Tag Archives: democracy

The Voice of Youth in Economic Policymaking


Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the 2015 Global Youth Economic Summit in Washington, DC, where over 450 leaders and practitioners from 50 countries came together. The theme of the overall summit was “Scale in Practice,” and it examined how best to design youth economic empowerment projects that maximize impact, scale, and sustainability.

My session was “The Voice of Youth in Economic Policymaking: How to Advocate for the Right Reforms” and I presented with Simon Van Melick from SPARK (a Dutch-NGO specializing in youth entrepreneurship in conflict affected societies) and Hania Bitar from Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALRA). Unlike the other presenters at the Summit, who focused on the initiatives like vocational programs, microfinance, and innovations in mobile-based educational games, my panel focused on how to engage and empower youth to be involved in political and economic reform of their local communities.

CIPE’s strategy for youth programming is to prepare young people to become self-dependent and take initiative. To empower and engage youth as leaders of tomorrow, CIPE takes four approaches: teach civic education, equip youth with leadership skills, empower civil society to be inclusive and engage youth in the policymaking process, and provide platforms for youth to share ideas on reform.

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Tunisia’s Nobel Peace Prize: Keeping the Boat Sailing

When I heard about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisia, my first reaction was happiness – they deserve it. Not just the members of the Quartet who were the recipients, but every Tunisian participating in this grand democracy experiment.

I have worked in places that never got this far, despite the presence of amazing, intelligent, admirable people trying their best. Over time I have come to think that will is the true secret ingredient. Capacity can be built, but some kernel of shared will needs to be there from the start. You need the right people, with the right intentions, at the right time, and there is no substitute for it.

I think about this same thing every time I read writings from America’s Founding Fathers. From the distance of history, America’s birth looks like a process; a lot of people met repeatedly, argued a lot, reacted to foreign events, hammered things out, and a nation came to be.

But then read the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and you suddenly are plunged into the chaos, stress and daily-ness of it all. Abigail is alone running the farm and business, dealing with insecurity and tending sick children. John is riding back and forth to Philadelphia and beyond, complaining bitterly about recalcitrant short-sighted delegates. There is tedium, inching progress and failure along the way. John was exhausted and frustrated as much as he was inspired. Unlike us reading his letters, he didn’t know if they would succeed.

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Will Argentina’s First-Ever Presidential Debate Help Change Politics for the Better?

Candidates at the October 4 debate, with an empty podium for incumbent Daniel Scioli, who dropped out of the debate. (Photo: AP)

Candidates at the October 4 debate, with an empty podium for incumbent Daniel Scioli, who dropped out of the debate. (Photo: AP)

When the lights went down and the countdown to going live on the air began, everyone in the room knew they were witnessing history — the first ever debate among presidential candidates in Argentina.

It was a long, hard negotiation process that brought the candidates to the debate table. The debate was not without its flaws. The biggest of course was the decision of the leading candidate, Daniel Scioli, representing the current governing party (the Front for Victory), to not attend even after participating in all the negotiations leading up to the debate. Still, the room was electric and the audience complied with all the rules they were asked to abide by, including refraining from clapping or cheering for their favorite candidate.

The five candidates who did participate (Mauricio Macri, Sergio Massa, Margaret Stolbizer, Adolfo Rodriguez Saá and Nicolás del Caño) took advantage of the empty lectern representing the missing candidate, faulting him for disrespecting them and the people of Argentina by his failure to show up.

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What’s the Role of the Private Sector in Democracy and Development?


Today is the International Day of Democracy, when the world celebrates the importance of democracy and democratic governance. But the role of the private sector in building democracies that deliver prosperity and opportunity to all citizens is often overlooked. That is why the contribution made by private sector participants at the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies (COD) is particularly noteworthy.

The Community of Democracies was founded in 2000 as an intergovernmental coalition specifically focused on promoting democracy and democratic ideals (at the time, only 68 of 189 UN member states were democracies; today the number has risen to 84). This year’s Ministerial, which took place on July 22-24 in El Salvador, gathered representatives of civil societyparliamentsthe private sector, and youth in the capital of San Salvador. The leading theme for El Salvador’s 2013-2015 presidency of the organization was “Democracy and Development.” About 800 participants from more than 70 countries attended.

