Global Problems

Youth around the world are agents of change. They are political and economic leaders and participants in their communities, and have many thoughts on how to shape their nation’s future.

As part of celebrating such individuals on International Youth Day, two recent CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS alumni – Fayyaz Yaseen from Pakistan and Iryna Fedets from Ukraine – analyzed two issues young people care about in their communities: youth unemployment and anti-corruption. In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles, the two authors explore how to bring about democratic and economic reform changes in their respective countries.

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One Woman’s Leadership Journey

On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.

What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.

Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.

What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.

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Social Media in Pakistan Helps Engage Youth in the Democratic Process

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In the recent elections, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in engaging youth and bringing them out to vote. But the question remains: how can social media can help strengthen democracy in Pakistan?

Social media in Pakistan is an ever growing phenomenon. The editor of Dawn.com, Jehazeb Haq, recently compared Facebook to a virtual city competing with Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 20 million and growing.

“Over prolonged periods of autocratic rule, the youth of the country was deliberately made apathetic. The revival of the political process happened at a time when social media had already arrived and started playing a central role in the lives of the connected youth. This medium was used to fullest extent prior to the 2013 elections to spread awareness about the imperatives of the democratic process, as a mobilization tool to garner support and canvassing of ideas and manifestoes by parties. Needless to say the youth was the vanguard of this new movement through the new media.” – Afia Salam, Member: IUCN Commission on Education & Communications

The power of social media in providing the right to speech has been limited, however, since 2010, when government attempted to ban many social media sites, resulting in an uproar from users and civil society groups. All past efforts by government to do so ultimately failed, resulting in access to social media sites being restored.

The only site that is still banned in Pakistan is YouTube, as the government says that it still makes blasphemous material accessible in the country. However, civil society organizations and youth groups are being vocal and have been advocating for restoring access to YouTube. Most of these efforts are done using social media.

CIPE Pakistan spoke to few key social media activists to get their views on the current state of social media in the country and how youth is using this medium.

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