Tag Archives: transparency

Supporting Colombia’s Peace Process: Monitoring Economic Regulation and Transparency in the Use of Post-Conflict Resources

Colombia’s peace process aims to bring about reforms that will benefit agricultural families in post-conflict zones.

Introduction by Tim Ridout:

Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) made headlines throughout 2016 as it was in the final stretch of negotiations and eventual adoption on November 30, 2016. Although it has since attracted less attention in international news, the ratification of the agreement simply marked the completion of one step in the process. Since then, Colombia’s government, politicians, business community, and civil society leaders have been hard at work implementing the next phase in the accords, which seeks to bring rapid reforms and concrete gains to the Colombian people so they see the benefits of peace, particularly in the zones most affected by the conflict or previously controlled by the FARC. The key is to fill the vacuum quickly to prevent turmoil. Improved economic opportunity has been central to this effort, as have reforms to issues that fueled the conflict, such as coca production, land rights, and corruption.

Blog by Víctor Saavedra:

CIPE has joined forces with Fedesarrollo, Colombia’s primary think tank, in order to complete two objectives. The first is to monitor the extraordinary powers that the president has been given to issue rules that will implement the peace accord signed in December 2016; the second is to do an analysis of the public procurement system in the country and recommend how to more transparently administer the post-conflict resources (which in 2018 will reach nearly one billion U.S. dollars).

Regarding monitoring, Fedesarrollo has published two analyses thus far: one about regulation of a major land reform law (Decree 902 of 2017) and the other about substituting coca cultivation (Decree 896 of 2017). The land reform decree, which implemented one of the primary points of the Peace Accord, affected the processes for assigning, restoring, sanctioning, and regulating the rights of use and property regarding land. The business associations, primarily from the agricultural sector, had serious questions about the rule, which led to debates in the country.

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Democratic and Market Values Face Obstacles in Poland

The Committee on Defense of Democracy stages a protest in Warsaw on December 19, 2015.

After the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, Poland became a poster child for democratic and market-oriented transition. While the necessary reforms were difficult and often painful to the average citizen, they did deliver political freedoms and rapid economic growth, reversing decades of totalitarian oppression and decline. Poland became a respected member of the European Union (EU) and a model for other countries in the region. Despite persisting challenges typical for transition countries, such as youth unemployment, the overall institutions of democracy and a market economy appeared solidly in place.

This began to change rapidly after the 2015 elections when the Law and Justice Party (PiS) candidate won the presidency and the party gained a majority of seats in the parliament. Inspired by the policies of Victor Orban and his party in Hungary, PiS began a rapid push to challenge Poland’s democratic institutions—from the Constitutional Tribunal to public media. However, unlike the Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz), PiS does not possess the constitutional majority necessary to pursue such systemic changes, which put it on a collision course with Poland’s judiciary and civil society, as well as EU institutions.

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A Call for Democratic Re-engagement

Protest in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Lukasz Kaminski.

Every year on September 15, the United Nations’ International Day of Democracy offers an opportunity to reflect on the state of democracy and the challenges facing it. This year’s theme spotlights the need to strengthen democratic institutions against a backdrop of increasing disparities of economic opportunity.

In Central and Eastern Europe, those disparities have become more prominent in recent years, heightening the need to re-examine assumptions about the region’s transitions. Although the region made great strides in building democratic institutions and growing market economies over the course of two decades, the quality of—and support for—democracy has started to decline. Corruption has become a way of life in Hungary, where the government doles out public money based on political loyalty and friendships. In Poland, the government has exerted undue influence over the judiciary system, depriving citizens of their fundamental democratic freedoms.

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Promoting Government Transparency and Empowering Citizens through Open Data

Young participants at the Code for Good Hackathon for Girls Who Code in New York (via Flickr)

As our lives become increasingly digitized, governments must respond to calls to make information available for public consumption on the Internet. Proponents of open data advocate for the release of information collected by governments in formats accessible to all citizens. But what is open data, and how can it help people make sense of their world?

