Democracy is a process of governance most often based on compromise, grounded in broad-based inclusiveness of differing viewpoints and the representation of diverse constituency interests. While free and fair elections are certainly one of the most recognizable hallmarks of the democratic process, a vibrant dialogue between political candidates preceding an election makes a vitally important contribution to the quality of governance.
Candidate debates serve multiple purposes. First, debates inform the electorate of the issues being considered. Second, televised debates offer an opportunity for voters to form an opinion and differentiate between candidates based on the substance of their policy positions. Third, debates promote transparency and improve the quality of democratic governance as candidates are able to directly express their views to the electorate, engage with their colleagues, and elevate certain issues over others in the national consciousness. Similarly, input from the private sector and civil society in the formulation of economic and social policy is another characteristic of a vibrant democracy as broad-based participation in the policymaking process ensures that proposed legislation represents the interests of all constituents.
CIPE possesses over thirty years of experience in strengthening democracy worldwide and promoting market oriented reforms in various country contexts. In the forthcoming publication Strategies for Policy Reform, two case studies from Paraguay and Yemen represent distinct approaches to ensuring that democracy delivers economic and political freedoms to citizens.
Each year on September 15, the UN observes the International Day of Democracy to celebrate efforts to promote and consolidate democracy around the world. Despite these efforts however, the realization of consolidated democracy continues to be a struggle for many reformers. This year, the UN has chosen a theme of “Engaging Young People in Democracy” and acknowledges that “study after study show declining faith among young people…with declining levels of participation.” Compounding this declining faith in democracy is a rising ideological competitor in the form of economically successful authoritarian regimes.
As much as young people are recognized as dreamers and agents of change, these characterizations tend to be the result of youth wanting to see an improvement in their quality of life. In emerging countries such improvements are often delivered through economic growth, and in cases such as China and Singapore youth populations can honestly say their standard of living has gotten better year after year. These examples can lead youth to become disillusioned with democracy, especially at a time when the world’s major democracies are suffering the aftereffects of a major financial crisis. Meanwhile, in the developing world, kickstarting growth in democratic regimes often takes time due to a need to build consensus and develop proper policies.
Quality of life, however, is not measurable only in terms of indicators such as income levels, consumption, and GDP — though almost all of the world’s most prosperous countries are democracies. Other, arguably more important aspects such as human rights, liberty, and freedom are also vital components. Since 2012, CIPE has been part of a consortium seeking to analyze the development paths of three emerging democracies (India, Brazil, and South Africa) in order to create an argument in support of democratic development.
By Dash Enkhbayar
The West tends to illustrate Mongolia as an “example of a developing country that, despite the odds, managed to accomplish a peaceful transition to democracy.” However, simply achieving an electoral democracy does not complete a country’s democratic transition. Recent years have shed light on the major institutional flaws that still exists in the country’s public and private sectors.
Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia has been attracting significant attention for the past couple of years due to its rapid economic growth and burgeoning mining sector. It recorded the world’s fastest GDP growth rate in 2011 at 17 percent, which put Mongolia in the international spotlight for investment opportunities.
But corruption, poor governance, and unstable government regulations threaten Mongolia’s economic potential. In 2013, due to unfriendly investment laws such as the Strategic Entities Foreign Investment Law, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mongolia plummeted by 48 percent, which effectively scared away many investors interested in the nation. Mongolia is, in fact, not a model democracy that it seeks to invoke. Instead, the last few years have demonstrated that unless Mongolia seriously starts tackling its institutional weakness it may succumb to the “resource curse,” in which a country with an abundance of natural resources experiences poor economic growth and a worsening political climate.
Zimbabwean economist Daniel Ndlela shares his thoughts on economic recovery as part of a conference hosted by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust and the National Endowment for Democracy in May 2014. The conference, entitled “Zimbabwe Going Forward” featured Zimbabwean think tanks, private sector representatives, government and civil society. (l-r: Kupukile Mlambo, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Ndlela, and Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Regional Director for Africa, the Center for International Private Enterprise).
While 50 African heads of state prepared to visit Washington for the U.S.-Africa summit held earlier this month, one president who wasn’t invited decided to throw a party of his own. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe invited dignitaries and government officials to the State House on July 31 to mark the one year anniversary of his party’s victory over the opposition in national elections whose legitimacy was questioned by domestic and foreign observers alike.
The 90-year-old Mugabe, restricted from entering the United States due to targeted travel and financial sanctions, welcomed government friends to his official residence in Harare with a banquet and live music. Unfortunately, given Zimbabwe’s economic outlook, throwing a party is the last thing the President should be doing.
Youth around the world are agents of change. They are political and economic leaders and participants in their communities, and have many thoughts on how to shape their nation’s future.
As part of celebrating such individuals on International Youth Day, two recent CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS alumni – Fayyaz Yaseen from Pakistan and Iryna Fedets from Ukraine – analyzed two issues young people care about in their communities: youth unemployment and anti-corruption. In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles, the two authors explore how to bring about democratic and economic reform changes in their respective countries.
On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.
What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.
Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.
What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Despite its lingering problems, South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy provides many valuable lessons.
This week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit focuses on the topic of “Investing in the Next Generation.” The summit aims to explore issues of economic inclusiveness, democratic development and “creating an enabling environment for the next generation.”
This discussion is especially pertinent in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, when many in developing countries have begun to lose faith in the wisdom of democratic governance and market-based economic reforms. The rise of Chinese and Russian authoritarianism coupled with robust economic growth in those countries provides a seemingly plausible alternative for lifting millions out of poverty while still allowing autocrats to retain a tight grasp on power.
The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), a South African think tank and CIPE partner, examined the post-apartheid experience of South Africa’s transition to market economy and a vibrant democracy in a recently released report entitled “South Africa and the Pursuit of Inclusive Growth.”
As part of a larger initiative known as the “Democracy Consensus”, CDE’s research shows that democracy is a viable path not only for fostering inclusive economic growth in the short- to medium-term, but also laying the foundations for sound institutions that lead to long-term stability and prosperity.