My Rights are Your Rights: How one transgender woman in Guatemala is making change

Debby Linares, during her presentation at NDI, with fellow human rights activist, Fernando Us Alvarez.

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In the first week of December 2017, I had the chance to meet Debby Linares, a transgender woman and human rights activist from Guatemala, who soon became an inspiration to me on a personal level. Debby, who has been a human rights activist for the past 16 years, advocates for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights at the municipal and state level in Guatemala.

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NDI Goes to Brussels

NDI President Ken Wollack addressing leaders of the EPP, ALDE and PES parties at EPP headquarters in Brussels, October 2017

 

NDI President Ken Wollack visited Brussels this fall to discuss how democracy is faring in Central and Eastern Europe as the region confronts heightened Kremlin involvement, democratic backsliding and rising skepticism over European integration. Among other interlocutors, Wollack met with leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), and the Party of European Socialists (PES), plus affiliated think tanks. NDI has affiliation with all three party groups and works with them to support political party development and reform.

The European leaders spoke of combining forces in the former Yugoslavia, Central Europe and Eastern Partnership countries to resolve ongoing partisan conflicts that harm good governance and political consensus. It’s the kind of demonstrable engagement that Europe can make at a time when many countries, both in and outside of the European Union (EU), need democracy booster shots. NDI’s in-country programs and longstanding relations with European political parties across the mainstream spectrum make the Institute a bridge between Brussels and Europe’s eastern reaches.

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Best DemWorks Posts of 2017

In its third year, DemWorks has solidified itself as one of the premier blogs on democratic development around the world. The number of visitors to the blog has expanded rapidly, with nearly 40 percent of the blog’s 186,702 unique visitors coming in 2017 alone. Our subscriber list has ballooned to upwards of 3,000 democracy lovers who have been gracious enough to let us into their inboxes (we know it can be a crowded place). Here’s our list of the most-read blog posts and series from 2017.

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

NDI Mexico and the National Institute for Women (Inmujeres) launch the #NotTheCost (#NoEsElCosto) campaign, among representatives of government agencies, civil society and political parties.

We hope that you’ve noticed the orange-ing of NDI’s website logo as part of our institutional contribution to the worldwide 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Violence against women (VAW) is rooted in gender inequality and must be stopped. It is also one of the many barriers to women’s meaningful and active political participation that NDI’s programs work to overcome.

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Nigerian Disability Advocates Conduct First-Ever Election Accessibility Audits

IFA's Grace Jerry (left) discusses the audit checklist with another Access Nigeria observer during an election day deployment.

In Nigeria, there is a dearth of reliable data on the number of people with disabilities, let alone the challenges they face participating in elections. In its World Report on Disability, the World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Based on this report, IFA approximates that there are 25 million Nigerians with disabilities.

For this reason, disability rights organization and NDI partner Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) audited polling unit accessibility during off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Edo (September 2016) and Ondo (November 2016) states, using a sample-based observation deployment methodology similar to parallel vote tabulation. The audits assessed the availability of handrails, ramps, braille or tactile ballots, written voting instructions and sign language interpreters. Armed with these newfound statistics, disability rights advocates such as IFA are now better equipped to make advocacy demands on decision makers to address barriers to the political participation for persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

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Support Democracy Around the World on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that follows widely recognized shopping events -- Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- to encourage people to also donate to non-profits.

Today is #GivingTuesday, a great opportunity to encourage support for our mission of working for democracy and making democracy work. Especially in these times, our mission has never been more critical. Your gift TODAY (Tuesday, November 28) will be MATCHED DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This match is only guaranteed for donations made via Facebook today.

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NDI and Liberal International Work Together to Stop Violence Against Women in Politics

NDI and Liberal International's (LI) session "Ending Violence Against Women in Politics: Liberal Strategies and Perspectives," which was held during the 197th LI Executive Committee meeting on November 12, 2016, in Marrakesh, Morocco

When I look at my political career, I realize how much we owe to the struggles of my mother and grandmother’s generations. By the time my grandmother became an adult, she was able to vote on equal terms with men because that universal right had been introduced in 1906, making Finnish women the first in the world legally allowed to run for office. Those rights came about largely because men and women, young and old, farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, everybody was needed in the struggle for independence, which we achieved in 1917.

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New International Standards Needed to Protect the Open Internet

Reversing the rising tide of online censorship will require a coordinated multi-stakeholder approach to redefine norms for a free and open internet. Toward this end, NDI has been collaborating with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) to develop A Democratic Framework to Interpret Open Internet Principles. We strongly believe that it is those living in countries affected by censorship, surveillance or shutdowns who know best what they need to organize, advocate and build more democratic societies using the internet. In order to finalize the framework, NDI is committed to ensuring that the content of this framework is led by and includes feedback from a diverse group of stakeholders. NDI is requesting your suggestions and input on the framework during a public comment period, which ends November 17, 2017. You can read the draft framework -- along with additional information about its development and vision -- and provide feedback at https://openinternet.global. With a unified vision from civil society around the globe, this framework can help activists and advocates push against forces at the local, national or international level who threaten to squeeze the democratic potential out of the online communications revolution.

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Life after City Hall: Running a Shelter, Building a Network

A shelter in Houston, TX, for victims of Hurricane Harvey

On the evening of August 25, hurricane Harvey began to move into the Texas Gulf Coast. The greater Houston area is east of where Harvey made landfall, on what is known as the wet side of the storm, with rain bands carrying water from the Gulf of Mexico. Usually, Gulf hurricanes keep moving inland, gradually losing strength as they move away from the coast. But Harvey did the unexpected, stalling just onshore. Very little wind, no longer a storm surge, just record-breaking amounts of rain. Parts of Houston received as much as 52 inches of rain over four days, leading to massive flooding.

When I was Mayor of Houston, Texas (population 2.38 million), I had the opportunity to touch thousands of people’s lives. Now, as a part of NDI’s Women Mayors’ Network (WoMN), I am able to tap into the reservoir of talent and ability that current and former mayors provide each other. My recent work on relief efforts following hurricane Harvey proved a timely reminder of this fact.

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Disinformation: A New Challenge to Democracy or More of the Same?

Recent headlines on the role of Russian disinformation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have ignited important policy discussions on the impact of information warfare on democratic systems. While disinformation is not new and has been used for years to turn the tides of policy in the favor of its perpetrators, developments with respect to social media, big data, and artificial intelligence mean that disinformation now poses a very different type of threat to democracy.

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