Browsing articles in "Development"
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.

Mar 6, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Mozambique On The Edge

Renamo fighters in Mozambique / Source: TandemPost

Renamo fighters in Mozambique / Source: TandemPost

After 20 years of peace, possibilities of civil strife in Mozambique are emerging once more. Mozambique held municipal elections back in November. The two main contending political parties were the long-time ruling party Frelimo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). The Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance) movement decided to boycott elections by not participating. Since early last year, Renamo has announced a cease to peace, which were reached between them and the ruling party in 1992. The underlying reason for this behavior is that Renamo’s leader, Afonso Dhlakama, has suffered life-threatening attempts allegedly by the party-in-government. To this, several commentators have called for international intermediation in order to prevent another civil conflict that could spread to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. Interestingly, Mozambique is one of the most gifted countries I nAfrica with natural resources and foreign aid. If the country receives so much aid and has the economic means to rise above poverty conditions, would additional support for peace help? Or is it that too much resources are causing the national to divert back to civil war?

Today, Mozambique is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with last year’s figure reaching 7% of GDP growth (est. CIA) but years like 2011 were estimated at 12.6% (World Bank). In 2012, UK’s Global Peace Index ranked Mozambique within the 50 most peaceful countries in the world. However, peace agreements between Renamo and Frelimo were formally broken last October due to threats to Dhlakama. Attempts to disappear Renamo by the government have worked in that the force of the movement has diminished. This scenario has favored the rise of the MDM party, which has successfully performed during the last municipal elections. The power in Renamo lies in that they have 1,000 armed fighters and 51 parliament members. Needless to say, the government has stronger means of coercion. The situation started to deteriorate since last year and worsened in January 1 when people began to flee towns of Pembe and Fanha-fanha, where Renamo militias reactivated. The fear of strife is so high that even several policemen have also fled. The memory of human slaughter is fresh. Back in 1985, the town of Homoine experienced the worst massacre of 400 people, including civilians’ deaths. In addition, the country is rich in coal, titanium, natural gas and petroleum and just recently discovered more reserves. Moreover, Mozambique’s heavily relies on development aid – 40% of its state budget comes from developmental sources. Some aid providers are the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union, European Union and United Nations.

To what extent does the country need further aid? Mozambique is trapped in its own resource and aid curse. The issue here is not about criticizing acts of charity, whose intention for help is commendable. I contest that the problematic lies, rather, in how well do these additional resources trickle down to a regular Mozambican, as well as to their contribution to promoting political inclusiveness. Accordingly, 54.7% of the population live below the poverty line (World Bank est. 2009). Despite pouring all this money into the country, the poverty line has had almost no substantial change. Moreover, if money is not going to ameliorate public services then corruption can explain money dispersal, among other reasons.

It is quite possible that several aid programs have only slowed economic empowerment and that they have increase the prowess of the powerful. Importantly, I see this as a problem that can be best addressed through democracy and governance programs rather than prioritizing development aid. One of the main problems is that the current government is unwilling to share power with Renamo. If the MDM party has already attained a certain degree of representation as an opposition party, there could be possibilities. Yes, it could be that the MDM negotiated its entrance to the government against Renamo. Yet, this same mechanism can best serve Renamo to reenter politics, on the condition of peaceful engagement. A DG program is necessary since exclusive politics in this country are potentially explosive. Third party intervention would be effective if it sought power-sharing mechanisms, conditioned on aid disbursements. Yes, it may seem a bit of draconian to impose such requirements. However, do we want to see Rwanda II happening? I doubt so. A thorough DG analysis of the current situation would help to estimate its probabilities of success, hand-in-hand with the apportioning of development aid.

Feb 10, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Fleeing from the Central African Republic

Source: MICHAEL ZUMSTEIN / Agence Le Monde

Source: MICHAEL ZUMSTEIN / Agence Le Monde

The Department of State has named Central African Republic’s current situation in a ‘pregenocidal’ state. Thousands of Muslims have and are currently fleeing CAR, indicating that an imminent crisis is taking place here over religious and political issues. Having President Michel Djotobia renounce last January, meant that the Muslim grip of power over politics disintegrated. The crisis was impending given that Djotobia had arrived to power by the support of Muslim rebels named “Séléka” who carried out attacks on Christian militias as well as on civilians. Payback from the Christian militias was to be expected once Muslim dominion over politics collapsed. Today, Bangui (the capital) is the nucleus of the conflict where Muslims are beheaded and mutilated. Numbers on the death toll are yet unknown, but the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that nearly 68,000 people have fled CAR and calculated 400,000 internal refugees. Even after having designated an interim president, the government is weakened to the extent that no security apparatus is extant. Not only does the situation seems difficult to contain but other countries like Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger and even the unstable Sudan are now forced to receive CAR refugees. The vacuum of power in the country goes hand-in-hand with the lack of security. But to reestablish the power vacuum, security must be first reestablished.

On December 5, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution sponsored by France in order to restore peace. The UN decided to send to CAR the International Mission to Support CAR (Misca) that would replace the Multinational Force at Central Africa (Fomac). By itself, France decided to create operation “Sangaris” in order to informally support the UN mission –and also due to its previous colonial linkage. For the International Crisis Group, the most immediate and urgent needs at CAR are to “restore security and public order and to provide humanitarian aid,” which the UN is already carrying out. The group also recommends that a medium-term objective should be to create a political transition to last roughly 18 months, which implies holding elections. As a long-term objective, the group considers the reconstruction of the state.

