Once among the poorest countries in the world, South Korea has grown into one of the richest since transitioning to democracy in the late 1980s after a series of popular uprisings.
In his June 1982 Westminster Address , which laid the groundwork for the creation of CIPE and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), President Ronald Reagan established an emerging role for the U.S. as a leader in supporting democracy around the world:
“It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation- in both the public and private sectors- to assisting democratic development…The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy-the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities- which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”
Today that role is being questioned. At an October 20, 2014 conference hosted by the Kennan and Foreign Policy Research Institutes, academics and policymakers from around the world convened to dissect the question “Does Democracy Matter?”
Panelists and participants acknowledged a notable – and unprecedented – cynicism about democracy support: its track record, current viability, and future prospects. Worse yet, this cynicism among scholars, politicians, and practitioners in the U.S. and Europe is coupled with disillusion in nascent or would-be democracies from Central Europe to the Middle East to Latin America. Keynote speaker Larry Diamond reminded the audience that, in direct contrast to the 1990s, the last ten years have seen more countries increasing in authoritarianism than countries making democratic gains.
Mahmoud Bader is CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). This post also appeared on The Atlantic Council blog.
As Libya faces numerous challenges with the existence of federalists and militia groups, the question of decentralization grows in urgency. Libyans need to bolster local government in an effort to leave their past behind and meet their everyday needs, but lack the adequate legal and constitutional framework to ensure better governance. As Libya struggles to fill the remaining seats in the Constitutional Committee, it must also consider the language it plans to adopt to protect the decentralization process.
The move towards local governance emerged during the 2011 revolution when local councils arose to handle city affairs, an arrangement that continues today. Libyans welcomed the change. With the former regime centralized in Tripoli, citizens traveled inordinate distances from all over the country to complete tasks that they could have handled in their own cities, including basic bureaucratic services like stamps and signatures that could easily have been provided in other cities.
It took years of patient effort to consolidate democracy after the Philippines’ People Power Movement toppled the Marcos regime in 1986.
Democratization and the desire for a free market economy continue to be major driving forces behind reform movements around the world. In recent years, we have witnessed millions of people rising up for meaningful political and economic reforms, especially in the Middle East region. Genuine democracy, however, calls for more essential ingredients in its recipe for success and sustainability — namely good governance and responsible citizenship.
Dr. Jesus Estanislao, Chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia and of the Institute of Corporate Directors, is one of the leading advocates for good governance and for responsible citizenship. He observes a crucial connection that reformers must comprehend— “Economic and political freedoms belong to the essence of a genuine democracy.”
In his recent interview with CIPE, now published as an Economic Reform Feature Service article, Dr. Estanislao shares his personal experiences in strengthening democracy through market-oriented reform. He reveals several factors that contribute to successful and meaningful reforms by providing readers with his first-hand knowledge of good governance advocacy and reform — factors that will benefit current and future reformers.
Read the whole article here.
In a recent trip to Poland, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa that Poland’s path has inspired her to dream of the same for her country. She told reporters in Warsaw, “We in Burma are just at the beginning of this road that you took many, many years earlier, a couple of decades earlier, but we believe, as you did then, that we should succeed . . . It is very encouraging for me to be among people who understand exactly the kind of struggle that we would still have to go through before we can say that we are a democratic society.”
This meeting of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, important on its own, strikes me as extraordinary. Burma and Poland could not be more different culturally and historically, yet both Suu Kyi and Walesa work toward the same goal. The Iron Curtain dropped several decades ago, while Burma continues to this day to inch toward freedom. There must be something universal in the struggle for Suu Kyi to see her country and her goals mirrored in Poland and Walesa’s.
At CIPE, we talk a lot about a concept called “Democracy that Delivers,” meaning that governments should be held accountable by their citizens both during and in between elections. The success of a democracy depends on the involvement of the people under its rule. Good governments are open, responsive, and accountable to their citizens.
But, I wonder if the Burma/Poland example raises a larger question: Are democracies also accountable to those countries that continue to struggle toward freedom? Do they have a responsibility not only to their own citizens but to the citizens of the world? Should they work to uphold the tenets of transparency, accountability, and fairness because, in part, they might be the role models for a future generation? As we honor International Day of Democracy, it’s worth asking.
Julia Kindle is Publications Manager at CIPE.