The earth faces unprecedented ecological challenges. Human activity has now pushed the earth beyond four of the nine planetary boundaries first identified in 2009 by Johan Rockström, a recognized expert on natural resource management from Stockholm University. Breaking through one or more of these boundaries, Rockström says, may be catastrophic because it triggers abrupt environmental degradation at a continental or even global scale.
Time to throw up our hands in despair, right? Wrong.
Political parties have a bad reputation in the eyes of many citizens, but they remain the fundamental institutions that represent citizens in democracies. Developing political party capacity has always been -- and shall continue to be -- a key component of NDI’s democracy support work. The Political Party Peer (PPPeer) Network has worked to improve collaboration and dialogue among political party assistance organizations, cultivating a global community of practice.
In most countries, elections, even imperfect ones, provide channels for citizens to influence the political process in profound ways, beyond the act of voting. While casting a ballot allows citizens to express their dissatisfaction with their elected leaders by removing them from office, often enough, the new representatives do not perform much better than their predecessors. Fortunately, voting is only one way that citizens can use elections to influence decisionmaking on public policy and service delivery.
As part of the celebration of International Women’s Day 2015, NDI’s Political Parties and Gender, Women and Democracy teams held a crowdsourcing and networking event on Twitter called a “TweetTalk” to share ideas, best practices and lessons learned when helping to engage more women in political parties.
As the Cold War came to a close, renowned political scientist, professor and author, Francis Fukuyama, proclaimed the end of history. He said humankind had reached the endpoint of its “ideological evolution,” and Western liberal democracy had won out as the “final form of human government." At around the same time, another influential political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington wrote that the world was in the middle of a “third wave” of democratic expansion. But 23 years later, the third democratic wave has hit a wall. According to Larry Diamond, founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, the rapid democratic expansion, which began in the 1970s and continued until 2005, is now in recession.
Late last month, a guest on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show told him: “Wherever we go...there is always something” stopping women from following their dreams. The guest? Not a firebrand feminist, but the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde. Her comments came as the IMF released a new report detailing the positive effect women’s economic empowerment has on our world: in short, when women are able to participate in the economy as equal members of the labor force, life improves for everyone. This may not be shocking new information—at least for those of us interested in the topic—but the report presents much-needed evidence to support its findings.
DemTools are a set of open-source solutions developed by NDI’s Technology for Democracy team (NDItech) to address some of democracy’s most common problems. The tools, which were released in August to NDI partners, the development community and general public, focus on scalability – providing advanced technologies to make their work more effective, while reducing maintenance and sustainability burdens. NDI recently received a renewed National Endowment for Democracy grant for the continued development and expansion of DemTools. In deciding where and how to allocate these funds, we reviewed current features and updated our roadmap for product development and version release timelines. We determined that better support, enhanced multilingual capacity and increased usability were priorities across all of the tools.
Glancing around the room, it seemed that the Feb. 24 event that NDI’s Gender, Women and Democracy (GWD) team put on had a great turnout. About 60 people from the federal government, academic institutions, multilateral organizations and NGOs were present. Despite the impressive attendance, one startling detail caught my attention as everyone took their seats: nearly everyone was a woman – there was one man on the panel and only two male guests in the audience. This, to me, spoke volumes about the state of the movement for women’s empowerment and gender equality.