Creating a New Educational Paradigm for a War-Ravaged Country

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Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.

You hear the numbers. Over 200,000 killed. 3.2 million refugees. 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). An economy that will require at least a decade of reconstruction. You hear the horror stories. The regime drops barrel bombs on densely populated civilian areas. Dissidents are tortured as they languish in jail. Women are forced into sexual slavery by extremist fighters. Children cannot attend school because their classrooms are destroyed or they must find work in order to help feed their family.

To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.

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Democracy Has Survived in Tunisia, But What Comes Next?

 

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

After decades of dictatorship, Tunisia’s revolution set in motion a series of uprisings across the Arab world, laying the foundations for a flourishing democracy. It has become the sole “flower” of the Arab Spring and is now heralded as a role model for the Middle East and North Africa region. However, behind the shiny façade, the road towards democracy has certainly not been without barriers and Tunisia still faces numerous hurdles not only in managing security but also solidifying democratic institutions.

Today, Tunisia has made enormous progress in its democratic transition – its future is determined by Tunisians themselves, able to choose their political leaders and their own path. Freedom House described Tunisia in its annual report as “the Arab world’s only free country, the sole success story of the Arab Spring and a full-fledged democracy,” while the Economist Intelligence Unit classified Tunisia as the most democratic Arab state in its last democracy index.

The “Tunisian exception,” political analysts say, resulted from a reconciliation between modern ideals and Islam, the neutral role played by army, a genuine multiparty democracy, a successful national dialogue initiative, and the massive role played by civil society pushing for an end to the Tunisian political crisis.

As a result of these and other factors, Tunisia underwent its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in December 2014, accompanied by a newly elected parliament, the first democratic presidential elections, and a new constitution, all conducted in a free, fair, and transparent process.

This peaceful political transition is seen as a positive example to the region that should bring hope in the midst of a bloody civil war in Syria, deeply embedded divisions in Libya, and chaos in Yemen. Tunisia now stands tall as the relative success story among the recent popular revolutions in the region.

But to sustain this progress into the future, it must also get its economy on the right footing.

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Meet the Newest Think Tank LINKS Fellows

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CIPE and Atlas Corps welcomed the latest class of Think Tank LINKS Fellows at the end of January. This year’s class comes from a wide range of backgrounds – from South Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa – to Washington, DC for six months to partake in a leadership development program. All of the fellows will serve at renowned think tanks in Washington, DC, and shadow researchers and experts to learn best practices of successful think tanks in the U.S.

We’re excited to introduce our latest Think Tank LINKS fellows to everyone!

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Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Entrepreneurship: What Can Latin America Learn from Nordic Countries?

The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America -- yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America — yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Entrepreneurs continue to face strong cultural challenges in Latin America. Risk aversion is particularly common in the region, and thus many youth lack the confidence to start their own businesses for fear of failure and the associated consequences. Would-be women entrepreneurs often must deal with machismo, or male dominance, in economic matters.

Additionally, Latin American cultures tend to be very community-oriented, and it is a common belief throughout much of the region that entrepreneurs are in business to make money only for themselves and are thus “abandoning” their communities, which has cast a negative light upon the concept of entrepreneurship. Moreover, strong pressures to conform to social class expectations often discourage young people from trying to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.

Latin America is not the only region in which cultural factors have hampered the development of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs still face sizable cultural obstacles even in regions where entrepreneurship has been able to flourish. This is especially true in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

As someone who has straddled the Latin American-Nordic cultural divide his whole life, I have witnessed firsthand that while Latin American and Nordic cultures are very different in a variety of ways (just try making small talk while waiting for a bus in Copenhagen or foregoing cheek kisses upon meeting people in San Juan), in both cultures there are norms that encourage social conformity while stifling individualism. While these rules are unwritten and thus are not immediately apparent to outsiders, the social consequences of going against these norms can be severe.

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Developing the Association Executive Profession: The PCAAE Experience

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By Octavio B. Peralta, Founding Chairman, PCAAE

During the launch event of the Philippine Council for the Advancement of Association Executives (PCAAE) in Manila on November 20, 2013 which I presided, I asked the over 200 attending delegates by show of hands who among them use the title, “Association Executive” when filling up the space for profession in official forms and documents. Only one did!

The Association Executive (AE) profession in North America and Europe is widely-known and well-recognized but unfortunately not in many developing countries, including in Asia and the Pacific, with the exception of developed Australia and New Zealand. This also true in my country, the Philippines, where my organization, the Association of Development Financing in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), is headquartered.

I have been an AE for over 23 years now (and counting) and did not have the benefit of a formal education on association management, which was non-existent in my country. I did learn somehow to cope by learning on the job and it helped that I joined the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

My own experience, and what I have witnessed in associations that have struggled to stay relevant and sustainable, have led me to found, with a few colleagues, the Philippine Council for the Advancement of Association Executives (PCAAE).

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Is Democracy in Decline?

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Is democracy in decline? This question is on the minds of people around the world in these uncertain times. We have witnessed both triumphs of democracy, including Pakistan’s first-ever orderly transition of power through elections, and challenges to democratic progress such as increasingly authoritarian Russia or (with the exception of Tunisia) the implosion of the Arab Spring. That crucial question became the theme of the Journal of Democracy’s latest issue and framed the discussion at an event organized yesterday by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Johns Hopkins University Press to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Journal.

The choice of the democracy-in-decline theme may at first seem odd for the anniversary issue and its commemorative event. Marc Plattner, the founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy and vice-president for research and studies at the NED, explains:

“Here in our twenty-firth anniversary issue, we feel compelled to confront head-on the questions of whether democracy is in decline. Why? There are two aspects to the answer, which although intertwined are in some measure separable. The first deals with what is actually taking place on the ground: How many countries are democratic? Is their number rising or shrinking? What is the situation with respect to such liberal-democratic features as freedom of the press, rule of law, free and fair elections, and the like? The second, more subjective, aspect concerns the standing of democracy in the world: How is it viewed in terms of legitimacy and attractiveness?”

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Outcry Against Corruption Helps Drive a Change of Leadership in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

While it is hard to identify all of the issues that drove Sri Lankans during the country’s recent – and for many observers, surprising – elections, a cry for change was evident. Voters had clearly grown tired of corruption, cronyism, and authoritarianism, and there have been widespread calls for investigations into a range of alleged human rights abuses.

On January 8, in an unexpected turn of events, 15 million Sri Lankans, representing a 75 percent voter turnout, went to the polls and ousted incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in favor of Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former Health Minister who shocked many by declaring his intent to run for office. Rajapaksa, who was South Asia’s longest-serving political head of state, in office since 2005, had turned increasingly authoritarian. He called these elections two years early, seeking a third term. It seems unlikely that he anticipated the defection of Sirisena and a number of other parliamentarians.

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