Tag Archives: democratic transitions

The Slow and Steady Transition to Democracy in Pakistan

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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?

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Reconsidering Democratic Transitions

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Yesterday, heavyweights in the world of democracy studies got together at the National Endowment for Democracy — which, like CIPE, turns 30 this year — to discuss what we know about supporting democratic transitions and what we still have to learn.

The idea of “democratic transitions” is a relatively recent one. As formerly authoritarian countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and many in Latin America shifted to democratic forms of government in the 1980s — followed by many formerly Communist nations after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union — a new vocabulary was needed to explain what was happening and why.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington divided these transitions into “waves”: the first occurring in the 19th century, the second after World War II, and the third beginning with Portugal’s “Carnation Revolution” in 1974 and arguably continuing through today — with most countries in the world now under some form of democracy.

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After 25 Years, Are Central and Eastern Europe’s Democracies in Danger?

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Romanians protest against President Basescu in January 2012. (Bogdan Cristel/Reuters)

Though some recent machinations remind us that democracy can be a fragile thing, one can observe with guarded optimism that the overall transformation of the Central and Eastern European region to market-oriented democracies has been relatively successful.  To understand where we are today, it’s important to look back to see how far Eastern Europe has come in 25 years.

Many take the Eastern European transitions for granted, noting the existence of market institutions and young democracies before World War II and subsequent Soviet domination, and characterizing the transition as a mere return to business as usual in the region.  This interpretation is flawed, as it fails to realize that what we historically took to be “market institutions” and “democratic practice” in the region prior to post-war communism were deeply flawed and often only skin-deep.

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The State of Global Democracy in 2012

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The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 Democracy Index (registration required) paints a grim picture of “democracy at a standstill.” While there are some silver linings — almost half of the world’s population lives in “a democracy of some sort,” a historic achievement — the report highlights how fragile democratic transitions can be.

The report notes that the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 have largely stalled as new regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya struggle to achieve their democratic aspirations and other countries around the region proceed cautiously with their own reforms. Though the MENA region as a whole increased its average democracy score by more than a point, from 3.62 to 3.73, it has a long way to go: “full democracy” requires a score of 8 or greater (scores below 4 are considered “authoritarian regimes.”)

At the same time, much of Eastern Europe, which began its transition more than 20 years ago, saw an erosion of democracy in 2012. Authoritarian regimes in many CIS countries became increasingly entrenched while political cultures in the democracies of east-central Europe weakened. Countries in Latin America were plagued by organized crime, attacks on media freedom, and populist movements with authoritarian tendencies. Even long-established Western democracies reported declines in political participation and the functioning of government, the report said.

One bright spot was Sub-Saharan Africa, which continues its slow and steady democratic progress, though the island of Mauritius remains the only African state rated as a “full democracy.”

More than anything, though, this index shows that the work of democratic transition is far from over. As the report notes, “It is not easy to build a sturdy democracy. Even in long-established ones, democracy can corrode if not nurtured and protected.”

This is why CIPE has worked, and will continue to work, in each of these regions to help their citizens build democracies that deliver for the long term.

Jon Custer is Social Media/Communications Coordinator at CIPE.

Youth Take on Democratic Transitions

If you’ve been following CIPE’s activities centered around Democracy Day, you’ve seen a lot of young people making their opinions heard. Indeed, young people are more engaged now than ever, thanks to social media platforms that unite and amplify their voices. Democracy is, by its very nature, a hopeful political system; it presupposes the beliefs that everyone should have an equal say, every vote matters, things can change, and the future is always brighter. Young people tend to be the most hopeful, so it is no surprise when they support democracy.

The second and third place winners in the Democratic Transitions category of CIPE’s Youth Essay Competition both agree that youth have a vital role to play in democracy. Kristen Han believes that in Singapore, young people must take greater initiative to join into political and civil discourse. They already have the tools; they simply lack the will.  Judith Aduol Nyamanga writes that education and entrepreneurship are key to youth in Kenya. Economic empowerment will give rise to more capable and engaged young people.  Read both essays here.

