Jan 26, 2015
Javier Pena

Call for Papers for Spring-Summer 2015

Call for Papers

Democracy & Society Vol. 12, Issue 2 (Spring-Summer 2015)

The Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University is seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1,500 – 2,000 words for their Spring-Summer 2015 publication, Democracy & Society. The submissions can be new publications, summaries, excerpts of recently completed research book reviews, and works in progress. Submissions for this issue will be due by April 1, 2015. Please email all submissions along with a brief author’s bio to democracyandsociety@gmail.com.

Democracy, International Actors, and Foreign Aid:

Since the third wave of democratization, Western donors have been following a strategy of democracy promotion to non-democratic countries that involve giving assistance to both governmental and non-governmental actors including parliaments, judicial institutions, political parties, civil society, electoral management bodies, and election observation missions. With recent backlashes in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe in mind, what do we know about the relationship between foreign aid and democracy?

We are seeking articles that address the following issues and questions:

The Historical Development of Aid Politics and Aid Governance: What are the origins of Western aid programs and how have they changed to remain effective and relevant in changing international contexts? How has the current aid paradigm differed from those in the past? What forecasts can we make for future adjustments to aid policy? In reaction to changes in the international political context, how have democratization efforts modified their efforts in order to maintain relevance in the short-term? Have these fixes produced favorable results for countries? Have past development paradigms produced problems for policy implementation in the present?

The Efficacy of Foreign Aid: How has foreign aid affected democratization efforts in non-democracies? What are the political implications of such efforts and how have they affected international relations between states? What results has foreign aid had on establishing and fortifying democratic institutions and governmental efficacy? What are some of the positive and negative impacts of funding political parties and civil society organizations abroad? What cases can we study that demonstrate successes and failures of democracy promotion? Which agencies/organizations have been innovating democracy promotion to draw more favorable results?

Changes and Challenges for Democracy Promotion: Not only has democracy become widely accepted as a universal norm, but also the international community is now more readily inclined to accept the legitimacy of intervention in the event of gross violations of human rights even when this transgresses state sovereignty. Likewise, recent years have seen the emergence of new actors in the democracy promotion field. It now extends well beyond the U.S. For example, the European Union has emerged as a key player, spurred by the need to consolidate democracy in its post-communist eastern periphery, especially as these states became candidates for EU accession. What is the role of the new actors? Will organizational diversity complicate democratization?  What restrictions are placed on funds directed at democratic, political, and social organizations? Have these restrictions yielded positive or negative results in securing a more democratic environment for developing governments? Should there be restrictions placed on certain practices that do not currently exist? Who or what should dictate these restrictions?

Prospects For A More Inclusive Paradigm: Should democracy promotion be more inclusive? How can democracy promotion incorporate the perspectives of the local populations it affects? Given that governmental efforts typically work through institutional channels, does this limit the influence civilians and non-elites can have within their political systems?

Variations on these themes will be accepted. Research on democracy assistance programs is encouraged. Questions and comments are welcome.

Please visit, democracyandsociety.com for more information about Democracy & Society and http://government.georgetown.edu/cdacs for more information about the M.A. in Democracy and Governance and the Center for Democracy and Civil Society.

Please click here for the D&S Style Guide.




