Tag Archives: democracy

Does Democracy Still Matter?

Once among the poorest countries in the world, South Korea has grown into one of the richest since transitioning to democracy in the late 1980s.

Once among the poorest countries in the world, South Korea has grown into one of the richest since transitioning to democracy in the late 1980s after a series of popular uprisings.

In his June 1982 Westminster Address , which laid the groundwork for the creation of CIPE and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), President Ronald Reagan established an emerging role for the U.S. as a leader in supporting democracy around the world:

 “It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation- in both the public and private sectors- to assisting democratic development…The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy-the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities- which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”

Today that role is being questioned. At an October 20, 2014 conference hosted by the Kennan and Foreign Policy Research Institutes, academics and policymakers from around the world convened to dissect the question “Does Democracy Matter?”

Panelists and participants acknowledged a notable – and unprecedented – cynicism about democracy support: its track record, current viability, and future prospects. Worse yet, this cynicism among scholars, politicians, and practitioners in the U.S. and Europe is coupled with disillusion in nascent or would-be democracies from Central Europe to the Middle East to Latin America. Keynote speaker Larry Diamond reminded the audience that, in direct contrast to the 1990s, the last ten years have seen more countries increasing in authoritarianism than countries making democratic gains.

Read More…

The Role of Business Associations in Democracy

Network members attending the meeting in Abidjan.

Members of a CIPE-supported business association network attend a meeting in Abidjan.

Business associations contribute immensely to economic growth, development, peace, and prosperity.  They play a key role in building inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems and can bolster the ability of firms of all sizes to grow and create jobs.

Business associations are integral to the democratic process, as they represent the entrepreneurial interests of the middle class, thereby making them essential vehicles for popular participation in a democratic society.

Read More…

To Escape From Violence, Iraq Must Tackle Its Economic Problems As Well As ISIL

article-2663939-1EECB89B00000578-506_634x747

Smoke billows from a key oil refinery damaged by ISIL attacks in northern Iraq in June. Repairs are expected to take more than a year.

After months of political wrangling in Baghdad and advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – also known as IS or ISIS – the Iraqi Parliament finally approved a new, more inclusive government led by a new prime minister, Dr. Haider al-Abadi, in early September.

At a recent roundtable event with Iraqi and U.S. experts, held under the Chatham House Rule, participants expressed cautious optimism over the new government. However, in the uphill battle to confront immediate threats to the country’s security, Iraq’s economic crisis has largely been ignored.

According to one participant, the fact that the new cabinet of ministers included members of Iraq’s various minority groups, and that three leading political rivals – former Prime Ministers Nouri al-Maliki and Iyad Allawi and former parliament speaker Usama al-Nujaifi – were given posts as vice presidents, was a good sign.

Another in the room pointed to the moderate leadership of Iraq’s new Prime Minister. Dr. Abadi, who belongs to the Shi’ite Islamic Dawa party, has a reputation as a political moderate, was educated in the UK, and has served on various Iraqi parliamentary committees since 2006, including those for finance and economics. A change in political leadership at the top, the participant argued, could rebuild trust between the central government in Baghdad and Iraq’s marginalized communities. More importantly, Abadi has pledged to foster national dialogue, political reconciliation, and decentralization.

Iraq’s economic challenges – high unemployment, poverty, rising prices, and food shortages – will only contribute further to the security crisis if they are not addressed. More than 50 percent of the goods imported into Iraq – including raw materials and food – have been blocked at the only official border crossing with Jordan, which is now under the control of ISIL. Iraq’s final budget for fiscal year 2014 remains unapproved by the Iraqi Parliament, and since the economy is dominated by the public sector – the government and state-owned enterprises employ about half of Iraq’s total workforce – the lack of government spending has ground the entire economy to a halt.

At the end of the day, ordinary citizens in Iraq are bearing the brunt of economic damages caused by the regional insecurity and the political process in Baghdad.

Read More…

Training Political Parties for Democracy

columbia-congress

A new Congress is inaugurated in Colombia.

Strong and well-functioning political parties are an essential component to any thriving democracy.  Political parties link citizens and their governments, represent the interests of constituents, and influence economic policymaking. In any political system, a party’s capacity to influence policy determines its success, so party platforms are instrumental for parties to participate effectively in the discussion and implementation of policies.  The party platform outlines a set of policy alternatives that the party seeks to implement.  The economic component of a party platform is crucial to create and implement policies that deliver economic growth and opportunities to people.

