For the sixth consecutive year, internet freedom throughout the world has continued to decline. Although efforts to close the digital divide by bringing more people online has continued, 67%, or two-thirds of all internet users, fear the unprecedented penalties from living in countries with high levels of censorship. According to Freedom House’s latest report, Freedom on the Net Report 2016, Estonia, Iceland, and Canada are the most open countries when it comes to internet freedom, while China, Syria, and Iran are the most restrictive.
The 2016 report gathered information from 65 countries, measuring each individual country’s level of internet and digital freedom by using a variety of indicators. Since 2015, Turkey and Brazil have continued to move away from internet freedom, and just 14 countries registered overall improvements from the previous year.
Fifteen years after the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan began, it feels as if many of the same problems persist. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as military bases have closed across the country and development and foreign assistance programs have been reduced or have ended; the National Unity Government continues to be paralyzed by political infighting and rampant corruption; and a resurgent Taliban have threatened to overrun several provincial capitals and have orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks across the country, including in Kabul. Despite these worrying trends, the Afghan people have made significant progress since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. Basic services such as electricity and running water were unavailable even in Kabul during the years of Taliban rule, and have now spread throughout the country. Trips between cities that used to take days due to unpaved roads can now be completed in hours. Prior to October 2001, making an international call involved traveling across the border to Pakistan. Today, almost 85% of the population has mobile phone coverage, according to a 2012 USAID assessment.
This past September was my second time visiting Papua New Guinea (PNG), known as “the land for opportunity.” From my experiences there, this phrase is no exaggeration. PNG is a country full of untapped (natural) resources, talents, and compassionate people who love their country and are devoted to their families. But, despite these advantages, gender inequality is crippling development in PNG.
Driving around town in Port Moresby, you can see street vendors selling all sorts of locally made goods and products. At a recently established Market Expo, you can purchase beautiful “bilum bags” and coffee beans, among other items, from the highland regions that are unique to PNG. But these products have untold stories behind them in that many were handmade by women whose meager income is solely dedicated to supporting her family while her spouse’s income is not shared. When and if the family is taken care of, these women are left with nothing else to spend, undercutting their independence and leaving them vulnerable to their spouses’ abuse.
Participants at the EPAC G4G anniversary event in September 2016. Photo courtesy of the G4G facebook page.
The 2008 Rose Revolution, which marked Georgia’s turn down a more democratic, market-based and Western-oriented path, kicked off a process of robust reforms and aggressive moves headed by then-President Mikheil Saakashvili to tackle the endemic corruption that had long hampered the country’s economic development. The turn was affirmed in 2014 when Georgia signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), signaling a commitment to enact further reforms and open its markets to Europe – a step that Georgians envision as eventually leading to EU membership.
However, despite the strong anti-corruption measures enacted after 2008, concerns about the rule of law and quality of governance also arose during that period. While there was not necessarily a threat of reforms being derailed, there were legitimate questions as to how representative the process was under the then-ruling government. Those trends led (in part) to the defeat of Saakashvili’s party in parliamentary elections in 2012, followed by the defeat of the presidential candidate from his party the following year. The business community had generally been in favor of many of the changes enacted under Saakashvili—though small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) did not always have a seat at the table.. With the change in government came some concerns that the economic reform trajectory could be reversed.
Posted on1 November, 2016byCIPE Staff|Comments Off on Democracy that Delivers Podcast #40: Claude Fontheim on the Need for “Globalization with a Human Face”
Podcast guest Claude Fontheim (left) with hosts Julie Johnson and Ken Jaques.
In this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, CIPE Board member Claude Fontheim talks about how the rule of law, transparency, and good governance underpin strong, inclusive development. Fontheim explains that investment alone is not enough and says that support for public institutions is needed to ensure that the benefits of trade and economic growth reach all segments of society. He further discusses the direct link between development around the world and U.S. national security interests.
During the episode, Fontheim also talks about how U.S. companies contribute to the good governance of countries they invest in, and how they partner with NGOs and civil society to support initiatives in sectors such as health, education, and women’s rights.
Fontheim also discusses his early work with the Democratic Leadership Council and how he was inspired by Bill Clinton’s vision of “globalization with a human face.” He also shares how his family’s experience during the Holocaust shaped his world view and generated his interest in the forces that knit societies together and create peace.
Posted on25 October, 2016byCIPE Staff|Comments Off on Democracy that Delivers Podcast #39: András Lőke on the State of Democracy in Hungary
Podcast guest Andras Loke
This week on the Democracy that Delivers podcast, President of Transparency International Hungary, András Lőke, discusses the state of democracy in Hungary and the hard work it takes to maintain that system over time. He also discusses the cultural differences between countries in Central Europe and how culture can influence democratic development. Lőke is also founder and editor-in-chief of www.Ittlakunk.hu, a group of websites covering 23 Budapest neighborhoods that receives 800,000 unique visitors a month. He speaks about the government’s influence on the media. Lőke also talks about how corruption undermines democracy and the “economy within the economy” that institutionalizes corruption in Hungary.
Lőke recently spoke at the conference The Illiberal Turn?: Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe. The conference was co-hosted by CIPE with the Atlantic Council, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. You can conference presentations and panel discussions on the Atlantic Council website.
Posted on18 October, 2016byCIPE Staff|Comments Off on Democracy that Delivers Podcast #38: The Rapid-Reaction Anti-Corruption Project
Discussion moderator Christian Caryl with panelists Carl Gershman, Sarah Chayes and Eric Hontz at the Rapid Reaction Anti-Corruption Project event.
On September 16, 2016, CIPE hosted a panel discussion on the need for rapid response in countries where a significant opportunity has appeared for achieving anti-corruption progress. CIPE’s Rapid Reaction Anti-Corruption Project is designed to address this need by deploying a team of anti-corruption experts with international stature to countries in transition. The experts, with NGO, business, and law enforcement backgrounds, would be swiftly deployed to countries which have governments newly empowered to address corruption, and a strong economic interest from foreign firms previously repelled by corruption risk.
Today’s podcast is a recording of the event at which experts discussed corruption challenges and practical solutions. The event was opened by CIPE Managing Director Andrew Wilson [then Executive Director (acting)] and was moderated by Chrstian Caryl, Editor of the Foreign Policy Democracy Lab blog.
Panel speakers included President of the National Endowment for Democracy Carl Gershman; Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for National Peace Sarah Chayes, and author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security Sarah Chayes; and CIPE Program Officer for Ukraine, Russia and Central Asia Eric Hontz.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.