Nov 23, 2014
Erika Hernandez

A Once-Upon-A-Time, Now A Reality? Uruguay

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica arrives at a polling station in his Volkswagen beetle, to cast his vote in the general elections, in Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica arrives at a polling station in his Volkswagen beetle, to cast his vote in the general elections, in Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Once upon a time, a geographically forgotten, often belittled by its neighbors, a country called “Uruguay” became one of the most progressive countries in the world, raising the envy of many. It has a small population, 3.3 million people and is today one of the most effective democracies in the world. It holds economic stability, broadly respects human rights and has a seemingly functional political system, where consensus is possible between political parties. In short, Uruguay is a thriving democracy unlike other countries in Latin America, who are still facing innovative forms of authoritarianism like Venezuela. Citizens like me simply ponder whether political consensus across parties only belongs to fairy tales. In an ideal world, or Uruguay so to speak, politicians come to agreements after grueling negotiations lasting over 10 hours. Perhaps not all of the legislators attend to the sessions, but most of them do. Tough law initiatives like allowing abortion and gay marriage actually get discussed and stamped by most parties in, both, the lower and higher chambers of representatives. During the last 10 years, Uruguay’s income distribution policies have had a positive effect managing to reduce poverty from a 39% to an incredible 11%. Moreover, it has an exemplary President, Jose Alberto Mujica, who is really driven by public service rather than by power or money, like most politicians. He is often referred to as the “World’s Poorest President.” But why can Uruguay relish such an outstanding democratic system? Is it because it requires less effort to govern a small population? Or is it because, through having observed the income disparities of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, it has learned that a set of political reforms can ensure a healthy economic progress? Or is it just that we need to make a wish and tap together our heals, like Dorothy, and expect it to come true?

Uruguay does have a President worth of endorsement. As a former guerilla fighter, he spent 14 years imprisoned, and was finally released in 1985. In 2009, he won a landslide vote for the Presidential seat with a 53.33%. He currently donates 90% of his salary to a charity organization that builds public housing and his motto is “To do politics we must live like the poor,” which he has put to action by living very modestly. Under his tenure, he has pushed highly controversial law initiatives that would hardly pass in other countries. The first one was legalizing abortion for women within the first trimester of pregnancy. The initiative seldom passed in the lower chamber with 50 votes in favor against 49. Another initiative consisted in legalizing gay marriage in 2012, which had a strong support by the Frente Amplio (a coalition of left-wing parties, under which President Mujica got elected). Since the Senate believed that the text needed further editions, the text was sent back to the lower house. The initiative underwent a total of 4 in-house voting rounds. And just last year, the country passed a law regulating the production and consumption of marihuana, for non-medical purposes. The law obtained 16 votes favoring it versus 13 against it. One way to justify these positive outcomes is alluding them to the fact that “Frente Amplio” held the majority in both chambers and that the President remained loyal to its ideals. In 2009, Frente won 50 of the 99 representative seats and 15 of 30 of the senatorial ones. What this means is that, in order to pass controversial laws like these, we can ascertain that there must be an agreement between the President and the Legislative branch.

Oftentimes, we citizens feel rather unlucky with the type of governments we have. Democrats fight Republicans in both US chambers; Democrats then having differences with the President Obama; Mexicans feeling cheated by having elected a President with presumable links with the organized crime; etc. But I believe that Uruguay’s status quo is not a question of luck. It is merely the natural result of programmatic parties that have become more professional, and that, at least, there is some level of institutional learning from the previous dictatorship. Such learning and reconciliation is palpable when one sees a former guerrilla member becoming a President. Indeed, holding majority seats in both houses might appear as an autocratic. But such assessment does not hold when other political parties are allowed to participate and when elections are free and fair.  Tensions arise in democracies when a broad consensus is required to implement policies tackling income inequality and addressing drug-related issues. It is then when parties are unable to arrive towards agreements with “rivals”. Regardless of rivalries and wanting to look better than the other party, one of the most efficient ways to ensure votes is delivering promises. Clearly, this is the case for Uruguay. President Mujica is now preparing to step down as his term is just about to end this month. He is unable to run for re-election, per the Constitution. As the second Presidential round approaches (November 30), the votes will reflect whether Uruguayans would like to continue vouching for Frente Nacional, as the first round demonstrates this. Its presidential candidate is Tabare Vazquez, who was president from 2005-2010. Meanwhile, Mujica declined the US$1 million offer to buy his old, rundown 1987 beetle and also plans to join Uruguay’s upper house in the coming elections. Hopefully, he continues to live happily ever after in his chrysanthemum farm.