CIPE is now accepting entries for the 2012 Youth Essay Competition, which focuses on the theme of entrepreneurship. Winner in each category will have their essays published as Feature Service articles and receive a $500 honorarium, and a special Grand Prize winner will be awarded the opportunity to attend an entrepreneurship conference in the United States in 2013. Find out more here.

Voices of Youth: Meet the Essay Contest Winners, Part 1

In 2011, youth movements around the world confronted dictators, demanded economic opportunity, and fought for political inclusivity. Young activists on the front lines of protest movements from Egypt to Chile made international headlines and challenged the status quo. But youth are not only agents of change; they are also their country’s economic and political future.

As Babatunde Gabriel Oladosu of Nigeria, 2nd place winner in the CIPE Youth Essay Contest 2011 Economically-Sustainable Development category wrote, “I believe Nigeria’s greatest wealth is not its 260 trillion cubic feet of natural gas or massive agricultural potentials; but the over 100 million youth it will have in 2020.” This is true not just for Nigeria. Burgeoning youth populations from India to Ghana to Guatemala make it all the more important to engage young citizens in building democracies that deliver.

This week, CIPE celebrates winners of the CIPE Youth Essay Contest 2011 and all other youth that are engaged in strengthening democracy across the globe. This blog is the first in a three part series of interviews with the 2011 winners and will highlight winners’ backgrounds and why they participated in the CIPE Youth Essay Contest. The three categories this year were Corruption, Democratic Transitions, and Economically-Sustainable Development.

What sparked your initial decision to participate in the CIPE Youth Essay Contest, and how did you choose your topic?

Chukwunonso Ogbe: (1st place, Corruption, Nigeria) “I chose [corruption] because I am not oblivious of the fact that my country Nigeria is a nation that has bright prospects, but we have, as a people, been unable to make progress in the area of national development due to the cankerworm of corruption and corrupt practices. I have always believed that the challenges of corruption are not peculiar with Nigeria as a nation so to speak, but having lived in Nigeria and having been a critical observer of the unspoken factors that make corruption immune to most solutions that have been offered by some authors and social critics in the past, I deemed it necessary to convey my feelings to the world on what could be done to checkmate the malaise of corruption and corrupt practices.”

Riska Mirzalina: (2nd place, Corruption, Indonesia) “I want to share [with] my fellow Indonesian youth and global youth that despite booming economic growth, one country cannot achieve equal welfare for all of its society if the root of sickness—corruption—is still praised as normal in day-to-day dealings, from cheating during exams to bribing school officials to compromising businesses. I want to call upon the youth of today, for the sake of our future generation, to start ending early stage behaviors that become the fundamentals of a corruptive culture.”

Ruth Nyambura Kilonzo: (3rd place, Corruption, Kenya) “My decision to participate was influenced heavily by my work at the Forum for Young Women in Politics. I had just began to work for them and I soon was faced with the challenges that women go through when funds that are meant to provide essential services like health care, post and pre-natal care and most of all engender development were being stolen by corrupt officials. This coupled with my research on trade and economic justice in Africa convinced me that writing about corruption issues was of great importance and being young, the youth aspect that CIPE’s essay question worked perfectly.”

Vikas Joshi: (1st place, Democratic Transitions, India) “[One] factor that spurred me to participate this year was the Anna Hazare-led agitation in India which was at its peak at the time the contest was announced and while I was writing it. In that sense, the topic I chose was something which resonated with what was happening around me. It was really something that I wanted to write about, and felt needed to be written about.” (Read Joshi’s published essay here)

Kirsten Han: (2nd place, Democratic Transitions, Singapore) “As a first-time voter as well as a citizen journalist [Singapore’s general election] had a huge impact on my experience as a Singaporean, and the spirit of the 10-day period was something I had never seen before in this country. The result of the election, although still returning the ruling party to power, provided food for thought. When I saw that there was the category of Democratic Transitions, I thought that it would be good to write about my country. It’s undeniable that there has been some change and a shift, but because change has not come in a way as dramatic or media-friendly as large-scale revolutions like the Arab Spring, sometimes our story gets overlooked.”

