Browsing articles from "October, 2009"
Oct 27, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Delusion at the National Democratic Institute

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) recently issued a press release on their recommendations for the second round of voting in Afghanistan.  Their recommendations make me wonder what country their observers were in during the first round.

Here are some choice excerpts:

Security by the Afghan police and army and international forces should be enhanced so that secure voting areas are expanded….

No ballots should be sent to polling centers that are not secured by Afghan security forces and adequately staffed by the Independent Election Commission (IEC)…

Planning should begin immediately to ensure that sufficient staff from the IEC and the ECC are available for the voting, tabulation and complaint process…

Now, I don’t mean to bicker, but NDI makes it sounds like the Government of Afghanistan chose to be incompetent on election day.  While I don’t deny this is part of the problem, has NDI forgotten that the Taliban is active in at least 80% of the country?  It seems to me what they expect by election day can only follow government control over the country, not precede it.

Oct 27, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Growth without government

I have been in Beirut, Lebanon the past few days, attending a conference put on by the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) that we partially sponsored.  Although I saw very little of Beirut, I did see what rapid private sector growth without government looks like.  The result is private sector development without public goods.  I am writing this post from an upscale mall next to an even more upscale hotel, and both have excellent wireless internet connections.  Yet due to the lack of investment in public goods commensurate to the scale of private sector development, walking down the street is treacherous.  Traffic is chaotic (because no one enforces traffic laws) and there has been no appreciable investment in public infrastructure (for example, traffic lights, sidewalks, and pedestrian crosswalks) to help connect the rapidly-expanding private sector developments.  What I take away from my short time in Beirut is that private sector growth without a government to supply public goods can lead to islands of development with chaos in between.  It’s a pretty good example of the indispensable role the government plays in economic development.

Oct 25, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Tom Friedman parrots Jack Santucci


Jack says it first

Jack Santucci, October 16, 2009

Thomas Friedman, October 24, 2009

Tom swims in Jack's wake

Tom swims in Jack's wake

Tom’s just restating Jack’s thoughts, but Tom gives Jack no credit.  Where’s the love, Tom?  Where’s the love?

Jack accepts it like a gentleman.

Oct 23, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Obama deserved the Nobel Prize?

I don’t want to start a blogo-war with a good friend, but I am less certain than Joel Rubin at Democracy Arsenal that President Obama earned the Nobel Prize.  According to Rubin,

Last November, Americans voted overwhelmingly for change. We elected a man who represented that change, both in his personal story and his political outlook. Less than one year since that historic election, the man that Americans sent to the White House has dramatically improved how our country is viewed overseas while setting in motion a significant number of events that are advancing both our national security and the cause of peace.

For these efforts, he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

In other words, President Obama won the Nobel Prize because he is not George W. Bush and because of what he plans to do. I am not convinced these are particularly good reasons.

Oct 19, 2009

African leadership prize disappoints

It comes as a surprise to me that the Ibrahim Prize was not awarded this year, but what was really curious was the lack of explanation for taking this action.

The Prize goes to African leaders who leave office voluntarily at the end of their term and “rise above [significant] constraints to develop their countries, lift people out of poverty, and pave the way for future prosperity and success.” It is intended to provide an incentive for African leaders to behave well and leave office on time, which is not an attractive option for most leaders who have no prospects for income or work after they leave office. Western leaders can usually make considerable money in the lecture circuit and as consultants, but African leaders rarely have such opportunities. It also provides an incentive for leaders not to grab as many resources as they can from the state on their way out.

This prize could be a useful incentive, even though some people contend (for example here) that the prize targets money at elites who do not need it and whose time is up, and a better investment would be in training future leaders. But the decision not to award it this year and not to offer an explanation takes away the value of the endeavor. If the point of this prize is to encourage and incentivize future leaders rather than simply reward former ones, the Ibrahim Foundation has a responsibility to provide feedback about what it believes constitutes good African leadership.

Several likely candidates failed to win the prize. Two favorites, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olesegun Obasanjo, certainly had some obvious issues. Mbeki’s infamous policies on AIDS resulted in an exacerbation of that problem, his “softly softly” approach to dealing with Mugabe was nothing less than appeasement, and while I am no fan of Jacob Zuma, it was wrong of Mbeki to try to manipulate allegations of corruption against him to coincide with the election cycle. Obasanjo, for his part, might have been an invaluable statesman on the continent, but his often undemocratic actions at home make him a less than ideal candidate for the prize.

Other possibilities were Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, who helped his country transition from civil war, and John Kufuor of Ghana, who increased democratic practices, pushed his country down a development path, and helped prevent conflict over an extremely close election. While both of these men were in governments that had problems with corruption, neither was obviously implicated in it.

Perhaps the Ibrahim Prize committee should not single out these leaders to denigrate – they certainly are all better than the average African heads of state. But offering some generic explanations of the criteria that were considered in evaluating the candidates would make the failure to award the prize more of a statement and a call to action for future leaders. If the point is to help leaders reform, the prize needs to explain what kinds of reform it wants.

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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