In order to create a strong CAR state, social order is required. Without it, it would be impossible to reconstruct the state. Regarding political transition, it is important to question whether the current presidential system is able to reconcile the numerous social and political groups in the country. So far, the conflict has detonated over religious affairs and it seems that holding majoritarian power only worsened the situation. If the conflict is not contained and continues to exacerbate, struggle over ethnic issues could ensue given CAR’s multi-ethnic structure. Perhaps, a more appropriate model to address conflict between groups is a parliamentarian, consociational system. Unearthing Arend LIjphart’s analysis is apposite here. Since constructing a state implies redesigning the political system, we may pose several questions to help design a conflict-proof model: in the case of CAR, should the executive power be constituted by a coalition cabinet or by a winning party? Should the executive power be linked to the legislative power? Would multiparty system foster peaceful agreements or more conflict? How strong can the state become if the country adopts a federal and decentralized government? Proposing a system that allows the inclusion of the majority of societal groups is necessary. However, since a consociational system entails numerous trade-offs, it could only be feasible if willingness to share power exists.

It is particularly important to continue monitoring whether the ‘pre-genocidal’ situation is controlled. Once control is attained, it would be important to hold talks between the groups so as to reach peaceful consensus. So, how to proceed from here? The results of negotiations would help us to determine whether or not a consociational system could help prevent religious and ethnic conflicts. Only until then, until knowing whether there really exists a reconciliation spirit or not, we will unveil the possibilities. If the country continues an unstable trajectory, this could also influence stability in neighboring countries. Unfortunately, picking the most appropriate political system for the Central African Republic will be determined by how the actors end up playing their cards. So far, Muslims stand at a disadvantage given that they constitute 15% of the total population while Christians represent nearly 50%.

Feb 6, 2014
Erika Hernandez

Carlos Moedas in Georgetown

The Politics and Economics of an Adjustment Program – The Case of Portugal

By Carlos Moedas
Secretary of State to the Prime Minister of Portugal

Carlos Moedas is an engineer, economist, banker and politician who is currently the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister of Portugal. In this capacity he oversees ESAME, the agency created to implement and control the program of structural reforms to which Portugal agreed to pursue with the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Friday February 7, 2014
McGhee Library
3rd floor of the ICC
Georgetown University

  Organized by: Department of Government; BMW Center for German & European Studies; MA in Democracy & Governance ; Luso-American Development Foundation


Jan 17, 2014

Cuba and the European Union – Moving Ahead

This week the European Union announced the decision to begin the process of ending with its “common position” of suspending relations with Cuba. Proposed in 1996 by then Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, the objective was to create some pressure on the island to foster democratic change. After twenty years of this policy and apparently much more for pragmatic reasons than for having achieved, even partially, its goal, the tentative date to normalize relations is 2015.

The EU common position is a rare tool in European foreign relations. Within its framework, all EU members adopt a single stance in relation to a specific issue or country. Common positions have been notably used for Congo, Zimbabwe (both of which have ended), and Cuba. Somewhat similar to the embargo imposed by the US, the EU common position had diplomatic and economic components. On the one hand, there wereare no bilateral agreements which would serve as a framework for any kind of relation between Cuba and the EU or its individual members. On the other hand, investment and business opportunities practically came to a halt.

Since some years ago, members of the EU (among those Spain) noticed the ineffectiveness of the agreement. They relied on a number of arguments. First, aside from Cuba, the EU common position was only used for Al-Qaeda. For some European foreign ministers, it was inadequate or exaggerated to place in the same category a Communist country and a terrorist organization. Second, they witnessed some, albeit arguably superficial and selected, changes in the island. The replacement of Fidel Castro by his brother Raúl as the president of the country, the relaxation of some controls (such as those related to international travel, for instance), and the release of more than seventy prisoners identified by the EU as political were taken as symbols that some things were occurring in Cuba. They are clearly far away from a full respect to the human rights of Cubans and from the openings that are conductive to a democratization, but they were enough for some to assess that the situation was not the same when the common position began. Thirdly, there were some instances in which the common position was ignored. For example, the release of political prisoners took place after a dialogue between Spain and Cuba, which should not have taken place because the policy did not allow for bilateral dialogues of any kind. As well, there were reports about visits between members of the Cuban and European Catholic Churches, which, again, were prohibited under the common position.

Spain successfully pushed for an ending of the economic embargo against Cuba in 2003 (its negotiation token was the release of the political prisoners). Ten years later, the Spanish newspaper El País mentions that the EU is the first foreign investor in Cuba, and that the EU is Cuba’s second foreign trade partner, after Venezuela. So, there was a material benefit to extract from finishing with the economic component of the common position. With the elimination of the diplomatic part, agreements could be reached between the two parts to improve their economic relations.

However, there are some caveats to ending with the European policy. For instance, Poland and the Czech Republic have notoriously insisted on the inclusion of a human rights observation clause in any bilateral agreement with Cuba, still to be negotiated. It remains an open question how the Cuban government reacts to this and, eventually, how it will be enforced. Additionally, members of the Cuban opposition have requested the EU to have a broader vision of its relation with Cuba. Blogger Yoani Sánchez criticized that in his visit to Cuba last week, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans had meetings only with government representatives and not with the dissidence, who have many human rights and democracy projects that also need assistance from Europe.

The ending of the EU common position towards Cuba can be taken as an example of pragmatic foreign policy. Although its maintenance could have had some relevance in the discourse and in ethics (democracies not having relations with a non-democratic regime), the EU came to terms with the reality that the common position was not serving its objectives and that ending with it could yield material benefits. The European experience can thus be added to the list of cases of embargoes failing to promote democracy or which were surpassed by another set of goals.

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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