Tag Archives: democracy

Will Decentralization Lead to More Corruption in Cambodia?


Watch a short video about the Silaka project.

In 2009, Cambodia’s provincial legislatures became elected bodies for the first time in the country’s history. Against the backdrop of decentralization, this newly democratic level of government is also being called upon to handle a greater share of public service delivery. If they fail to perform, and if their increased budgets result in a dramatic expansion of corruption, democracy could be seen as failing to perform.

Provincial governments currently account for approximately 20 percent of all public sector spending in Cambodia, up from nearly zero in the late 1990s. This figure will continue to rise as provincial governments increasingly bear the financial burden of primary and secondary education, public health and sanitation, local transportation infrastructure, and basic public administration.

To help mitigate corruption risks, there is a need for greater transparency in provincial finances, increased civic involvement in provincial procurement processes, and good governance advocacy at the local level of government. To address this challenge, CIPE launched an innovative project in June 2012 with a Cambodian NGO called Silaka to reduce corruption in provincial government procurement.

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How Can Youth Make a Difference in Democratic Reform?

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While young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, their involvement is often confined to staging demonstrations and other similar activist activities. However, in order for democratic reform — or any reform for that matter — to be meaningful and sustainable, youth must not only be involved in demonstrations, but also in the decision making processes that chart the way forward.

When they have a voice in the policymaking process, youth also gain a stake when it comes to implementation. Having contributed their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they become staunch advocates when it comes to accountability and will work into adulthood to ensure that the solutions they helped create are realized.

In addition to building youth buy-in, engaging young people in decision-making processes has other benefits. Youth can help drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions and also bring new tools to the table as they are typically the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors.

Though it is vital to ensure youth are engaged in policy advocacy campaigns, taking this from idea to reality can be difficult. Youth is generally thought of as a singular demographic, but in reality, youth can be extremely varied. Young people come from different social and economic backgrounds and age boundaries are not always well defined. Additionally, mobilizing young people can be easy, but policy reform is a long term goal and it can be challenging to maintain youth engagement for the duration of a campaign.

Over the course of its history strengthening democracy through market reform, CIPE has developed and implemented proven advocacy strategies including for youth. To capture and share this knowledge, CIPE recently published its Guide to Youth Advocacy, meant to share experience and best practices for organizing youth and organizations that support youth to engage in successful advocacy initiatives. In addition to outlining strategies and approaches, the resource provides small case studies of CIPE supported projects from around the world that organized youth to advocate for real reforms.

Read the guidebook here. 

Frank Stroker is an Assistant Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Successful Public-Private Dialogue: The Kenyan Perspective

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“The work of development is too important to be left in the hands of governments alone. It is the responsibility of everyone. Especially the business community.” This was Betty Maina’s main point in her speech last week at the 8th Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) Workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The workshop explored how the government, private sector, and civil society organizations can effectively use PPD platforms for collaborative governance and leadership in addressing difficult challenges. Through its collaborative process, PPD provides a structured, participatory, and inclusive approach to policymaking directed at reforming governance and the business climate.

As the CEO of CIPE partner the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Maina spoke on the crucial role that multi-stakeholder PPD platforms can play in building a better enabling environment for business. Maina recognized the social, economic and environmental challenges that we face, and the important role the business community can play in tackling those challenges.

“Instinctively people recognize that [these] challenges demand a new kind of leadership, a new way of doing things,” she said. “Business, like governments, will have to be in the forefront of this change.  No one can do it alone.”

One need to look no farther than Kenya as an example of the private sector’s role in solving societal problems. During the 2007 election crisis, the business community was crucial in supporting peace efforts and dialogue which helped prevent further violence. The business community was also instrumental in supporting the development of Kenya’s new constitution in 2010 and now plays a critical role in its implementation.