Nov 11, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Ayotzinapa, Mexico. The Era of State Decay

Citizens of Mexico protest outside national palace, after being informed that the 43 students were massacred by a criminal gang, after following up the order of Iguala's Major. The sign says "It was the State." Source: Genaro Lozono/CNN
Citizens protest outside Mexico’s national palace, after being informed that the 43 students were massacred by a criminal gang, who followed up the order of Iguala’s Mayor. The sign says “It was the State.” Source: Genaro Lozono/CNN

 “Esta lloviendo tupido,” my grandmother would say in Spanish. It does not literally mean that there is heavy rain. It is actually an allegory for those times that are extremely challenging. This is what I think about the state of affairs in my home country, Mexico. In 2001, free and fair elections paved the way towards political change. What we citizens never envisioned is that the power held by the authoritarian regime sustained agreements with criminal networks, maintaining both corruption and criminal activities operating peacefully. When the National Action Party (PAN) was elected for the presidency, the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) was still elected for state governments, causing that the hold of power, by the capital, to decompose. A good risk analyst, conscious of the deals with drug-cartels, could have been able to foretell that the arrival of democracy would not necessarily strengthen the state capacity but that it would wither down. Today, Mexico’s state capacity appears to be in a state of decay. This can be best evinced by the disappearance of the 43 students in the city of Iguala. Unlike the years where the PRI captured civil society organizations to the point that it made them subservient – like present Russia, local states are captured by non-state actors (drug gangs and cartels). The all-encompassing, authoritarian regime that lasted for 72 years has finally dismembered at the cost of having state units being seized by criminal groups.

Although the quest for the 43 disappeared students in the state of Guerrero has come to an end, there is a general feeling among Mexicans that the state must do something. Just this Friday (November 7), the government admitted that the students have been massacred by the drug gang “Guerreros Unidos.” Iguala’s mayor, Jose Luis Barca, ordered the local police to take care of the potential troublemakers. In turn, the police handed the youngsters to this drug gang. Federal authorities found out that the students had been incinerated and that their ashes were thrown away in a nearby town, Cocula. The General Attorney’s office indicated that the mayor was associated with the organization, and pointed out that the mayor’s wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, was its head. Accordingly, the organization received between 2 and 3 million pesos weekly, bimonthly or monthly from the mayor. Along with Guerrero, other states like Tamaulipas and Michoacan have also been identified failed local states, with Oaxaca pointing towards that direction. An example of a successful strategy –albeit belated– was the federal intervention in the state of Michoacan. Mexico’s President, Enrique Pena Nieto, appointed a federal commissioner with broad powers that, in practice, replaced the state Governor’s mandate. If the strategy was so successful, then why not employ it in other states? Many say that it would cause dependence on the federal state. This is true. Without local capacity building, a long-term recovery is inconceivable.

Despite the success that intervention may grant, there exist several aspects that might complicate a victorious ending. First, local capacity building implies recruiting new police forces, administration and even judicial authorities. What complicates this strategy is that identifying individuals that are clean (with no links to drug-trafficking) puts investigators at risk. Second, negotiating with criminal organizations à la Colombia would probably cause uproar among the Mexicans. Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel de Santos, is currently conducting negotiations with members of the FARC guerrilla (also a criminal organization) under the auspice of Cuba and Norway. Despite the high stakes and high probabilities for peace, many in Colombia, like former president Alvaro Uribe, are using moralistic arguments to counter the practical solution. If broad sectors in Colombia have vouched for coming to an arrangement with the FARC, this is because the country has already undergone 50 years of war.  In contrast, Mexico has undergone a shorter yet heightened period of violent drug war where the population’s predominant sense is that of being betrayed by government authorities and reprisal to some extent, tainted with a craving for justice. Anger is mounting in Mexico today. The anger is geared towards the weak institutional response. The government will hardly echo a matching response. With the state being captured by criminal organizations in the identified – and unidentified – territories, the only rejoinder that the government likely to provide is sending more federal policies agents. Also perhaps issuing a communiqué by the president, so as to placate protests. A joint communiqué is probably already in the works. A few days ago the journalist, Carmen Aristegui, published findings from her recent inquiries: that president Enrique Pena Nieto received a luxurious house of white marble in the State of Mexico –worth 7 million dollars– from a real estate company in exchange of government contracts. As a result of recent media leaks, one of the contracts was recently cancelled. The Mexican Presidency is now compelled to give a forcible explanation of these facts, which is the most that it can do. Unlike the U.S., Mexico’s Constitution does not allow a President to be impeached. In case the citizenry requires the government to take further action, it may do so at the cost of going beyond institutional mandates –may this be a democratic or undemocratic exercise. Indeed, Mexican democracy is in peril as its future appears to lay at the whims of organized crime. Whether the government chooses to creatively respond to such demands, the policies may help strengthen democratic institutions or may undermine them, further reversing democratic progress. For many of us who worked towards democratic change in 2000 and even met former President Fox during our activities, our efforts now feel a distant memory.

