Tag Archives: democracy

Businesses in Eastern Ukraine Threatened by Instability

(Photo: Kyiv Post)

(Photo: Kyiv Post)

When protesters first took to the streets in Ukraine’s largest cities in 2013, economic concerns were at the top of the agenda. As the geopolitical situation in eastern Ukraine has heated up, economic prospects in the contested regions of the country have only gotten worse. Yet average Ukrainians are still working for a more prosperous and democratic future.

Since the Maidan protests, the business climate in the Donbass, the easternmost, coal-mining region of the country, has taken a turn for the worse. Amid the turmoil, local businesses – in particular small and medium-sized firms – have suffered.  Many have been shaken down for so-called “donations,” and in some cases have been looted and ransacked.

A recent article in the local press has documented fines, bribery, and other abuses committed against local businesses by police departments and government officials. Many people have even left the region, heading either for Western Ukraine or even Russia. The owners of small businesses have left their homes and their enterprises behind. They are unsure when they can return, or whether they will find their businesses in the same condition.

As one CIPE partner in the Donbass noted, “Public sector bribes have grown by several times what they were prior to the strife, and not one Grivna [the Ukrainian currency] is going to the budget.” He confirmed that many business owners and heads of banks in the region are being forced to leave their businesses. “Because of roadblocks and military activities, there are just no opportunities to run a business,” he laments.

The pro-European, Kiev-based protests that led to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovich made Ukraine a hot topic in international news. Yet in many ways, the situation that set international media ablaze in early February is really a much older story.

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The Fragile States Index 2013: A Snapshot of Global Stability

fragile-states

The year 2013 proved to be politically dynamic, with many countries seeing political strife or even regime change — among other crises, Ukrainians took the streets to demand more political and economic freedoms and closer ties with the West and the civil war in Syria raged on. The Fragile States Index (FSI) attempts to measure the factors driving such upheaval on a country-by-country basis.

Created by The Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy, for ten years the FSI has tried to put into perspective the relative stability of nations and rank them accordingly. The index develops an aggregate total score for each country by taking in a host of different social, political, economic factors: demographic pressure, the quantity of refugees and internally displaced persons, group grievances, human flight and brain drain, the unevenness of economic development, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and the rule of law, the security apparatus, factionalized elites, and external intervention.

According the FSI, the lower the score, the more stable the country. This year’s index is lead by Finland in 178th place, receiving the lowest total score of 18.7, with relative newcomer South Sudan ranking 1st with an aggregate 112.9 (the United States is close to the top, occupying 159th place with a score of 35.4).

One conclusion established by the FSI is that states rarely fundamentally change from year to year. For instance, 9 out of 10 of 2013’s most fragile states still occupy the lowest spots. That being said, the FSI is useful for determining significant and surprising developments and trends. This year’s notable changes and scores included:

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Living Democracy

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions.

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Living in the U.S. for the past six months has been a thrilling experience for me. I have lived in a social entrepreneurship-themed group house, traveled to different cities, gone hiking at Sky Meadows Park, attended events/conferences, and made countless friends. I also interacted with local Nepalese communities and enjoyed festivals and happy hours. Although living in Washington DC has proven itself quite expensive compared to Kathmandu, I have been able to live within my means as a fellow. DC is a very lively and cultural city, and I appreciate that there is always so much going on. After living here for six months I am amazed by the many things I haven’t yet discovered.

Working directly with my friends and colleagues at my host organization, Accountability Lab, in DC, and being a part of the OpenGov Hub (OGH) has been remarkable. OGH, a community of independent organizations working the transparency field, is a great place for collaboration, networking, and learning. As a Think Tank LINKS fellow, I have had access to valuable opportunities and space to expand my knowledge. The monthly webinars and meetings with CIPE and Atlas Corps fellows were especially rewarding and really added value to our learning experience.

While it is always hard to focus on one experience when you have so many things to talk about, I am focusing on my experience with democracy. My quest for knowledge about the true meaning of democracy continued until I was not able to find a solid answer within myself. Often, in countries where democracy is in transition or a far off hope, citizens have difficulty understanding it and are often confused about the difference between democracy in theory and democracy in daily living.