The ideas presented in political party’s economic platform will influence the operation of businesses and shape national economic policy. These platforms are not static documents as they continually evolve and respond to the challenges a country faces at a particular moment in time.  Successful political parties will be ready to revise and adapt the economic component of their platforms to changing economic conditions. Training political parties to not only develop solid economic platforms but to revise and respond to ever changing economic conditions is an important initiative in the efforts to support thriving market oriented democracies.

Read More…

Case Studies on Democratic Reform in Yemen and Paraguay

paraguay debate

Democracy is a process of governance most often based on compromise, grounded in broad-based inclusiveness of differing viewpoints and the representation of diverse constituency interests. While free and fair elections are certainly one of the most recognizable hallmarks of the democratic process, a vibrant dialogue between political candidates preceding an election makes a vitally important contribution to the quality of governance.

Candidate debates serve multiple purposes. First, debates inform the electorate of the issues being considered. Second, televised debates offer an opportunity for voters to form an opinion and differentiate between candidates based on the substance of their policy positions. Third, debates promote transparency and improve the quality of democratic governance as candidates are able to directly express their views to the electorate, engage with their colleagues, and elevate certain issues over others in the national consciousness. Similarly, input from the private sector and civil society in the formulation of economic and social policy is another characteristic of a vibrant democracy as broad-based participation in the policymaking process ensures that proposed legislation represents the interests of all constituents.

CIPE possesses over thirty years of experience in strengthening democracy worldwide and promoting market oriented reforms in various country contexts. In the forthcoming publication Strategies for Policy Reform, two case studies from Paraguay and Yemen represent distinct approaches to ensuring that democracy delivers economic and political freedoms to citizens. 

Read More…

Pakistan Seeks Potential Solution to Political Protests

ISB-protest

For the past several weeks, Pakistan has faced a set of dual protests that have sparked a political crisis. One protest, led by former cricket star turned politician Imran Khan, head of the PTI party, draws on Khan’s allegation of widespread rigging in the landmark 2013 elections. Khan’s demands include electoral reforms, a redo of the election, and, controversially, the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N party.

The other protest, led by Sufi cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who heads the PAT party, seeks justice for followers killed and injured in a June incident at his headquarters. Qadri has demanded a full investigation, and also seeks the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister’s brother. After marching to Islamabad and holding daily rallies, the protests eventually turned violent. While the violence subsided, and the army has mediated talks among the government, Khan and Qadri, the situation has not yet abated.

These crises come at a difficult time for Pakistan. The country is dealing with massive floods after heavy monsoon rains. Furthermore, because of the protests, the center of Islamabad has been shut down for more than month, freezing legislative and ministerial activity in the capital. As a result, the government has been unable to make any progress on meeting an extensive set of conditions to keep badly-needed funds flowing under an IMF loan facility. Moreover, the much-awaited visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been postponed.

Over the past year, as shown by CIPE’s partner PRIME, an Islamabad-based think tank, the government has made only limited progress toward implementing an ambitious economic reform agenda, thus engendering widespread frustration. Against this backdrop, many observers worried that the military could seize power again, as it has done in the past, or at least seek greater influence. Citing a report from the US Congressional Research Service, there was fear that this could cause the US to withdraw crucially needed support.

Read More…

The Democratic Alternative from the South

day-of-democracy

Each year on September 15, the UN observes the International Day of Democracy to celebrate efforts to promote and consolidate democracy around the world.  Despite these efforts however, the realization of consolidated democracy continues to be a struggle for many reformers.  This year, the UN has chosen a theme of “Engaging Young People in Democracy” and acknowledges that “study after study show declining faith among young people…with declining levels of participation.”  Compounding this declining faith in democracy is a rising ideological competitor in the form of economically successful authoritarian regimes.

As much as young people are recognized as dreamers and agents of change, these characterizations tend to be the result of youth wanting to see an improvement in their quality of life.  In emerging countries such improvements are often delivered through economic growth, and in cases such as China and Singapore youth populations can honestly say their standard of living has gotten better year after year.  These examples can lead youth to become disillusioned with democracy, especially at a time when the world’s major democracies are suffering the aftereffects of a major financial crisis. Meanwhile, in the developing world, kickstarting growth in democratic regimes often takes time due to a need to build consensus and develop proper policies.

Quality of life, however, is not measurable only in terms of indicators such as income levels, consumption, and GDP — though almost all of the world’s most prosperous countries are democracies.  Other, arguably more important aspects such as human rights, liberty, and freedom are also vital components.  Since 2012, CIPE has been part of a consortium seeking to analyze the development paths of three emerging democracies (India, Brazil, and South Africa) in order to create an argument in support of democratic development.

Read More…