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How Average Citizens are Helping Set Budget Priorities in Kenya

“There is no development that can be done if it’s not budgeted for.” These are the words of Edwin Kiprono, the president of Kerio Community Trust Fund, explaining the importance of citizen’s alternative budgets in Kenya.

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution, establishing a system of devolution in which more control and responsibility was shifted from the national government to newly-created county-level governments. These governments, which began operating in 2013, now oversee certain aspects of local health care, infrastructure, and education. For the first time, the counties are now expected to raise their own revenue through taxes and fees and establish their own budgets for spending that revenue.

Such a move provides great opportunity for local development to be taken into the hands of local citizens – but it also requires citizens to be engaged and provide input and feedback to their local governments.

Throughout Kenya, CIPE has been working with local partners to develop citizen’s alternative budgets – a system of participatory budgeting made possible through the devolved government system. One of the counties CIPE has been working in is Elgeyo Marakwet – a diverse county in which citizens have various and competing concerns and opinions on what the priorities of their county should be when developing a budget and spending its resources.

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Democracy that Delivers through Better Governance


Major global trends are changing the way we approach international assistance and policy reform. Private sector-led growth has produced enormous opportunities, even as market freedom and access to opportunity remain uneven. Political upheaval has raised hopes for democratic freedoms, yet freedom too often is undermined by poor governance.

Governance reforms must adjust to these shifting circumstances. As a rule, effective reforms tap the power of free markets and the strength of citizen engagement. Each country requires distinctive sets of solutions that reflect local capabilities and needs. These solutions take shape through policy coalitions forged by local partners. Often, they benefit from international experience in convening dialogue and mobilizing support.

Strategies for Policy Reform illustrates CIPE’s approach to improving governance in cooperation with local entrepreneurial leaders. This international case collection shares program experiences and results achieved across CIPE’s four focus areas: Enterprise Ecosystems, Business Advocacy, Democratic Governance, and Anti-corruption & Ethics.

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Building a Network of EntrepreneuHERS

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Forbes estimates that 90 percent of startup businesses will fail. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystem – that is the enabling environment that is more or less conducive for startups – varies drastically throughout the world.

This year the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business report rated Serbia and Nicaragua as the 91st and 119th easiest countries for doing business out of 189 countries, respectively. The Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Serbia as the 78th and Nicaragua as the 87th most entrepreneurial countries out of 130 according to their index. These rankings highlight the progress albeit continued uphill battle entrepreneurs face in operating a business in these countries.

More accurately, the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI) elucidates the unique institutions impacting women in starting and operating a business: a provision for childcare services, work-family conflicts, limitations to freedom to work and travel due to traditional family and religious norms, and equal legal rights, in addition to meeting expectations and gaining access to education, capital, and networks.

In a unique mentorship structure aimed at maximizing the number of beneficiaries of the project, CIPE partners the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) linked successful women entrepreneurs with emerging micro-entrepreneurs for one-year mentorship programs. Though FEI reports a nine percent increase in the number of female entrepreneurs who have participated in some form of post-secondary education, factors such as lack of confidence or practical know-how still prevent young women from actually acting on their business ideas and subsequently making it through the first few years of operation. To account for this in Nicaragua, REN linked each mentor-mentee pair with a female university student studying business at the top universities in Managua. Seeing first-hand how a real business operates and a microenterprise can scale allowed interns to apply the skills learned in their coursework.

This month’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles on the case studies of Serbia and Nicaragua outline the mentorship structure of each respective program and bring to light the power of women-to-women mentorship in building leadership and confidence, considering long term career goals, and creating a nurturing and supportive network to rely on when navigating difficult professional and even personal decisions. Women’s business associations like ABW and REN aren’t waiting for an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs but rather are creating their own.

Stephanie Bandyk is the Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE.