Oct 14, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Education Under Siege. Dismantling Syria’s System of Governance

Source: UNICEF / UKLA 2012 - Schermbrucker

Source: UNICEF / UKLA 2012 – Schermbrucker

Education is the door to better living standards, it dignifies people and can foster understanding societies that are different. Yet, the lack of a strong education framework can have long-lasting, negative effects. Negative impacts can discourage poverty reduction efforts; prevent the generation of value-added goods, which undermines long-term economic development; can even foment intolerance within and among societies, leading to citizens’ segregation from the provision of public goods. Civil war has caused Syrians to undergo several economic, political and social setbacks. Its already weak system of governance has been almost completely shattered by war and the remaining management strength has been allocated towards war purposes. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has estimated that Syria’s life expectancy was curtailed 12.77 years by the end of 2013. As the country undergoes its third year of civil war, it is possible to observe the beginning of long-term side effects. The following figures give us a valuable insight of the situation:

– Before the war, most children were enrolled in school. Today, it is thought that 51.8% of children are not attending school any longer, with female children being the most affected. Part of this is because families have fled without official documents, preventing them to register their children in schools. In order to contribute with their family’s diminished earnings, some children have been taken out of school to work and even to get married in exchange of monetary compensation. Many students are also unable to attend school due to road blockage and increased unsafety while commuting. Furthermore, many students have also been killed as a by-product of war.

– Syria is thought to be the second worst performer in school attendance globally, with nearly 3 million children having withdrawn from school. The quality of education is also reported as having substantially decreased.

– It is estimated that the budget allocated to the military has been used at the expense of disbursements once allocated to education.

– Over 18% of school facilities have been destroyed, damaged or used for fighting purposes. While 3,465 schools have banished, 1,000 are now used as shelters for the displaced.

– Schools have suffered significant transformations. Those that are still functioning are working two shifts in order to host displaced children. Schools have created basements so as to protect children from attacks.

– Some educational institutions are considered to have influenced young students to engage in violence.

– Syria’s human development rate has regressed four decades. From being a ‘medium human developed’ country, it is now classified as ‘low human developed’ country, which is attributed to its deteriorated attainments in education.


The governorate of Aleppo, located at the north of Syria, is one of the most affected regions. In Northern Syria, the Ministry of Education has been unable to function because most areas are taken by the opposition. In this regard, Aleppo and Idlib are the two most affected places with damaged schools. Bakeries and food queues are constantly being shelled, which increases food deprivation. For Syria, losing Aleppo to violence represents having lost one of its tickets for recovery. As this city used to be Syria’s industrial capital, it was one of the few areas with a non-oil based economy that could have aided the country to stimulate development based on a more diversified economy. As of January 2013, only 6% of children were enrolled in schools there. By the end of 2013, 3 out of 4 citizens in Syria are thought to have been living in poverty. However, most of the citizens in Aleppo are expected to live in extreme poverty today.

One of Syria’s most colossal challenges concern children’s future. The presence of a barely functioning system of governance prevents any form of education management since –what is left of administrative strength– is destined to subjugating the opposition. Clearly, reconstruction efforts should not only focus in re-building infrastructure such as sanitation, electricity and roads, but they should also encompass restoring the educational system at large. Indeed, Syria’s social programs and democratization efforts are currently under siege, yet the international community needs prepare well in advance for peace’s arrival. First, education policy should correct education’s course through immediate, post-conflict measures such as: rebuilding schools; restoring enrollment levels; ensuring inclusive public education provisioning; among others. A second tier involves longer term impacts, such as providing skill training in the context of a regenerated economy; restoring social trust; teaching coexistence in order to build peace; providing human rights education; among others. These second-tier operations will require programs involving the cooperation of numerous international organizations, development agencies, private sector and civil society organizations. Most importantly, the basis of both echelons is the development of a strong system of governance. In the past, authoritarian regimes were able to remain undefeatable vis-à-vis organized civil society. Nevertheless, the exposure of corrupt and clientelistic practices enhanced by new technologies – often– renders governments incapable of controlling access to information. Therefore, to ensure long-lasting reconstruction in Syria, the government must develop inclusive policies as they can now be hardly ignored by governments. Thus, crisis recovery implies reconciliation between all parties so as to reach comprehensive public policy agreements. Without ensuring this and without providing an education that fosters tolerance, the country’s stability remains at risk.

