Tag Archives: civil society

Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy

This post is Part 1 in a series.

CIPE’s focus both on how economic growth strengthens democracy, and on how sound democratic institutions are needed to make an economy function smoothly, directly bears on women’s political and economic empowerment in South Asia. In March 2015, CIPE staff participated in a conference in Delhi entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Asia: Inclusion, Participation and Rights,” organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the World Movement for Democracy, the Asia Democracy Network, and the Institute of Social Sciences.

As one of the four core institutes of the NED, CIPE was invited to organize a panel at the conference, and selected the issue of the links among women’s economic empowerment, women’s entrepreneurship, and democracy. CIPE invited five key members of its network of South Asian women’s chambers and associations to share their views as the panelists, with CIPE’s Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia, Marc Schleifer, moderating.

Their conversation explored the ways in which CIPE’s work at the intersection of economic development and democracy ties into women’s issues in a challenging region. This post will be the first of six reflecting on CIPE’s panel at the conference, and is intended to spur a deeper conversation of these issues. Each entry in this series will build on the stories of the key members of CIPE’s South Asian network, illuminated by the questions that Schleifer posed during the panel to these South Asian leaders, as follows:

  1. In what ways do private enterprise and entrepreneurship help spark economic empowerment for women and lead to improved political participation among women?
  2. What are some motivating factors that encourage women to move beyond growing their businesses to start civil society organizations, in order to give back to other women?
  3. Why is it important to focus on scaling women-owned businesses, and in what ways is access to finance and policy change a part of that scaling process?
  4. How do these women’s business organizations approach the issue of policy advocacy? What kinds of policy challenges do women in business in your countries face? And how are your organizations working to tackle those issues?

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Public Procurement: The Nexus of Public and Corporate Governance in Combating Corruption

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Governments around the world spend trillions on public procurement each year for everything from office supplies to military equipment to infrastructure megaprojects like this $5 billion Panama Canal expansion.

 

By Kirby Bryan

For over a decade, the World Bank Group’s Doing Business index has served as quintessential tool for determining how well a country’s institutional infrastructure is suited to the promotion of a productive business environment. But something was missing. Businesses and governments interact on levels beyond permitting and regulation: the public sector can also be a client.

Public procurement can provide opportunities for corruption. When seeking lucrative public contracts, companies look for any opportunity they can take advantage of that will improve their ability to secure a successful bid. Unscrupulous government officials can use their influential positions to attain favors and gifts from businesses pursuing public procurement tenders.

In March 2015, the World Bank Group, in conjunction with the George Washington University Law School, held a release event for the first installment of its Benchmarking Public Procurement Index

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The Gaza Strip Today: The Challenges and Potential

Bahaa Eddin Al-Dahoudi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

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Besides experiencing three destructive wars in less than ten years – Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge – the Gaza Strip has suffered since 2007 from two unprecedented major political events that affect both the lives and future aspirations of the Palestinians: the Israeli blockade and internal division.

The Gaza Strip, now in its seventh year under Israeli blockade, remains isolated from the outside world. The blockade affects many fields including education, business, the environment, technology, and culture. What is more, there is the internal Palestinian division which has further exacerbated the situation. The political and social division among the two largest Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, has led to declines in many areas.

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Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy Highlights Closing Space for Civil Society

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Pro-democracy reformers and activists are among the most driven and courageous people in the world. Speaking out against abuses committed by authoritarian governments often brings the risk of punishment, and meaningfully engaging on policy issues even with democratic governments takes dedication, mobilization, and discipline.

Civil society is a key conduit between citizens and their governments through which such engagement should happen. Yet, in a troubling global trend, we are witnessing the shrinking of civic space, with a number of countries from Ethiopia to Russia having passed restrictive anti-NGO legislation.

Especially in such difficult environments, human rights defenders and democracy advocates more than anything need to know that they are not alone, that the ideals they fight for are universal, and that they are a part of an international community. That is exactly what the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy helps to accomplish.

Now in its third edition, the Dialogue, which took place October 23-25 at the Natolin Campus of the College of Europe in Warsaw, is an international gathering devoted to democracy and civil society, bringing together representatives of civil society, human rights defenders and activists from Africa and the Middle East, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe. The Dialogue is a forum for the exchange of good practices and expertise in the evolution of democratic systems as well as a place to share success stories and challenges of democratic transitions.

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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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Fighting Corruption is Key for Growth in Africa

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Yesterday was the first day of the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. Representatives from CIPE’s partners in Africa – including association and chamber leaders from CIPE’s KnowHow mentorship program  – in addition to 200 other government, private sector, and civil society leaders from Africa attended the summit’s Civil Society Forum.

With seven of the world’s fastest growing economies and a fast-rising middle-class, no one can doubt the potential for economic prosperity in Africa. What’s questionable, however, is how African nations will achieve this prosperity. And the answer should be through inclusive democracies. Global initiatives like the Open Government Partnerships are already building momentum towards open governments that empower citizens in Africa.

Moreover, as Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden noted in their remarks yesterday, sustainable economic growth can only come from accountable and transparent societies that address corruption. For more African nations to take advantage of opportunities and accelerate growth, governments, civil society, and the business community must confront corruption.

This is where CIPE’s partners in Africa can come into play. Situated in between the private sector and government, business associations and chambers of commerce can best represent the private sector to improve governance and eliminate corrupt practices that impede market development. The Kenya Association of Manufacturers, for instance, partnered with CIPE and Global Integrity to engage relevant stakeholders in developing recommendations for the local governments to improve service delivery and minimize corruption.

It will be interesting to see what happens next after these high-level business, government, and civil society leaders return to their home countries. Certainly, going beyond rhetoric will be a requirement to systematically tackle corruption and help countries meet their potential.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Kenya’s Democratic Experiment in Devolution

A member of one of Kenya's new county assemblies sets up an office in an open-air market outside of Nairobi. (Photo: VOA News)

A member of one of Kenya’s new county assemblies sets up an office in an open-air market outside of Nairobi. (Photo: VOA News)

One way to improve democratic governance is to devolve more responsibilities to local and regional governments — but only if those governments have the capacity take on such responsibilities and a willingness to listen to input from their constituents. This is the challenge Kenya faces as it implements the devolution outlined in its new constitution.

On April 9th, Chief Executive Officer of CIPE partner in Kenya Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Kwame Owino gave a presentation at the National Endowment for Democracy on the status of the country’s constitutional reforms. Owino explained the contentious transition that has been occurring in Kenya since the March 2013 elections, which transferred some key powers from the central government to 47 newly-created counties.

Owino cited many roadblocks in the way of quick, successful decentralization, including power struggles between newly-established governors and county senators, a highly centralized government bureaucracy reluctant in some cases to relinquish power after an institutional life of 50 years, and an economy weakened by poor policies and widespread corruption.

To address the uncertainty regarding the strength of the devolution movement, Owino stated that accountability was the answer, arguing that Kenyan civil society organizations had a place as “protectors of devolution,” and that they must put pressure on the government to stay the course of decentralization. For devolution to succeed, the constitution needs to be followed exactly, and not be avoided or ignored as it is in many instances to maintain some of the employment and power institutionalized in the old bureaucracy.  

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