Judith Aduol Nyamanga: (3rd place, Democratic Transitions, Kenya) “What sparked my initial decision to participate was based on the social, economic and political developments and challenges Kenya had undergone since independence and most profoundly, after the post election violence of 2007/2008. I wanted to assess the implications of the youth participation or lack of it, to the current developments…The youth if well utilized as a resource, can bring a paradigm shift in the way things are done in Kenya because they represent more that 70 percent of the population. Their numerical value, influence and power should never be underestimated.”

Sarita Sapkota: (1st place, Economically-Sustainable Development, Nepal) “At the think tank where I work in Nepal, I am involved in writing for various publications of the organization and we mostly write about political economic issues of Nepal, focusing primarily on entrepreneurship and economic growth as a way out of poverty. Hence, having worked on such issues for a while with deep interest, the essay competition seemed like a perfect platform to put together the experience and reflection I have learnt so far. Writing for the think tank is strictly issue centric and structured, but in the essay I submitted, I could write more with personal reflection and how it has affected me, my ideas and perspective regarding the issue.”

Babatunde Oladosu: (2nd place, Economically-Sustainable Development, Nigeria) “Business was (and still is) a veritable tool for political emancipation. I hold the view that sustenance comes before politics, and that people will get their stomachs full before asking what political party pasted the poster around the tree in the village square. To emancipate people, you must help them fend for themselves. If you want to enthrone democracy, you must decentralize the means of production. For young people to take charge of their countries’ destinies, they must earn more than the cruel politician is offering them to foment trouble. I chose the economically sustainable category because it gave me the opportunity to advance my ideas about empowering Africa’s youth.”

Michael Olumuyiwa Kayode: (3rd place, Economically-Sustainable Development, Nigeria) “I chose this topic because I felt it is the closest and easiest way by which the Nigerian youth could influence the country. When we build ourselves, our economy will be built. And when we imbibe the right political and social culture, our democracy will be real.”

Part two and three in the series will respectively highlight how winners’ home governments can be more inclusive towards youth, and what the winners would like to learn from their peers around the world.

 

Fourth Annual CIPE International Youth Essay Contest Winners Announced

CIPE is pleased to announce the winners of the fourth annual International Youth Essay contest today. This year we received more than 400 entries from 65 countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Moldova, and Uganda. The three categories this year were Corruption, Democratic Transitions, and Economically-Sustainable Development. The winners were selected by an international panel of judges including CIPE’s partners from business associations, think tanks, and other international development organizations around the world, as well as CIPE staff.

Corruption

1st Place: Chukwunonso Ogbe (Nigeria)

Ogbe’s essay begins by profiling several Nigerians from all walks of life whose ambitions have been stymied by corrupt officials, as well as examples of government projects costing billions of dollars that have failed due in part to corruption. Ogbe then goes on to analyze why the problem persists, suggesting that:

Those who made their wealth through corrupt means are welcomed into the society and given positions of honour. Those who managed to be convicted by the courts for corrupt practices are celebrated as heroes, and an informal message seems to have been passed to an uncountable army of upcoming Nigerians: ‘the end justifies the means.’

Finally, Ogbe suggests that the “way out of the Nigerian predicament” will be for young people to change their attitudes towards corruption, the media, and electoral politics, drawing parallels to Anna Hazare’s popular anti-corruption movement in India. Read his essay.

2nd Place: Riska Mirzalina (Indonesia)

Mirzalina writes about how Indonesia’s transition from strongman rule to democracy has led not to a decline of corruption, but rather to its decentralization. In addition to making a similar point as Ogbe that young people need to change their attitudes, Mirzalina also suggests that businesses can reduce corruption by refusing to pay bribes, and that ultimately Indonesia needs a leadership that is fully committed to fighting corruption.