Governments routinely collect facts affecting constituents and regarding a variety of topics including health, the environment, and the economy. According to Open Knowledge International, a global non-profit committed to empowering civil society to harness the power of open data for social impact, data is considered “open” when it is accessible, reusable, and available to all. It is not enough for governments to partially release data or limit its distribution. Instead, for a government to be truly open, datasets must be published in full, in machine-readable formats, and on a central, accessible online platform. Governments should also publicize the release of data, rather than publish information silently. Data.gov, a website administered by the U.S. government, is an example of a government making data publically available online. The website’s information is organized into 14 categories including climate, health, education and public safety.

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Associations Play an Important Role in Improving Ukraine’s Business Climate

CIPE expert Nataliia Kobylchak (left) and Mykolaiv coalition member Iryna Yerofeyeva (right) at CIPE’s M-Test training in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

By Nataliya Zhuhay and Caroline Elkin

As in any state ruled by law, local government officials in Ukraine are obligated to work within the framework of existing laws when developing regulations. But in practice, the regulations they create often act as obstacles for entrepreneurs to run their businesses. These flawed regulations can be poorly written, full of holes that corrupt officials can exploit, or do not correspond to existing laws. Until recently, such regulations did not take into account the costs they imposed, for example, on the café owner who wants to open a summertime terrace—or for that matter, any other basic entrepreneurial activity.

In December 2015, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution requiring all legislators to calculate the cost of implementing regulations for small businesses. This procedure is known as the M-Test. Although the resolution seems to represent a victory for Ukrainian business owners, many challenges remain. First, previously adopted regulations are not subject to the M-Test. Secondly, officials are not required to examine existing regulations for their corruption potential. Thirdly, the State Regulatory Service of Ukraine is unable to change problematic regulations because it can only make recommendations. Thus, only the courts are capable of compelling local governments to withdraw or change regulations. In practice, though, entrepreneurs are reluctant to pursue such matters in court, preferring instead to keep their heads down. As a result, the conditions for doing business on the local level discourage entrepreneurs rather than encourage them.

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Confronting Corruption in Asia’s New Democracies

Corruption is detrimental to countries’ economies because it leads to reduced productivity, high unemployment, and poverty. In addition to the economic cost, corruption corrodes democracies by weakening citizens’ confidence in their governments. This distrust and disenfranchisement can drive people to join extremist groups. “In conflict-affected areas, especially where Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State are trying to set up shop, economic grievances make it much easier to recruit local nationals into their fight,” commented Jennifer Anderson, CIPE’s senior program officer for South Asia. “Not only is corruption debilitating democracy in Afghanistan, it’s also leading to recruitment. Right now in Afghanistan, the Taliban has either control or influence over 40 percent of the country.”

Anderson spoke in a CIPE panel discussion in July that examined the issue of corruption in Asia, with a focus on Afghanistan and Cambodia. Other panelists included experts from CIPE’s Asia Department; the Hudson Institute; and SILAKA, a Cambodian nonprofit organization.

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Threats to Democracy in Slovakia

By Peter Goliaš, Jozef Hajko, and Michal Piško

The Institute for Economic and Social Reform (INEKO), with support from CIPE and the National Endowment for Democracy, conducted a study on the recent trends in Slovakia affecting democracy in the country. The study shows considerable popular dissatisfaction with the quality of democracy, worsening in the last few years. In order to ensure broad input, the research was based on a representative public poll, a questionnaire conducted with selected public figures, detailed interviews with business people, and discussions with thought leaders and students. The results reveal that the most frustrated segment of the population is prone to accept radical non-democratic solutions. This is a warning sign that further strengthening of extremists and opportunists in Slovakia’s political life is a real possibility.

The latest CIPE Feature Service article summarizes key findings of this study along with recommendations for various stakeholders, including the government, political parties, civil society, media, businesses, donors, as well as teachers and the society at large.

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