Sep 16, 2014
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

D&S Vol 11, Is 2 Spring-Summer 2014

Ten Years of CDACS: The State of Democracy and Democracy Studies

D&S Vol 11, Is 2 Spring-Summer 2014

In this issue:

Challenges of Democracy Consolidation: The Impact of AKP in Turkey

  • By Selma Bardakci, Ertugrul Genc, and Dilara C. Hekimci

Democracy in Crisis: An Interview with Dr. Benjamin Barber

Ten Years of CDACS: The State of Democracy and Democracy Studies

  • By Yonatan Morse

The “Moral Project” of Post-Communist Ukraine: Understanding the State, Nation(s), and the Future of Ukraine

  • By Katie LaRoque

Cuba: Economic Reform and Political Change

  • By Meagan Moody

A Hurdle Too High: Regionalism in South Korea

  • By So Jin Lee

Transitional Justice in El Salvador: A Case Study

  • By Salvador Ernesto Peneda Depaz


Sep 16, 2014
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Call for Papers

Democracy & Society Vol. 12, Issue 1 (Fall-Winter 2014)

The Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University is seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1,500 – 2,000 words for their Fall-Winter 2014 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 November 10, 2014. Please email all submissions along with a brief author’s bio to democracyandsociety@gmail.com.

Democracy, Conflict and Peace-Building:

Across the globe policymakers are faced with the daunting task of forging democratic institutions after severe conflict. Likewise, we have seen supposedly stable democracies falter into civil war. International peacemaking institutions face unforeseen challenges, and at times making peace and restoring democracy seems out of reach. With recent conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe in mind, what do we know about the relationships between democracy, conflict and peace building?

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

Forging Democracy after Conflict: If democracy is to be used as a conflict resolution measure, what practices have worked best and which have failed? How do you forge democratic institutions after severe conflict? What tools must we use to address these conflicts and promote stability and peace in volatile, post-conflict states?

Transitional Justice: What new insights are there into this longstanding question – how do you balance the need for accountability after conflict with the need to reach consensus in order to build new political institutions?

The Relationship between Democracy and Conflict: Does democracy foster stability, or rather, in certain contexts, does it lay the seeds for future conflict? Do democratic institutions actually solve conflict or simply reinforce and freeze existing tensions and divisions?

The Causes of Conflict: Are there new insights into the causes of civil conflict, and what new information do we have about the role of resources, state capacity, and sectarian division?

Variations on these themes will be accepted. Research on post-conflict societies, democratic proliferation, and analysis of war and peace are 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.

Jun 9, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Popular Europhobics. EU’s Parliamentarian Elections

Successful campaign by the National Front in France.  Source: ANDRIEU / AFP / Getty Images.

Successful campaign by the National Front in France. Source: ANDRIEU / AFP / Getty Images.

Any democratic government needs to have opposition in order to fully represent people’s interests. This fosters political balance, helps keep policy expenditures under control and assists citizens in reaching an ideological compromise. But when the opposition engages in promoting exclusionary political platforms, this challenges democratic advancement while instilling authoritarian features. According to provisional results by the Wall Street Journal, it is estimated that the right won 297 seats out of the 751 total seats in the European parliament. WSJ also calculates that left-wing parties only won 232 seats. Right-wing parties in this region blame European bureaucracy and immigration for the sluggish economy. However, it is precisely international cooperation that can help European nations rise from the chronic economic depression. Despite the fact that the EU increased to 28 members last year, voter turnout remains low –barely a 43.1%. This reveals that left-wing supporters are discouraged to vote and some might have made a switch to the right. So far, left-wing parties have not built up a strong enough nor convincing platform to get the EU out of its depression. More importantly, where have the supporters of the EU model gone?

The electoral results are remarkably discouraging. Conservative parties have had an impressive advance in people’s hearts. These parties have strong supporters in several countries now: the UK, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Ireland. Although some of them like France’s Front National and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang have had to tone down their anti-immigration sentiments, their rhetoric remains discriminatory. In Germany, the right took 34 seats of the EU parliament and is represented by the CDU/CSU alliance. This collation rejects Turkey’s membership to the European Union although Germany is Turkey’s greatest trading partner and has the largest Turkish diaspora. In Denmark, the right took 5 seats of the 13 EU seats that the country can take. It is mainly represented by the Danish Popular Party (DF), which opposes immigration and proposes to re-establish border controls but is not anti-Semitist as France’s National Front is. The DF doubled its number of seats since 2009. In France, the far-right National Front (FN) gained a large amount of votes –26% or 4.1 million votes. With its anti-immigration and anti-EU party discourse, it won 25 out of the 74 seats in the EU parliament that correspond to France. The FN “earthquake” not only has had an effect in its home country but it has also had an effect in its European neighbors. Thus, the trend is spreading.

