In recognition of International Day of Democracy, NDI partnered with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to host an online discussion. Kenneth Wollack, president of NDI, Michael D. Svetlik, vice president for programs at IFES, and Tom Garrett, vice president for programs at IRI, answered eight democracy-related questions posed by @CEPPS and other TweetTalk participants. Using the hashtag #DemTalk, respondents discussed both general shifts in democratic trends across the world and specific examples of programs that create “space for civil society” -- the theme of this year’s Democracy Day.
Professor Gianfranco Pasquino graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Turin, where he studied under Norberto Bobbio, and specialized in Comparative Politics with Giovanni Sartori at the University of Florence. Between 1975 and 2012, he was a professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna. He currently teaches at the Bologna Center at John Hopkins University. Pasquino met with Andrea Fernández, NDI resident program officer in Colombia, to discuss the state of democracy in Latin America.
Credit: Isabela Bernal - Las2Orillas / NDI Colombia
Today is International Day of Democracy, a day meant to inspire reflection and celebration of the principles of democracy worldwide. This year’s theme, “Space for Civil Society,” serves as a reminder that a strong and active civil society is necessary for resilient democracy. This year’s theme is also a reaction to the fact that civil society faces serious challenges globally. Since the early 2000s, authoritarian regimes have used new methods to limit the ability of civil society to protect the rights of citizens, demand accountability from government and engage in public policy. These limitations extend to the Internet and social media; authoritarian regimes continue to curtail political speech and monitor political dissent online. But just as autocratic regimes are imposing these limitations, civil society is adopting new technologies and using open government data to create new civic space and work in parallel with the interests of open, inclusive government. NDI is supporting these efforts by assisting civil society groups in the creation of international norms and standards for legislative openness and open election data.
To celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, we asked NDI staff, who support democracy worldwide, to share a photograph that best represents the answer to the question: “What does democracy mean to you?” NDI staff are from more than 60 countries, spanning five continents. Over 100 thought-provoking images were submitted by photographers from all around the world, but the following five stood out.
NDI President Kenneth Wollack (center) and Dr. Chris Fomunyoh (right) meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.
The next year and a half will be a critical period for democracy across Africa. In 2015 and 2016, African countries will hold more than 35 presidential and legislative elections. The outcomes of these elections have the potential to spark a wave of democratic change for the continent. It was within this context that NDI President Ken Wollack traveled to Burkina Faso, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire, accompanied by Dr. Chris Fomunyoh, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa. All three countries will hold elections before the end of the year.
At a constituency dialogue event in Cambodia, a participant displays his electricity bill to show members of the National Assembly how expensive energy is in his village, and asks them for a solution to rising costs. NDI helped organize the constituency dialogue event. (Photo by NDI's Chhiv Kimsrun)
Citizen access and influence in political decision-making can vary across identity groups. NDI programming helps citizens expand civic space and streamline processes to enhance their own political participation, with a cross-cutting priority to support the inclusion of historically marginalized populations. This past month’s resources discussed the need to lower barriers to voter registration for people with disabilities, how to partner with faith-based organizations and religious leaders, and the use of ICTs in women’s empowerment. In August, the Citizen Participation team and the Political Parties team organized a ‘TweetTalk’ on what political parties can do to include youth in the political process.
Leaders from seven major political parties in Honduras, as well as civil society groups, attended a dinner hosted by NDI and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) on August 11, 2015, to discuss how to advance important democracy initiatives in Honduras. The event was the first time the leaders had convened in two years.
Over the past three months, Hondurans have taken to the streets to call attention to corruption and impunity in response to the latest corruption scandal involving the embezzlement of $120 million from the Honduras Social Security Institute. Unrest has been noticeable in Honduras for years, particularly after a 2009 constitutional crisis culminated in a coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from office. Although the 2013 presidential elections helped the office of the president regain a degree of legitimacy, democracy in Honduras continues to face significant challenges. The United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) recently sent missions to the country at the request of the Honduran government to facilitate a national dialogue in order to stabilize the unrest.
A party organizer practices voter canvassing through a door-to-door exercise as part of an NDI political party training on July 29, 2015. Photo credit: Munira Aziz, NDI Afghanistan
Canvassing, an organized system of face-to-face citizen outreach, has long been used by politicians and advocacy groups to encourage constituents to vote, assess the habits and preferences of voters, and gather public opinion data. The time-honored tradition of knocking on doors remains an integral part of campaigns, though new mobile technology is starting to change the way canvassers operate on the ground.
NDI’s Citizen Participation and Political Parties teams hosted an online discussion called a TweetTalk on International Youth Day last week. Participants shared ideas and examples of how political parties can support youth political participation through the hashtag “#YouthParty” on Twitter.
Supporting citizens to enhance their civic voice, expanding space for political participation and improving government accountability are interrelated objectives for NDI programs. Each week, the Citizen Participation team shares a resource with NDI staff that provides innovative perspectives and new research for working towards those objectives. Reflecting the recently announced theme for International Democracy Day 2015, “Space for Civil Society,” this month’s resources contribute to a growing body of literature on how to measure and expand civic space and challenge the outcomes-based approach to policymaking and instead emphasize the importance of inclusive decision-making.