Living Democracy

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions.

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Living in the U.S. for the past six months has been a thrilling experience for me. I have lived in a social entrepreneurship-themed group house, traveled to different cities, gone hiking at Sky Meadows Park, attended events/conferences, and made countless friends. I also interacted with local Nepalese communities and enjoyed festivals and happy hours. Although living in Washington DC has proven itself quite expensive compared to Kathmandu, I have been able to live within my means as a fellow. DC is a very lively and cultural city, and I appreciate that there is always so much going on. After living here for six months I am amazed by the many things I haven’t yet discovered.

Working directly with my friends and colleagues at my host organization, Accountability Lab, in DC, and being a part of the OpenGov Hub (OGH) has been remarkable. OGH, a community of independent organizations working the transparency field, is a great place for collaboration, networking, and learning. As a Think Tank LINKS fellow, I have had access to valuable opportunities and space to expand my knowledge. The monthly webinars and meetings with CIPE and Atlas Corps fellows were especially rewarding and really added value to our learning experience.

While it is always hard to focus on one experience when you have so many things to talk about, I am focusing on my experience with democracy. My quest for knowledge about the true meaning of democracy continued until I was not able to find a solid answer within myself. Often, in countries where democracy is in transition or a far off hope, citizens have difficulty understanding it and are often confused about the difference between democracy in theory and democracy in daily living.

My question was very simple: I wanted to see how people from developed nations like the U.S. live their daily lives in a democratic society without being abstract or theoretical. In theory, democracy is about human rights, freedom of information, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Although what it is written in textbooks and literature is true, all of these concepts cannot exist without smaller fundamental elements of society associated with culture, values, and norms at the individual level.

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The Gathering

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With all due respect to CIPE’s other partners, surely the coolest workspace in the CIPE family today is located in Saida, Lebanon. The innovative space, called El Moltaqa (“The Gathering”), is the new home of the Development of People and Nature Association (DPNA). El Moltaqa is not merely an office for DPNA’s dedicated staff, it is a focal point for civic engagement in the community.

In its first decade of existence, DPNA has become a highly-respected convening authority for a range of local stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, public officials from the local and national levels, young activists, and others representing the diverse fabric of Lebanese society.

Unfortunately, that fabric is frayed due to a highly volatile geopolitical situation, which makes a place like El Moltaqa all the more vital. It is a sanctuary where people from every religion, sect, ethnicity, and political persuasion can feel safe. Through a rich array of cultural and educational offerings, El Moltaqa provides the community with a place to engage respectfully in democratic dialogue and debate about the most important issues of the day.

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Supporting Democracy through… Tourism?

For vacationers looking for more than some sun and relaxation, there is an endless array of creative travel options, from dining tours to ecotourism, service projects to extreme sports. But what about the savvy headline reader who wants to make sure her hard-earned vacation fund supports a country that serves its citizens? Call it “democracy tourism.”

With so much choice for consumers, the world’s ministries of tourism need to work that much harder to attract foreign visitors. As a traveler, you’ve got the power! While looking for great food, wine, music, or beach destinations, world travelers can also make a statement with their dollars by choosing a country that is moving towards democracy.

A little intellectual for vacation research? Perhaps. But you can travel guilt-free, knowing the locals you meet on your trip live in a society that is working for them. Here are five destinations that satisfy both the avid traveler and the conscious world citizen.

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Call for Applications: Think Tank LINKS Fellowship!

How can young people go beyond protesting on the streets to demand for change? For the past two years CIPE and Atlas Corps have supported energetic advocates from Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, and other countries in transition to become effective policy-leaders in their communities through the Think Tank LINKS Fellowship program. And we’re inviting young researchers from around the world again to apply to this opportunity to gain new leadership and research skills!

Think Tank LINKS Fellows will shadow researchers and experts at leading U.S. think tanks for 6 months (January to July 2015), and will gain valuable insights and skills to improve their advocacy and leadership skills.

