Four New Resources for Promoting Citizen Participation in Fragile Communities

Citizen election observer explains data collection methods to NDI staff in Monrovia, Liberia.

Each week, NDI’s Citizen Participation team provides a resource to assist NDI staff in meeting the objectives of their programs. This past month’s resources discussed how to encourage greater electoral participation in fragile states, young people’s priorities, the relationship between eliminating extreme poverty and citizen participation and alternative approaches to assisting civic movements. These resources highlight the role that citizen participation and inclusive governance play as drivers of social and political development, particularly when it comes to fragile states and vulnerable communities.

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Hope Emerges in Guatemala as Citizens Call for an End to Corruption

Protesters gather peacefully in Central Plaza in Guatemala City, demanding changes to the political system and the resignation of now ex-President Perez Molina. Credit: Ricardo Marroquin

In recent years, Guatemala has made headlines with bleak statistics illustrating the range of challenges it faces: the country suffers from the fifth highest homicide rate in the world, drug trafficking and narco money have penetrated society, child malnutrition is the worst in the hemisphere, and the state institutions responsible for providing services to Guatemalan citizens are notoriously weak and corrupt. Although those challenges still exist, Guatemala is now stepping back from the brink toward a much brighter future, brought about by citizens demanding more from their elected leaders.

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Four New Resources for Strengthening Citizen Access

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.

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Crowdsourcing Ideas: International Youth Day TweetTalk on Youth and Political Parties

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.

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Four New Resources for Enhancing Civic Space and Inclusion

Photo credit: Mosa'ab Elshamy

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.

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Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show Made Politics Cool Again…and Young People Followed

Parazit co-host Kambiz Hosseini and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart on the set of The Daily Show  (Photo: Kambiz Hosseini).

Though the studio lights have dimmed for the last time on Jon Stewart’s tenure as host of The Daily Show, his brand of political satire -- which aimed to keep leaders accountable, the media honest and youth interested in government -- shines on through its immense success with young audiences at home and abroad. The Daily Show sparked a new era of political satire, a step beyond the traditional editorial cartoon, satirical magazine and occasional political joke on late-night television. In the United States, Stewart’s style of “fake news” revolutionized not only satire in (and of) the media, but how youth engage with politics.

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Whence Popularity? The New Wave of European Populist Parties

Protesters gather in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square as part of the 15-M anti-austerity movement. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A populist wave has crashed down upon the streets of Europe. Populist parties, old and new, left and right, have been dominating headlines in Europe over the past few years. Such parties are often led by charismatic leaders, and they claim to represent the will of the people against the elite or status quo. “The people” they appeal to are often those who feel alienated by European integration -- those who feel threatened by economic reform or lenient immigration policies.

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The Road Forward: Tunisia Provides an Example for Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa

Tunisian citizens protest the rise of the destabilizing trend of regionalism

Nearly five years after protests against former authoritarian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali began in December 2010, Tunisia has adopted a modern constitution and, for the first time, democratically elected a new legislature and president. Tunisia has been lauded as an inspirational -- though not untroubled -- democracy within the Middle East and North Africa region. To ensure the current security concerns and economic difficulties do not encourage undemocratic intervention in the process, it is important that the U.S. government and international community continue to support the new Tunisian government as it makes difficult choices.

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Accessibility in the Digital Space: Making the Internet Open for Everyone

Credit: Kathryn Cyr

Barriers to participation are not always obvious to those without a disability, but something as simple as a wheelchair ramp can ensure a citizen's ability to exercise her right to vote. People with disabilities, who comprise 15 percent of the global population, are often blocked from aspects of public life. Efforts to improve the accessibility of physical spaces, such as polling stations and government buildings, are important, but in an increasingly digital age, it is also critical that people with disabilities are able to access and share information online. On June 16, NDI hosted an internal discussion with Nick Bristow, a lead web accessibility developer for the 18F team within the U.S. Government’s General Services Administration. During his discussion with NDI staff, Nick shared concrete skills on how to plan and design an accessible website, and cultivate organizational awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.

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Four New Resources for Developing Politically Smart Programs

Credit: istockphoto.com/zodebala

The strength of democracy not only varies vastly across countries and regions but can also change rapidly. NDI operates successfully in these changing environments in part by leveraging available knowledge to implement the most innovative and relevant programmatic approaches. As practitioners and researchers develop new theories and techniques to guide international development, NDI’s Citizen Participation team shares these publications with Institute staff. The resources shared last month demonstrate approaches to strengthening democracy through fighting corruption, thinking and working politically, improving service delivery and increasing fiscal transparency.

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