Tag Archives: democratic reform

Tunisia’s Nobel Peace Prize: Keeping the Boat Sailing

When I heard about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisia, my first reaction was happiness – they deserve it. Not just the members of the Quartet who were the recipients, but every Tunisian participating in this grand democracy experiment.

I have worked in places that never got this far, despite the presence of amazing, intelligent, admirable people trying their best. Over time I have come to think that will is the true secret ingredient. Capacity can be built, but some kernel of shared will needs to be there from the start. You need the right people, with the right intentions, at the right time, and there is no substitute for it.

I think about this same thing every time I read writings from America’s Founding Fathers. From the distance of history, America’s birth looks like a process; a lot of people met repeatedly, argued a lot, reacted to foreign events, hammered things out, and a nation came to be.

But then read the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and you suddenly are plunged into the chaos, stress and daily-ness of it all. Abigail is alone running the farm and business, dealing with insecurity and tending sick children. John is riding back and forth to Philadelphia and beyond, complaining bitterly about recalcitrant short-sighted delegates. There is tedium, inching progress and failure along the way. John was exhausted and frustrated as much as he was inspired. Unlike us reading his letters, he didn’t know if they would succeed.

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How Can Youth Make a Difference in Democratic Reform?


While young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, their involvement is often confined to staging demonstrations and other similar activist activities. However, in order for democratic reform — or any reform for that matter — to be meaningful and sustainable, youth must not only be involved in demonstrations, but also in the decision making processes that chart the way forward.

When they have a voice in the policymaking process, youth also gain a stake when it comes to implementation. Having contributed their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they become staunch advocates when it comes to accountability and will work into adulthood to ensure that the solutions they helped create are realized.

In addition to building youth buy-in, engaging young people in decision-making processes has other benefits. Youth can help drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions and also bring new tools to the table as they are typically the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors.

Though it is vital to ensure youth are engaged in policy advocacy campaigns, taking this from idea to reality can be difficult. Youth is generally thought of as a singular demographic, but in reality, youth can be extremely varied. Young people come from different social and economic backgrounds and age boundaries are not always well defined. Additionally, mobilizing young people can be easy, but policy reform is a long term goal and it can be challenging to maintain youth engagement for the duration of a campaign.

Over the course of its history strengthening democracy through market reform, CIPE has developed and implemented proven advocacy strategies including for youth. To capture and share this knowledge, CIPE recently published its Guide to Youth Advocacy, meant to share experience and best practices for organizing youth and organizations that support youth to engage in successful advocacy initiatives. In addition to outlining strategies and approaches, the resource provides small case studies of CIPE supported projects from around the world that organized youth to advocate for real reforms.

Read the guidebook here. 

Frank Stroker is an Assistant Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Does Democracy Still Matter?

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.

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.

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Is Local Government in Libya the Solution?

Heavily armed vehicles belonging to the military council of the self-declared autonomous region of Cyrenaica, which are deployed to protect oil ports, drive past at a checkpoint, near the east of the city of Sirte March 14, 2014. Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity. The standoff over control of oil exports threatens to deepen dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government. Picture taken March 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (LIBYA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS ENERGY) - RTR3H6EP

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.

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Dr. Jesus Estanislao on the Recipe for Successful Reforms

It took years of patient effort to consolidate democracy after the Philippines' People Power Movement toppled the Marcos regime in 1986.

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.

Poland, Burma, and Democracy that Delivers


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.

Liberation Technology

(Photo: the New Middle East blog)

We live in a connected world: social media platforms that did not exist a decade ago now boast hundreds of millions of users and mobile phones are commonplace in even the poorest and most remote regions. Are these technologies, which have reshaped daily life for millions, a catalyst for democratic reform, or part of a new digital panopticon through which governments can spy on and control their citizens?

In 2007, when Larry Diamond coined the term “liberation technology,” these questions were largely academic – and were discussed at length in a collection of articles in the Journal of Democracy, recently updated and re-released in a book of the same name. But when democratic revolutions swept the Arab world four years later, spurred on by Facebook and watched around the world in real time on Twitter and YouTube, it seemed that the Internet had finally emerged as a force for positive political change in even the most repressive regimes.

At the same time, authoritarian governments are learning how to fight back, with some of the same tools. In many countries, the Internet has itself become an electronic battleground where repressive regimes are employing increasingly sophisticated strategies for repression and manipulation.

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