On Sunday morning, CIPE Program Manager Zoia Tsybrova braved the cool, rainy weather to observe the EuroMaidan protests forming in the center of Kyiv. The Shevchenko building, where the rally was intended to be held, could not hold all the participants, and it did not take long for people to start walking, meeting friends and family, filling the streets of Kyiv. The mood, says Tsybrova, was euphoric. Not only on Sunday but today as well. Three days later, the people are still there, with a mass of students demonstrating still; the good mood remains, with people handing out hot tea and sandwiches to those on the streets. People are still dressed up for the occasion, smiling, walking with Ukrainian and European symbols, with homemade cards, signs, banners, and flags.
What was the impetus of this? The protesters were pushed over the edge by the government’s decision to suspend the pursuit of an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The association agreement could have been signed in Vilnius, Lithuania at the EU Partnership Summit on November 28-29. It is a political and free trade deal that has been on the international community’s radar for a number of months as it offered the possibility to Ukraine to begin integration into the European Union.
The deal’s suspension caused a response that was both unexpected and a turnout that was noteworthy, to say the least. Early estimates have put the number of protesters rallying on Sunday at 100,000. Ukraine has not seen a protest this large since the Orange Revolution in the winter months of 2004 leading into 2005. Following the government’s decision to suspend the pursuit of this agreement with the European Union on November 21, the people have come together in mass rallies again on Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). Over the weekend, protests sprung in other cities around Ukraine, too, from east to west.
Attention Bloggers: Don’t forget about CIPE’s 2013 Blog Competition! The deadline for submission is December 2!
The Internet has reshaped the way the world does business, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and new modes for participating in the democratic process. As part of its celebration for Global Entrepreneurship Week, CIPE Pakistan recently held a blogging training session for University of Karachi students in the department of Mass Communication. The aim of the session was to give young bloggers the skills they need to become more effective citizen journalists, understanding complex issues and writing substantive content on political, economic, business and social issues in Pakistan.
CIPE was also seeking to encourage these students to take a more entrepreneurial approach toward building their own careers. As CIPE Pakistan Country Director Moin Fudda told the participants, Pakistan faces a range of challenges, including energy shortages, unstable security, and poor governance; but the biggest challenge might be the growing population coupled with high unemployment.
As Fudda pointed out, each year more young people enter the job market, but face a lack of professional opportunities. Against this backdrop, sessions such as these can help give students new ideas about how their hard work can open new career paths that could help them earn a living. Further, as Fudda pointed out, blogging on issues facing Pakistan will help ensure that young people are active and concerned citizens, who will eventually be ready to take leadership roles in the country.
“We’re approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention — totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy’s enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order, because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. (…) No, democracy is not a fragile flower. Still it needs cultivating. If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take actions to assist the campaign for democracy.”
Although these words were spoken more than three decades ago by President Ronald Reagan at the address to the British Parliament delivered on June 8, 1982, they still ring true today. While the threat of communism has since waned, new challenges to democratic freedoms abound. In the Westminster speech, Reagan pledged to boost support for democracy, and a year later the U.S. Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world through its four core institutes including the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). The role of the NED in today’s struggles for greater freedom for all remains no less crucial.
Yesterday, the NED celebrated its 30 anniversary at a ceremony appropriately hosted at the place where founding documents of America’s own democracy reside: the National Archives. In a strong statement of bipartisan support for the work of the NED and its institutes, both Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner and Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke at the event. Their remarks were followed by a distinguished panel moderated by George Stephanopoulos.
In September, Pakistan passed an important democratic milestone: its first peaceful handover of power from one elected government to another, breaking the long cycle of coups and military dictatorship the country has suffered through since its independence.
This moment was a long time in the making, the culmination of many efforts by many different segments of society. Could the slow-and-steady transition be a model for other countries to follow?
Sanctions on Iranian oil exports have strained the country’s already fragile economy.
Because of sanctions and a host of other fundamental issues, the newly-elected Iranian government faces serious economic challenges — including a shrinking economy, double-digit inflation, and high unemployment — that it will need to overcome in order to fulfill the high hopes for reform that led to its unexpected victory at the polls in June.
With the latest round of P5+1 talks coming to a close last week, and a new round scheduled in early November, the state of negotiations between Iran and the West have been closely followed for any signs of a sanctions deal and what terms that deal might include. But whatever happens with the sanctions, Iran’s underlying economic problems urgently need to be addressed.
Last week, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) hosted Bijan Khajehpour, Managing Director of Atieh International, for a discussion on the economic challenges facing new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The event provided CIPE staff and guests with a look inside the Rouhani administration, the economic challenges facing Iran, and policy recommendations that could help overcome these challenges.
Democratic Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy. China doesn’t make the top 10. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The World Economic Forum has just released its latest Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the competitiveness of 148 economies around the world. This year’s top ten includes few surprises, but does illustrate an important fact: eight of them are democracies and rated “Free” by Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index. (Singapore, which ranks second, and Hong Kong, which is under Chinese sovereignty and ranks seventh, are both rated “Partly Free.”)
Why is this important? At CIPE, we believe that democratic and economic development go hand in hand: strong democratic institutions support strong market institutions, and vice versa. But this belief is not shared everywhere. There is a growing contingent who feel that “strong” leaders in charge of highly directed economies can lead poor countries to prosperity, and that elections and debate simply get in the way.