My question was very simple: I wanted to see how people from developed nations like the U.S. live their daily lives in a democratic society without being abstract or theoretical. In theory, democracy is about human rights, freedom of information, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Although what it is written in textbooks and literature is true, all of these concepts cannot exist without smaller fundamental elements of society associated with culture, values, and norms at the individual level.

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Supporting Democracy through… Tourism?

For vacationers looking for more than some sun and relaxation, there is an endless array of creative travel options, from dining tours to ecotourism, service projects to extreme sports. But what about the savvy headline reader who wants to make sure her hard-earned vacation fund supports a country that serves its citizens? Call it “democracy tourism.”

With so much choice for consumers, the world’s ministries of tourism need to work that much harder to attract foreign visitors. As a traveler, you’ve got the power! While looking for great food, wine, music, or beach destinations, world travelers can also make a statement with their dollars by choosing a country that is moving towards democracy.

A little intellectual for vacation research? Perhaps. But you can travel guilt-free, knowing the locals you meet on your trip live in a society that is working for them. Here are five destinations that satisfy both the avid traveler and the conscious world citizen.

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Why Free Enterprise Matters for Democracy in Venezuela

By Gustavo Guerrero and Laura Boyette

The economic and political climate in Venezuela today has grown to crisis levels as the government consolidates power and limits the freedoms of entrepreneurs and the private sector through harmful legislation and the nationalization of private businesses. In the face of these challenges, the Federation of Chambers and Associations of Commerce and Production (FEDECAMARAS) continues working hard to advocate for policies that will grow the Venezuelan economy and provide more opportunities to young entrepreneurs, both of which are essential to creating a brighter future for Venezuela. In May Jorge Roig, President of FEDECAMARAS, sat down for an interview with CIPE and discussed the role of the private sector and its advocates in Venezuela.

Roig stressed the importance of cooperation between business, society, and government, saying that without engaging these groups in dialogue, substantive change will not occur. In recent years, the Chávez and Maduro governments have depicted the private sector and organizations such as FEDECAMARAS as the source of Venezuela’s economic problems, claiming they have political aspirations. However, Roig defined the role of FEDECAMARAS very clearly – not to be a political power, but rather to influence it on behalf of entrepreneurs. Furthermore, organizations such as FEDECAMARAS not only protect free enterprise, but also support democratic values and act in the best interests of the society as a whole.

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Pakistan’s Business Community Learns to Speak With One Voice

2014-chamber-presidents

By Majid Shabbir

The advocacy process in Pakistan is strengthening as the leaders of the country’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry assembled for a series of Pre- and Post-Budget Conferences in Islamabad, Karachi, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi to discuss the key business-related policy issues.

In these conferences business leaders of the Chambers thoroughly deliberate important issues and send consolidated policy recommendations to the government. Business associations individually make recommendations on various policies, but with a collective voice they are able to communicate more effectively. Their voice is better heard, and as a result more of their suggestions are incorporated while developing economic policies.

In the pre-budget conferences held by the Karachi and Faisalabad Chambers, the business leaders discussed in-depth trade and economic issues and presented detailed recommendations to the government for consideration. Before the announcement of the Federal Budget the government also involved Chambers and Associations in the consultative process by holding series of meetings with the leaders of these associations.

After the budget was released, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry organized an All Chambers Presidents Post-Budget Conference with the theme of “Together for a Progressive Pakistan” on June 14 that was attended by all major Chambers including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, KPK, and Rawalpindi, as well as experts and high-level government officials.

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Improving the Business Environment in Afghanistan, One Province at a Time

PBA-nangarhar

More than 400 business leaders, including 30 women, met in in Karzai Hall in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on June 4 to discuss ways of improving the business environment Nangarhar Province. Organized by CIPE and led by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry‘s Nangarhar chapter and a coalition of 12 local business associations, the participants discussed the barriers and challenges to doing business in the province and identified policy solutions to support business growth.

The event is part of a CIPE supported Provincial Business Agenda (PBA) program. The PBA is a grassroots effort to bring the local business community together to develop a list of policy priorities to improve the business climate in the province.

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