But the reasoning behind the Europhobia is the economic depression.  The highest economic growth in the EU area during this last decade was 3.4% in 2006. The financial crisis hit hard the zone by having the GDP contract 4.5%. In 2013, the GDP growth rate stood at 0.1%. Unemployment has been strikingly high and only narrowly reduced in 2008. In the EU-28 area, unemployment was at 9.3% in 2004; 7% in 2008; and, jumped to 10.8% in 2013. A sluggish economy in the EU is a clear indicator of uneasiness among European countries that feel having contributed more than received. Such is the discourse of the right-wing in Germany and France. This is precisely one of the complaints that parties like the FN have been able to use as a leverage for their campaign. Certainly, the more economic strain, the more the perceptions exists that money needs to be preserved even at the cost of liberal values. Clearly, the economic downturn inhibited EU lovers from voting as the economic crisis appears not to end.

The emerging right-wing European parties are exclusionary. For the most part, they do not intend to continue embracing the EU project as there exist perceptions of economic abuse by states in Southern Europe. But despite their views favoring segregation, these parties should not be precluded from participating in the democratic project. Rather, they should be included. However, these parties need to realize that the EU compromise cannot be undone. Instead, they need to seek alternative solutions to the economic crisis. They should create more realistic platforms to help nations cope with their deficits. The solution is not diminished cooperation but rather an increased one. One that is fostered through debate, bringing to the table the brightest ideas by inviting the smartest political scientists, economists, respected financial leaders, among others, able to envision and craft a better and brighter EU.

May 31, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Egypt: A New Hybrid Regime?


El-Sisi supporters. Source: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

El-Sisi supporters. Source: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Presidential elections in Egypt finalized this Thursday with a voter turnout of 46% – a slightly lower turnout than the 2012 presidential elections with a 51.85% turnout. It is not surprising that the volatile situation and fear of retribution could have played an influential role on this. Not only was voting extended to a third day but substantial propaganda was used by the government. Today, it is clear that Egypt’s military is not a purely professionalized institution as army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi accepted to become presidential candidate for this year’s elections. What is astounding is that, his charismatic character appears to be fusing already with militarism. In the following years, it is highly probable to see that Egypt’s regime becomes a hybrid regime like Pinochet’s Chile –a military-personalist one.

Voter turnout was so low for presidential elections that voting was extended to a third day. The government tried first to allure citizens through declaring a last-minute holiday. It then tried to coax citizens by threatening to fine those who did not vote. It is quite possible that this strategy was aimed at convincing the international community about the support that el-Sisi has as well as to demonstrate an alleged disapproval for the Muslim Brotherhood. However, all this has demonstrated to political analysts is Egyptians’ discomfort with the current political situation. It is obvious that a large percent of the population supporting the Brotherhood did not vote and also considering that one million ballots were casted blank. El-Sisi’s left-wing rival, Hamdin Sabbahi, obtained less than 4% of the votes. Moreover, social inequality does not appear to have played an important role. Despite perceptions that a strong inequality might have driven revolutionary spirits, a study by the World Bank showed that, in fact, inequality had decreased. However, according to the World Values Survey, expectations for a better living surpassed the moderate economic gains.

The new regime type that is being brewed is a hybrid regime because it has several authoritarian traits while apparently holding free –albeit not so fair– elections. For starters, el-Sisi announced on May 16 that the Muslim Brotherhood would be finished. Second, he and his supporters have already been blamed for the deaths of several of the Brotherhood’s supporters in August of 2013. In an aim to continue modernizing Egypt à la Nasser, the military is excluding a relevant societal sector. Without inclusiveness –a necessary condition for democracy to flourish as per Robert Dahl– Egypt’s democratization will be doomed to failure. Egypt’s regime has the initial features of the hybrid “military-personalist” regime. For Geddes (2002), under this kind of rule the military remains professionalized but the dictator makes most decisions, such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet’s rule. For this researcher, the combination of such features can make regimes last significantly more than if they only were pure militarism. If we were to use Geddes theory on the length of military-personalist regimes, we could expect an approximate duration of el-Sisi’s rule of 10.3 years (average), holding constant economic and other political factors.

Egypt’s elections low voter turnout must be considered as a red flag. Transition periods are usually characterized by large numbers of citizens wanting to participate in the political process, depicted by a high voter turnout. Nevertheless, the recent repressive tactics have intimidated voters from supporting the Muslim Brotherhood as no representatives from the Brotherhood were allowed to participate in elections. Indeed, many were unsatisfied with their rule but ignoring their presence only increases resentment that can accumulate as a pressure cooker. The following weeks will reveal whether such type of regime is possible and if it will possess the durability that Pinochet’s regime had. Indeed, time will tell. So far, we can already observe that personalism is a tool that the new polity is to employ.

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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