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Empowered Women in Liberia: Their Voices Must Be Heard

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Lawrence Yealue, II. is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Accountability Lab

In Liberia, female participation in decision-making has long been limited to a few women who have fought tirelessly to be heard. Liberian society needs to take a critical look at the role of women across traditional, economic, political, religious, and social interactions. It is time for this silence to end and a new politics of inclusiveness and ownership be rolled out. This requires real decision-making by women rather than a semblance of participation and involvement.

Traditionally, Liberian women have been limited to domestic work, which involves fishing, gathering firewood, cooking, and cleaning. During town meetings, the women were given limited opportunity to contribute their ideas and were rarely selected as village chiefs. In ceremonies, they were expected to decorate and cook. Sadly, many of these traditions continue today.

Today, often the best economic opportunity for women is to work as petty traders, where they face great challenges: sleeping on the cold ground in cramped rooms to sell their goods in bad, often muddy conditions. Frequently involved in trading across borders, they bear great risk in traveling to Ghana, Nigeria, and beyond.

Women move our economy, but the economic decisions that affect them are still mostly made by men. How will the economy progress if the decisions around it are not inclusive?

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Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

Mesa presidium

The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.

What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.

Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.

Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.

On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.

If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?

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Building a Network of Change-Makers in South Asia

South Asia regional economic network members

In late January, CIPE held its sixth in a series of capacity building and networking workshops in Colombo for its South Asia regional network of women’s business associations, which includes organizations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. When CIPE began to work with this group of women business leaders two years ago, the sessions focused primarily on issues such as board governance, strategic planning, staff and financial management, membership development, and services for members.

But between training modules, discussion often turned to the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in their countries, including policy barriers that tend to create a business environment unfriendly to women. Thus, CIPE always knew that eventually, the focus of the program must turn to advocacy for policy reform.

As a result, CIPE increasingly began to raise issues of policy – and policy advocacy – in the context of the training sessions. Then, last summer, CIPE awarded four women’s associations in three countries small grants by CIPE to carry out pilot, four-month advocacy projects.

One point that had frequently arisen in the training program was a lack of understanding of the complexities of policy advocacy, such as: identifying issues of concern to members; developing concrete policy proposals and specific recommendations to tackle those issues; the hard work involved in reaching out to policymakers; the need to broadly engage the media, association members, and the general public; and the need to track results and assess the impact of advocacy initiatives.

Moreover, the countries where the advocacy initiatives took place – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – are challenging environments. During the four months that these organizations were implementing their small grants, each country faced political turbulence that may have shaken the resolve of less dedicated change-makers.

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In Celebration of International Women’s Day

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Women comprise the majority of world’s population, are heads of households, have outpaced their male peers in educational attainment and contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of their families, communities, and countries.

Yet, for all of these advances, women in leadership position are still a minority. According to the latest estimates, women comprise just 20.2 percent of corporate board members of Fortune 500 companies, representing a slight increase over previous years. And just 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by female CEOs. In terms of political leadership, the United Nations estimates that women hold just 22 percent of parliament seats globally. Currently, there are 10 female heads of state and 14 heads of government among the 195 UN member states. Finally, women hold only 17 percent of posts globally at the ministerial level, mainly in the education and health sectors.

Much has been written about how women could overcome the myriad of obstacles that stand in their way to personal and professional success. Whether it’s to take a seat at the table, find a mentor, or a sponsor and lean-in, these techniques fall short of naming the real reason women are shut out of professional opportunities in many societies.

The simple answer is that women must work within the confines of rules and regulations that were institutionalized without their input. When women have agency in their personal and professional lives, they have the ability to change norms, rules and regulations and to fully participate in decision-making processes in the government, public and private sectors.

Inclusive and participatory decision-making is at the heart of democratic governance and yields better social, political and economic outcomes. Economic empowerment is one of the most important means of attaining global gender parity and should be a central point of discussion. When women become breadwinners, they have real decision-making power within their families and communities. Women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the workforce are avenues for their political participation and ability to influence how rules are made and laws passed.

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