Dr. Shiltag Abood, Governor of Basrah Province, speaking at the Basrah Provincial Business Agenda Presentation. (Photo: CIPE)
If you look past the news reports that conjecture Iraq is destined for failure and into the places where Iraqi private sector leaders and policymakers are convening to discuss policy, I wonder if it could be said that Iraq is doing relatively better with the task of building a democracy than say, France in its early days. When the French Revolution ended in 1799, the French were sure that never again would they live under an absolute monarchy that ignored their inalienable rights. Yet France still saw the rise of a dictator, two restorations of the monarchy, and two more revolutions. It wasn’t until 1958 that the France we know now was established as a democracy. With a world of stakeholders and a world of history from which to draw lessons behind them, Iraqi leaders might actually have a democratic advantage.
As unemployment rates keep rising in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, CIPE partners in the region are helping to reinforce the need for entrepreneurship, market-oriented and democratic societies. Over the next few weeks, CIPE is releasing a series of success stories video clips in which partners talk about their successes in advocating for local entrepreneurship initiatives, good governance and public-private dialogue. These private-sector organizations are advocating for policies that remove barriers to business and create a more level playing field for entrepreneurs to create the jobs and opportunity the region needs.
In this video, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Business Women Forum (BWF), Doa Wadi, highlights the journey BWF has taken, as well as challenges and lessons learned along the way as BWF positions itself as the voice of women entrepreneurs throughout the West Bank.
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Naufel Al-Hassan, the Commercial Counselor of the Embassy of Iraq’s Commercial Office (seated on the far left), and Abdel Razzak Al-Saadi, Chairman of the Iraqi Securities Commission, (seated fourth from the left) at the CIPE headquarters in Washington, DC last week. (Photo: CIPE)
On April 28, CIPE hosted Chairman Abdel Razzak Al-Saadi of the Iraqi Securities Commission (ISC), at its headquarters in Washington, DC. Although Iraq is still emerging from conflict and facing sizeable security threats, Chairman Al-Saadi is optimistic and reiterated that Iraq is open for business. Since its inception in 2004,the ISC has listed over 90 companies to the Iraqi Stock Exchange. With new investment and entrepreneurship blooming in Iraq, the country has a window of opportunity to rebuild much of what the conflict has damaged or destroyed.
It’s true that this election in Iraq is significantly different from the last one in 2005; however, we should be aware that this is a classic reminder that elections do not equal democracy. As ballots are counted and results tallied, a growing civil society is not-so-quietly preparing to voice Iraqi needs and concerns on a multitude of issues.
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Haifa Wehbe, a popular singer in Lebanon, dons an LTA t-shirt for the BLOM Beirut Marathon.
When you live and work in a region where daily life accessories may include shoulder-mounted missiles and backpack bombs, efforts to reduce corruption have plenty of incentive to be as creative as possible. The Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) is the Lebanon chapter of Transparency International, and rather than investigating or exposing individual cases of corruption, which might invite a few unwanted accessories, LTA focuses on systemic factors that create situations for bribery, nepotism, patronage, embezzlement, and other forms of corruption. If you’re interested in asking LTA what it’s like to do this kind of work, you can ask them yourself, later today on Facebook.
LTA is CIPE’s featured partner for March 2010. Every month, CIPE on social media features one partner to highlight its work and the issues it faces in its region.
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A worker checks a switch linked to a generator that distributes electricity to residents in Beirut. (Photo: AFP/ JOSEPH BARRAK)
A few months ago, the Lebanese Anti-Bribery Network—an initiative of the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) supported by CIPE—organized a roundtable in Beirut to discuss a draft policy paper on good governance in the Lebanese electricity sector, with representatives of the national utilities company Electricité du Liban present. In an eerie strike of irony, an hour into the event, the hotel hosting the roundtable experienced a power shortage that resulted in a brief blackout.
With the recent conference on UN Convention on Corruption (UNCAC) implementation in Doha on November 9-13, anti-corruption efforts are a hot topic in the Middle East and North Africa. At a minimum, the Doha gathering focused the attention of government bodies tasked with implementing the agreement, and the final statement of this conference encourages the state parties to adopt a robust implementation plan. Although most Arab states have signed and ratified UNCAC, implementation has been weak and anti-corruption advocates are using the tool as a point of pressure on their governments. Indeed, they have an uphill battle to fight: international barometers and indicators, such as the recently released Corruption Perception Index (CPI), an annual ranking produced by Transparency International, consistently place MENA at the bottom of the barrel with some exceptions in the Gulf. It is widely accepted that corruption is rampant in most of the region, and that its detrimental effects serve to deepen poverty, sustain unresponsive regimes, and thwart the potential for economic growth.