Tag Archives: Think Tank LINKS

Living Democracy

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions.

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Living in the U.S. for the past six months has been a thrilling experience for me. I have lived in a social entrepreneurship-themed group house, traveled to different cities, gone hiking at Sky Meadows Park, attended events/conferences, and made countless friends. I also interacted with local Nepalese communities and enjoyed festivals and happy hours. Although living in Washington DC has proven itself quite expensive compared to Kathmandu, I have been able to live within my means as a fellow. DC is a very lively and cultural city, and I appreciate that there is always so much going on. After living here for six months I am amazed by the many things I haven’t yet discovered.

Working directly with my friends and colleagues at my host organization, Accountability Lab, in DC, and being a part of the OpenGov Hub (OGH) has been remarkable. OGH, a community of independent organizations working the transparency field, is a great place for collaboration, networking, and learning. As a Think Tank LINKS fellow, I have had access to valuable opportunities and space to expand my knowledge. The monthly webinars and meetings with CIPE and Atlas Corps fellows were especially rewarding and really added value to our learning experience.

While it is always hard to focus on one experience when you have so many things to talk about, I am focusing on my experience with democracy. My quest for knowledge about the true meaning of democracy continued until I was not able to find a solid answer within myself. Often, in countries where democracy is in transition or a far off hope, citizens have difficulty understanding it and are often confused about the difference between democracy in theory and democracy in daily living.

My question was very simple: I wanted to see how people from developed nations like the U.S. live their daily lives in a democratic society without being abstract or theoretical. In theory, democracy is about human rights, freedom of information, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Although what it is written in textbooks and literature is true, all of these concepts cannot exist without smaller fundamental elements of society associated with culture, values, and norms at the individual level.

Read More…

Call for Applications: Think Tank LINKS Fellowship!

How can young people go beyond protesting on the streets to demand for change? For the past two years CIPE and Atlas Corps have supported energetic advocates from Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, and other countries in transition to become effective policy-leaders in their communities through the Think Tank LINKS Fellowship program. And we’re inviting young researchers from around the world again to apply to this opportunity to gain new leadership and research skills!

Think Tank LINKS Fellows will shadow researchers and experts at leading U.S. think tanks for 6 months (January to July 2015), and will gain valuable insights and skills to improve their advocacy and leadership skills.

This is a fantastic opportunity that you don’t want to miss!

Watch the promotional video about the fellowship to learn more, or read about fellows’ experiences on CIPE’s blog.

The deadline is August 15, 2014 so don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

The Unrealized Potential of Volunteerism in Pakistan

pakistan-earthquake

Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Saturday, October 8, 2005 was an unfortunate day in the history of Pakistan. The entire country was ravaged by an earthquake that registered 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale. The tremor devastated the entire Kashmir region, razing almost every building to the ground. It also damaged large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces and caused a high rise housing tower to collapse in Islamabad. The loss, both human and material, was colossal. The death toll surpassed 100,000, and 3.5 million people were displaced. The injured were numerous and everywhere.

This earthquake in Pakistan, just like earthquakes anywhere else in the developing world, caught disaster response institutions off guard. They were unprepared, lacked the essential rescue equipment, training, and resources. On top of that, road and rail networks were no longer usable without major repairs.

In the face of this massive catastrophe, when the state institutions were stuck in a state of panic, the responsibility fell to common people to take it upon themselves to do whatever they could to save their brethren pinned under the rubble and debris. Their efforts rescued over 138,000 injured stuck under collapsed buildings, and saved many more women, children, and elders who lost their families in the calamity. Had it not been for their efforts, most of the injured would have died by the time government rescue teams reached them after a delay of 78 hours.

Attending a panel on ‘Disaster Protection through Preparation’ at the Points of Light Conference in Atlanta, and learning about the role volunteers played in Nashville in saving people and properties during the 2010 floods, and later on helping the city clean up and recover, I could not help but think about the role volunteers played during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. They not only helped minimize the damage and sped up rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts, they also left the affected communities more united and self-reliant.

Read More…

Time to Re-Think Development in Africa?

Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute.

Africa is in the news. The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit is being held in August, the first of its kind. President Obama will be welcoming leaders from across the African continent to the nation’s capital in less than two months. The summit holds many promises; it could mark a turning point in U.S-Africa relations.

While there are many issues that can be discussed, not all of them should be on the agenda for this summit. To achieve the maximum benefits, it is very critical for African leaders to prioritize just what to put on agenda, and what to leave out. It is tempting to want to bring all the issues, but highly focused interactions are more successful. Topics for discussion should reflect the most critical issues regarding African economies and address challenges to sustainable growth and development.

One important issue is private sector development. Development finance and private sector entrepreneurship are powerful, but under-utilized, assets for development in Africa. While most countries have set goals for inclusive growth, they will not be achieved without better harnessing private sector resources that are ultimately the drivers of development.

Read More…

How the Lack of Accountable Local Government Holds Back Democracy and Development in Pakistan

Pakistan_tehsils

Some of Pakistan’s districts — where administrative power is concentrated — contain more than a million people.

Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

If one were to number the challenges Pakistan faces today, one may end up with an exhaustive list of issues ranging from poor security to faltering economic growth, rising crimes to social unrest, corruption to political instability, among others. A closer look at these problems, however, will reveal that a great deal of these issues stem from poor governance and the centralization of political and administrative powers on the part of both provinces and federal government.

Take Punjab for example. A province that is spread over 79,284 square miles and houses of over 100 million individuals, it is divided into 36 administrative units called districts. Despite having a democratically elected political establishment in the provincial center, Lahore, the districts are governed and administered by senior bureaucrats known as Deputy Commissioners (DCs). This position is a legacy of the colonial era and emulates a system with highly concentrated power, allowing no say to the local communities in decision making process.

Read More…

Five Ways to Ensure the Public Has a Say in Libya’s New Constitution

libya-vote

Mahmoud Bader is CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

Ever since Libya’s General National Congress’ (GNC) elections (dubbed the “electoral wedding”) had a 2.5 million-voter turnout according to the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC), turnout has never been the same. Libyans lost confidence in both the previous government and the GNC. Today, the Libyan people’s hopes rest on the Committee of Sixty – sixty members who are tasked to draft the constitution.

Despite the fact that the total voter turnout for the Committee of Sixty was low — a modest 1.1 million total voters according to the HNEC — it could still change. The Committee’s biggest challenge is to find a way to regain the people’s confidence and guarantee the public’s participation in the drafting of the constitution. It could do that by:

Read More…

Indexing the Well-Being of Youth: An Opportunity for Nepal

In early April, I attended the launch event for a report entitled The Global Youth Wellbeing Index, at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS).  According to the report, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 15-25 in the world today. The report surveyed Nepal’s neighbor to the south, India, and profiled several practices from which Nepal can learn.

This report is the first of its kind to measure the well being of young people in various domains and suggest critical paths to improve the situation of young people’s role in changing society. More than 80 percent of the youth represented in the index have very low levels of well being, lack economic opportunities, and face various challenges and limitations.

Read More…