Nov 4, 2014
Erika Hernandez

The Beauty of Hybrid Regimes – Burkina Faso

Opposition supporters as they protest at the Place de la Nation in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou calling for the departure of the military. Source: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

October 29 marked the demise of Burkina Faso’s competitive authoritarian regime, a subtype of hybrid regime. In a failed attempt to extend his term limits, President Blaise Campaore saw himself forced to leave the country and seek refuge in Cote d’Ivoire. Thousands of people poured to the streets to protest his desperate tactic to hold on to power. As a result, the military seized power albeit “temporarily.” After the African Union threatened with sanctions, the military declared that it will allow a civilian-led government to take place. But the fact that the military has close ties with the former power structure does not necessarily imply a democratic transition. Instead, this signals a necessary power shift at the upper echelons as its internal political structure was no longer able to confront the emerging opposition and civil society organizations. Neither was it able to deliver democratic expectations from the international community.

Burkina Faso’s state of affairs is as follows. President Campaore was able to rule through coercion and a series of political compromises to appease the opposition. When coercion became futile and power transfer was due, the President attempted to amend article 37 of the Constitution that limited his term until 2015. This amendment could have effortlessly passed at the National Assembly given that his party dominated this body over other political parties (48% of the seats). After assuming power, General Honore Nabere Traore, Chief of Staff of the armed forces, announced that the military would allow the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government. Meanwhile, opposition parties and civil society complained about the takeover as they do not envision that the military can help broker an agreement leading to democratic elections. As of 2012, the assembly was mostly composed by the ruling party and by a few, uncoalesced rival parties. Out of the 127 seats, Campaore’s party (Congress for Democracy and Progress) secured 70 seats, its allies 28, while leaving 27 seats for the opposition parties to share. If the successful protests cannot be explained by an uncoordinated and fragmented political opposition, then what can explain them? Burkina Faso has become increasingly urbanized to the extent that political parties have been unable to change their platform to attract their vote. In this regard, Huntington’s modernization theory on the “green uprising” clearly predicts instability in this country. This theory hypothesizes that increased opportunities in urban areas cause rural people to seek work in large cities and that, in view of economic crisis, this produces political instability. Thus, political instability in Burkina Faso may be more related to rapid economic growth than to a genuine change towards democracy.

As a subcategory of hybrid regimes, Burkina Faso managed to intelligently maintain power through competitive authoritarianism as of last October. It respected basic democratic institutions such as allowing free and fair elections, the presence of political parties, the establishment of civil society organizations as well as an independent press. Campoare’s regime even issued reforms that signalized the possible liberalization of the presidency, allowing him to maintain legitimacy. For instance, the municipal elections of September 2000 granted opposition parties to win municipalities for the first time (6 out of 49). Even the government had agreed to share power in the parliament in 2002. Thus, it was constituted by 54 members coming from the rival parties and 57 from Campaore’s party. The authoritarian attributes can be traced back to the death of the journalist, Norbert Zongo, who strongly criticized Campoare’s politics while denouncing crimes and arrests to opposition leaders by the government. It is now clear that the regime’s cooptation tactics had a determined lifespan and charm. Perhaps, the economic crisis prompted a budgetary cutback that sustained patronage networks. This, in turn, probably affected political stability to the extent that former allies are now joining or heading protests.