3rd Place: Ruth Nyambura Kilonzo (Kenya)

Like the other two winners, Kilonzo notes that young peoples’ attitudes will be the key to eliminating corrupt practices in Kenya. Kilonzo also makes an important point about the “implementation gap” seen in many countries between tough anti-corruption laws on paper and lax attitudes in practice, arguing that young people should learn their rights under Kenya’s laws and constitution. “Knowledge is power and the next generation must embrace this information and practice it daily,” Kilonzo writes. “It is about time that youth groups in the country began to hold forums that will enable themselves to be empowered as anti-corruption agents and activists in their own small ways.”

Democratic Transitions

1st Place: Vikas Prakash Joshi (India)

Joshi begins with the provocative point that, in addition to being the world’s largest democracy, India is also “the world’s youngest democracy,” with 54% of the population under the age of 25. However, he also notes that not all of these young people are educated, English-speaking big-city residents. Tens of millions are farmers living in rural areas or poor workers in cities “for whom the biggest worry is where to get their next meal.” “The tragedy in India,” Joshi writes, “is that this section of the youth is so busy struggling to survive that democracy and politics mean nothing to them.”

Joshi then lays out some concrete steps that can be taken to get young people more involved in politics, both as candidates and party activists and as engaged, informed voters. For instance, he suggests that youth organizations can put together a “youth manifesto” before major elections articulating specific concerns of young people, or use technology and social media to maintain the momentum of political movements. Read his essay.

2nd Place: Kirsten Han (Singapore)

Against the backdrop of youth-led revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere over the past year, Han writes about how political change can also come in the form of “evolution.” In Singapore, she writes, this evolution is already underway, with the 2011 General Election being the most hotly contested since independence, and senior leaders admitting the need for more openness and transparency. Han suggests that one way young people can participate in this “evolution” is to join some of the civil society groups that have been long pushing for a more open society and political system in Singapore.

3rd Place: Judith Aduol Nyamanga (Kenya)

Like Joshi, Nyamanga emphasizes that the role of youth is especially important in Kenya as young people constitute more than 70% of the total population. She notes that young people have actively participated in the ongoing reform process around the new constitution, which was adopted in 2010. She notes that the groups set up for this purpose and their enthusiasm can be carried forward to make progress on other issues, such as making the political system more responsive, reforming the education system to focus on democratic values, and easing tribal conflicts.

Economically-Sustainable Development

1st Place: Sarita Sapkota (Nepal)

Looking at the history of over 60 years of development planning in Nepal, Sapkota draws a distinction between unsustainable, aid-dependent models of development, and models driven by entrepreneurial activity of Nepalis themselves. Sapkota describes how the machinery of aid planning in Nepal, centered on the capital, Kathmandu, and dependent on outside donors, “creates huge machinery that needs a lot of resources to sustain but in effect contributes in negligible amount in terms of impact.”

Using examples from around Nepal, Sapkota argues that the country needs to look to the energy and enthusiasm of young people to find a more sustainable model for long term development. “The young people today in Nepal respond to the same incentives as other humans, money, social prestige, personal and professional aspirations,” she writes. “Young Nepalese are motivated by their dream to make it big. ” Read her essay.

2nd Place: Babatunde Oladosu (Nigeria)

Oladosu takes a broad approach to looking at the challenges faced by developing countries, first pointing out some of the pitfalls — aid dependence and the resource “curse” — before moving on to examples of countries that have been successful. “As appalling and vicious as the cycle of poverty looks, some countries have made the commendable transition from third world to second and even first world countries,” Oladosu writes. Young people were also particularly important in these countries, he argues, noting that countries like South Korea focused on education as a key part of their economic and social development.

3rd Place: Michael Olumuyiwa Kayode (Nigeria)

Kayode’s essay looks more closely at the “resource curse” problem as it has played out in Nigeria. Analyzing the roots of how an abundance of natural resources, if not properly managed, can corrupt a country’s political and economic system, Kayode concludes that young people must take the lead in devising a solution. “The youth of this country should learn to take responsibilities,” he writes. “We should deliberately plan to make our economy self-sustaining.”

The winning essays will continue to be published as Economic Reform Feature Service articles, and winners will be profiled on the CIPE Development Blog in the coming months. Congratulations to the winners and everyone who entered!