UN peacekeepers patrol the North Kivu region, where democratic failures, lack of economic development, and a dangerous neighborhood have led to years of violence. (Photo: UN)
Recently I heard Jakkie Cilliers present his paper “The future of intrastate conflict in Africa: More violence or greater peace?” at The Center for Strategic and International Studies (co-authored by Julia Schunemann for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa). I went to the event thinking the discussion was going to focus on current conflicts and tensions in Africa, and I was going to leave debating whether or not intrastate conflict will ruin the progress African countries have achieved. I was surprised to find that instead the discussion focused on drivers of intrastate conflict in Africa and even more surprised to find that a majority of the drivers are related to democratic and economic factors.
The authors have identified seven correlations associated with internal conflict:
- Poverty and Instability
- Transitions from Autocracy to Democracy
- A Democratic Deficit
- Unemployed or Underemployed Youthful Populations
- A Tendency toward Repeat Violence
- The “Bad Neighborhood” Effect
- Poor Governance
Excluding a tendency toward repeat violence, the other six correlations can be grouped into two larger categories, democracy and economy. In terms of democratic factors, the authors purport that it’s a lack of democracy and democratic governance that correlates with violence in Africa. Research shows that “[s]tates that experience stalled transitions from autocracy to democracy or adverse regime changes” are more likely to experience intrastate conflict.
On June 11 the World Bankreleased a report titled, “Moldova: Policy Priorities for Private Sector Development.” The report highlights business constraints and proposals for reform in five key areas: customs administration, tax administration, business regulation (licenses, authorizations, permits, and inspections), competition framework, and access to finance. These priorities are in line with the National Business Agenda (NBA) prepared by CIPE partners in Moldova. In fact, the World Bank report makes multiple references to the 2012-2013 NBA document, citing it as “reflecting the views of a broad range of private sector stakeholders.”
The NBA is not only a document. To prepare it, a network of over 30 business associations and chambers of commerce from across Moldova go through a well-structured process that includes building broad consensus on priorities, analyzing the legal framework for each issue, and developing joint proposals for reform. Using this methodology, the chambers and associations utilize the NBA framework to prepare for a constructive dialogue with government. CIPE has partnered with leading Moldovan think tank Institute for Development and Social Initiative (IDSI) to build the capacity of NBA members to jointly articulate not only the key barriers businesses face, but also concrete proposals to overcome them.
In addition, CIPE and IDSI have been providing assistance to the NBA member organizations to create a private sector platform. Today this platform is well-known among policymakers, the broader business community, and civil society as the NBA network. The member organizations are committed to developing a partnership with government through public-private dialogue. The goal is to work together on improving the economy, creating more jobs, and improving the climate for doing business. The voice of the NBA network is especially important in the reform process as it represents the views of the small and medium-sized domestic enterprises that comprise a majority of the Moldovan private companies.
As changes continue to unfold in Egypt, young activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are trying to translate street power into actual political capital. On July 4th, the Egyptian military met with the youth leaders of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement to lay out a political roadmap following President Morsi’s ouster. But for the youth to be politically engaged throughout this crucial period, they will need to find innovative ways to channel their passion into stable and effective participation in the normal political processes of democracy. On his brief visit to Washington, DC, an Egyptian youth activist coined the term “democratic entrepreneurship.” What he envisioned has already manifested itself in Lebanon and Palestine, where two democratic entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant idea: political reality TV shows.
Al-Za‘im (the Leader) in Lebanon and Al-Ra‘is (the President) in the West Bank are two pioneering TV programs that resemble a reality-singing competition, like American Idol, with a political twist. Whereas the participants on American Idol are aspiring singers, the contestants of Al-Za‘im and Al-Ra‘is are young aspiring politicians who must complete challenges that range from giving one-minute speeches to implementing projects at the municipal level. The judges are business celebrities, well-known journalists, and political leaders, who offer immediate feedback based on their professional experiences. At the end of the day, the audience has the power to decide who gets to move on to the next round.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
While visiting a friend recently, I picked up the second year medical school textbook he had been studying and browsed through a couple of the pages. Instantly my head began spinning as I tried to decipher the litany of unpronounceable medical terminology and pictures. Without a doubt, Spanish and Turkish have nothing on whatever foreign language was on the pages in front of me. Although I cannot offer any medical advice based on this brush with medical science, the process of identifying maladies of the body and determining a precise treatment left me thinking about the science of politics; specifically, the science of democracy. Whereas doctors can conduct an examination to determine a person’s overall health, how do you diagnose something as ambiguous as the health of a country’s democracy?
For years, democracy professionals have debated what exactly democracy means. Beyond the most basic of definitions, “rule by the people,” everyone has a unique conception based on his or her own experience. The plethora of definitions have made it difficult for experts to agree on an index classifying (or diagnosing) the level of democracy in countries around the world. At a recent event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, two principal investigators from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project presented a new tool for diagnosing democracy: not in the aggregate, but in the disaggregate.
One of the most famous opening lines in all of literature comes from the great Russian novel Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” With that, Tolstoy encapsulates a simple truth: dysfunction takes myriad forms. That’s not to say that one cannot learn from another’s experience. Indeed, some of the most important lessons can come from those who have already tried and failed. Experience is singular, but patterns can illuminate.
It is in that same spirit that Boris Begović writes the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, which offers Serbia’s lessons in democratic transition to countries currently in flux. Dr. Begović, a longtime CIPE partner who was a chief economic adviser to the federal government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 15 months during 2000-2002, examines the approaches that worked for Serbia—and those that didn’t. Read the full text of The Serbian Experience in Transition.
Egypt has been in the process of rapid change since the fall of Mubarak in 2011. So far, the conservative Military and Muslim Brothers, in addition to an ineffective opposition, have failed to agree on a plan to transition to democracy. Moreover, democracy has been limited to episodes of conflict over the ballot box while disregarding its other essential components, such as freedom of association and the independence of civil society, which are inseparable from democracy.
According to the 2012 constitution, “Citizens have the right to form associations and parties only by notification, and they shall have a legal personality and said entities or their boards of directors may not be dissolved except by a judicial order.” Observers consider this article to be a breakthrough in the relationship between state and society in Egypt. Conversely, the new draft NGO law discussed by the Shura Council in April 2013 empowers the government to impose restrictions on civil society.
Before discussing the major concerns about this draft law, it is important to highlight the nature of the relationship between state and society in Egypt. Middle East observers need to be aware that the state-society order in the region is different than in established democracies. In Egypt, the society is trying to emerge out of a state and not vice versa. In other words, the state remains the dominant institution, not society.