Some might think that this signalizes democratic transition. Indeed, hundreds of protestors were capable of ousting President Campoare. However, the fact that great numbers engaged in protest may simply be an indication of a political and economic discontent, which does not automatically translate into an articulated political opposition composed by different organizations. What this event may truly signify is, most likely, that the current hybrid regime will transition into another hybrid regime, perhaps of a different subtype. Without an organized opposition, capable of connecting citizens’ interests via a political party or through a civil society organization, the prospects of democratization are doomed to failure – or at least to the continuation of different authoritarian features through a different leadership. Theory tells us that two basic democratic foundations – a competitive and inclusive political system – must be present for democracy to unravel, as per Robert Dahl. Burkina Faso’s Constitution assimilates both of these elements. The question lies on whether the future government will fully make them operational.

Oct 24, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Institutionalizing Ebola

Health workers in Kenema screen people for the Ebola virus on August 9 before entering a hospital in Sierra Leone.

Nearly 4,877 people have been killed by Ebola; 9,936 are thought to have been probably infected; a total of 443 health workers carry the disease; all while the international community has been unable to harness an emergency fund (UN Ebola Fund), having only gathered 10% of the money immediately needed. Is the health development sector broken? Yes and no. While there have been impressive achievements in dealing with the spread of HIV/AIDS in light of the Millennium Development Goals, health programs have been organized so as to directly deal with specific diseases. However, the health sector has developed straightforward albeit rigid mechanisms that has prevented it focus on the big picture: creating long-term institutions encompassed by a system of governance, able to respond vertically to epidemiological emergencies like Ebola.

First, the governance system of health is the by-product of a patchwork of many working non-profits, foreign governments and multilateral organizations. So far, the white man’s burden has not led us to succeeding in Africa. The Ebola crisis reveals that the variegated array of organizations that remain uncoordinated and overwhelmed by bureaucratic procedures. One example is the delayed support for the UN Ebola Fund. While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon asked its members to contribute financially to a $1 billion fund, only $365 million have been committed, with Colombia being the only member that has paid $100,000. Second, there also exists competition between organizations in the delivery of services. Most of them – particularly government agencies – have the incentive of disbursing large amounts of money for specific causes, with some efforts to evaluate its effectiveness but without requiring them to be creative in case of contingencies. However, squandering money implies losing opportunities to invest in long-term solutions. The governments of these countries should be responsible for coordinating health efforts. Yet, governments are so weak that they unable to do so. Agencies have worked to implement the Millenium Development Goals towards reducing HIV, infant mortality, maternal health and malaria. Despite these achievements, long-term solutions must take place too. This implies thinking out of the box and calling democracy and governance (DG) practitioners to jump in the boat – this is what we do best: give advice to create institutions with a strong civil society component.

DG specialists can make substantial contributions by creating a health coalition in order to deal with health emergencies, which can be done so in numerous ways. First, DG practitioners can provide support in establishing a coordination unit to head all health efforts – from USAID and WHO to Médecins Sans Frontiers. This coordination unit would need to be based in the health ministries of Ebola-affected countries – mainly Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Doing this would help develop ministries’ capacities in the long run. It would also involve getting to agree on who provides what and when. Certainly, arriving to such agreement may sound unrealistic, but without admitting that efforts and money have been squandered this situation will continue to ensue. This would further prevent future media. Second, our civil society outreach programs can ensure that the participation of local governments and civil society in detecting Ebola cases is permanent. Given that state strengthening is a task that will require time, civil society and local governments should be the first in leading emergency efforts, after having acquired solid response training. There are many other areas where DG specialists can help, such as coordination with local businesses and strengthening budgetary capacity so as to have a financial cushion.

Today, we are facing a world where our interconnectedness has eased the travel of epidemics. Certainly, a global response is necessary. However, if an affected country lacks the local mechanisms that can ensure an organized response between ministries and organizations, and at least some facilities able to be adapted for health purposes, then health efforts will have a limited impact. The solution to this dilemma is firm political will. Although it is true many organizations pursue recognition simply because this keeps them operating, it is also true that many have invested themselves in truly assisting Ebola victims like Médecins Sans Frontiers. According to a World Bank study, the cost of Ebola could reach US $33 billion over a two-year period, which is equivalent to coffee sales by Starbucks for the last two years. Perhaps we could contribute to the cause if we give up our cups of coffee and instead donate that money to these efforts.

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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