Tunisia’s Democratic Transition Through the Lense of Four Prominent Advocates

This year, at its annual Democracy Award Dinner to be held on Tuesday, November 10, in Washington, D.C., NDI will honor Tunisia’s democratic transition through the lense of four Tunisians who represent its government, parliament and civil society. The Democracy Award, NDI’s highest honor, is presented annually to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to democracy and human rights.

Tunisians Yassine Brahim, Rafik Halouani, Wafa Makhlouf and Sayida Ounissi have been, among others, at the forefront of efforts to advance the democratic transition in their country, reflecting a new generation of democratic leaders. It is leaders from civil society, political parties and government, like those honored with this year’s Democracy Award, who are turning the promise of the Tunisian revolution into real improvement in the daily lives of citizens and make democracy succeed.

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Conflict Transformers: How theater is helping heal ethnic tensions 16 years after war in Kosovo

An interethnic group of actors trained by NDI in conflict transformation shares war stories from audience members at a Playback Theater performance in Prizren, Kosovo. Credit: Arta Qorri

A young Kosovar Serbian actress sinks to her knees and, stricken with grief, expresses her longing for an uncle who is still “missing” 16 years after Kosovo’s ethnic conflict ended in 1999. The Kosovar Albanian man sitting to her left on stage watches mesmerized. It is his story that the actress is telling, and though he is unable to understand her words, spoken in Serbian, he tells the audience after the performance that she has captured the essence of his grief and pain. Through theater, the actors are retelling the history of violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo in a new way that encourages empathy and healing. At the end of the evening, which is full of audience stories re-enacted, another audience member stands up and asks the interethnic theater group in front of her, “Where have you been for the last 16 years?”

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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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A Look Back at our International Democracy Day Tweettalk

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.

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Interview: Doctor Gianfranco Pasquino Reflects on Democracy in Latin America

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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.

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Creating Space for Civil Society Through Technology and Open Data

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.

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Five Photos That Uncover the Meaning of Democracy

Credit: Marie-Ève Bilodeau

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.

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NDI President Visit to West Africa Highlights Three Important Elections

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.

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Building Consensus to Move Democratic Initiatives in Honduras Forward

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.

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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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