This is a fantastic opportunity that you don’t want to miss!

Watch the promotional video about the fellowship to learn more, or read about fellows’ experiences on CIPE’s blog.

The deadline is August 15, 2014 so don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

The Unrealized Potential of Volunteerism in Pakistan

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Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Saturday, October 8, 2005 was an unfortunate day in the history of Pakistan. The entire country was ravaged by an earthquake that registered 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale. The tremor devastated the entire Kashmir region, razing almost every building to the ground. It also damaged large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces and caused a high rise housing tower to collapse in Islamabad. The loss, both human and material, was colossal. The death toll surpassed 100,000, and 3.5 million people were displaced. The injured were numerous and everywhere.

This earthquake in Pakistan, just like earthquakes anywhere else in the developing world, caught disaster response institutions off guard. They were unprepared, lacked the essential rescue equipment, training, and resources. On top of that, road and rail networks were no longer usable without major repairs.

In the face of this massive catastrophe, when the state institutions were stuck in a state of panic, the responsibility fell to common people to take it upon themselves to do whatever they could to save their brethren pinned under the rubble and debris. Their efforts rescued over 138,000 injured stuck under collapsed buildings, and saved many more women, children, and elders who lost their families in the calamity. Had it not been for their efforts, most of the injured would have died by the time government rescue teams reached them after a delay of 78 hours.

Attending a panel on ‘Disaster Protection through Preparation’ at the Points of Light Conference in Atlanta, and learning about the role volunteers played in Nashville in saving people and properties during the 2010 floods, and later on helping the city clean up and recover, I could not help but think about the role volunteers played during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. They not only helped minimize the damage and sped up rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts, they also left the affected communities more united and self-reliant.

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Study Shows Lack of Ideas is Not What’s Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back

 

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Participants at a recent training workshop for South Asian women’s business associations in Kathmandu.

African women are almost twice as likely to have a new business idea they would like to develop than women in Europe and the United States, according to a new study commissioned by Dell. This is further proof of what many of us already know – that there is no lack of ideas and energy among women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It is institutional barriers and local economic conditions that primarily hold back women who are looking to start a business.

CIPE and its partners have supported women entrepreneurs in a number of countries to make significant gains in increasing their role in the economy and their input to public policy. For example, women’s business associations in Nigeria have successfully advocated to increase their role in a national conference to review the nation’s governing institutions.

In Pakistan, CIPE and its partners worked to reform the National Trade Organizations Ordinance to allow women to form their own associations and improve women’s representation on already established chamber boards. The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry has successfully advocated for local and national level policies to improve access to credit for women entrepreneurs. And in Papua New Guinea, a new CIPE-supported women’s business association helped to establish a “women’s desk” at the largest commercial bank in the country to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to obtain bank loans.

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South Asian Women’s Chambers and Associations Learn Effective Advocacy Techniques

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By Hammad Siddiqui and Marc Schleifer

For the past two years, CIPE has been working to build the capacity of women’s chambers and businesses associations from across South Asia. Last month, they took the next step into policy advocacy.

Through a series of workshops in Dhaka, Kathmandu, Lahore and Colombo, CIPE has fostered relationships among a group of organizations from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The workshops have focused on topics such as strategic planning, membership development, board governance, staff empowerment, financial sustainability and communications strategies.

This June, CIPE organized the fifth in its series of networking and training sessions, again in Kathmandu. Following CIPE’s general approach, it is first important to strengthen the organizations themselves so that they can then be more successful in working on policy reform. Thus after four sessions of capacity-building for these chambers and associations, encouraging them to focus on serving the needs of their membership, this three-day session focused intensively on policy advocacy.

The CIPE team, led by Senior Consultant Camelia Bulat, with input from Pakistan Office Deputy Director Hammad Siddiqui, Director for Multiregional Programs Anna Nadgrodkiewicz, and Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia Marc Schleifer, presented a range of tools and approaches to help the 19 participants think strategically about advocacy.

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