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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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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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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NDI Changemaker: Through the Barbed-Wire Fence Toward Democracy

I grew up in the capital of what is now Slovakia, right on the river that borders Austria. I remember being near this very river, peering over to see what was on the other side. A barbed-wire fence sat between the two countries, a literal and figurative separation between democracy and the “Iron Curtain” that laid itself across Central and Eastern Europe at the time. The presence of the fence is something that I have since held in my mind; it was and continues to be a part of my daily reality - something continuously propelling me toward democracy.

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Democracy 101: What is democracy? (not a rhetorical question)

“Our democracy is dead.”

I’ve heard this phrase uttered all across the world after the passage of a restrictive voter law, the closure of an independent news outlet or the results of a questionable election. Friends and acquaintances over the years have lamented: Because of x, my country is no longer a democracy.

Is it not? Was it ever?

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Supporting Nepal’s Post-Conflict Transition from the Bottom-Up

A political party participant casts his vote during a mock election exercise on April 25, 2017 in Nepal. Through mock elections, candidates familiarized themselves with the voting process in order to conduct more effective voter outreach.

Since the end of its brutal decade-long civil war in 2006, Nepal has undergone a rocky, but peaceful democratic transition. The country has transitioned through the dissolution of its monarchy, the restoration of parliament, a devastating earthquake, the adoption of a new constitution, and the establishment of a federal republic. However, persistent poverty, the geographic isolation of many villages, and the marginalization of certain ethnic communities pose severe challenges to the nation’s economic and political development. Since the adoption of a new constitution in September 2015, significant progress has been made to improve government effectiveness, increase social inclusion and cohesion, and increase the responsiveness of the country’s representative institutions such as parliament and its political parties. Through on-the-ground engagement at each step in this time of change, NDI has worked to ensure that Nepali democracy reflects what matters to citizens, most recently in the country’s watershed local elections.

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Myanmar MPs Strategize on Consensus and Ethics Reform

How to get to YES: a venn-diagram can be a useful tool to formulate areas of agreement among opposing sides during intense negotiations.

Ending ethnic conflict, opening up the economy, creating jobs and adopting constitutional reform are very large tasks looming in Burma’s future. Building consensus with minority parties also will be critical for the big changes that the Burmese must enact. But it would be a mistake to bet against a country of such beauty and tremendous natural resources, which welcomes you with a warm mingalaba (how are you doing!) greeting in each encounter.

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Lebanese Youth Leaders Unite to Advocate for Reform

A young Lebanese activist participates in a discussion during the Youth Activism Academy

 

Youth in Lebanon have not had much opportunity to learn about democracy or how they can be involved in democratic governance. NDI conducted a survey in April 2017 suggesting nearly one-third of the electorate has never voted in parliamentary elections—not because they do not want to, but because parliamentary elections have not been held in the eight years since they became eligible to vote. Yet, despite the challenges they face, many young Lebanese men and women are highly motivated to act to improve their living conditions and basic rights.

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Naija Women on the Rise: Making Every Voice Count

2017 Andi Parhamovich Fellow, Ashley Dauda, with NDI Chairman and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright at NDI's annual MKA Luncheon.

I recently attended a conference on ‘the Political Economy of Gender and Women’s Empowerment in Africa,’ organized by the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University. Gretchen Bauer, a Professor of Political Science and International Relations from the University of Delaware, held a presentation on the global ranking of women’s representation in national parliaments.  As Bauer passed through the slides of her presentation, I didn’t bother to look for Nigeria since I already knew where we stood on the list globally:  181 out of 191—the lowest in Africa.

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