The Devastating Humanitarian Toll of Corruption: The Declaration of Human Rights Reaches 70

By Frank Vogl

Corruption – the abuse of public office for private gain – rages across most countries and for every crime of corruption there is a victim – now the number of victims is multiplying.

This should not have been the case – following World War Two we were promised a better world. After the suffering of tens of millions of people in two world wars, the leaders of the new United Nations felt compelled on December 10, 1948, to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the most important public statement made in my lifetime. It is an aspirational document that calls on the governments of all to do good.

As we approach the 70thanniversary of that U.N. action we need to be still bolder in recognizing that Its objectives have been insufficiently attained. Yes, more people have been lifted out of poverty in these last 70 years than in all of history. Yes, more people in more countries than ever before participate in elections, enjoy freedom of speech and assembly. And, it is also true that more people currently enjoy greater wealth than could previously have been imagined. Continue reading “The Devastating Humanitarian Toll of Corruption: The Declaration of Human Rights Reaches 70”

Observe D.C. – Applying International Election Oversight Mechanisms in the United States

By Ben Mindes

Election administration in America is governed not by one singular body, as is typical in almost every country around the world, but by nearly 10,000 local jurisdictions, each with their own rules and regulations. Local elections are often underfunded and rely on volunteer poll workers who often receive minimal training on complex election procedures. Assessments of electoral administration quality are largely based off election administrators themselves or anecdotal observation efforts.

Therefore, when allegations of election fraud surfaced in the aftermath of the recent special elections in Alabama, the only recourse available to determine whether such claims were justified was to ask the administrators themselves.

Continue reading “Observe D.C. – Applying International Election Oversight Mechanisms in the United States”

Can Bad Leaders Change?

Mahathir Mohamad, George Wallace, and the 2018 Malaysian election.

Pictured: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (center), the once-and-future Malaysian Prime Minister greets protestors at an anti-corruption rally in 2016. Photo credit: Reuters.

By Grayson Lewis

Almost no one predicted the 2018 Malaysian election to turn out the way it did. Before the polls closed on the evening of May 9th, the nation’s quasi-authoritarian hybrid regime was ready to almost reflexively claim another victory for its conservative, Malay-chauvinistmandate. This dominant alliance of ethnically-based political parties that had governed the Southeast Asian nation for three generations kept its vice grip on power through some of the most effective methods available: patronage, bribery, media control, and even occasional violence. Much like Mexico in 2000, many knew that the incumbent regime was in for the toughest election it had yet faced, yet practically every clear-eyed observer was sure that the government would weather the storm as it always had done. When it became evident in the early hours of May 10th that the old order had crumbled at the ballot-box overnight, hardly anyone in Malaysia, not the government, the newly elected opposition, or any citizen who had cast a vote truly fathomed the extent of the democratic revolution they had suddenly witnessed in a mere 24 hours. Continue reading “Can Bad Leaders Change?”

Defeating Competitive Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe with Democratic Elections

By Kwadwo A. Boateng

African states have been struggling to democratize for decades, and Zimbabwe was no exception. Only a quarter of African states in 2012 have democratized, while 43% were autocracy, and the rest were hybrid regimes. Among multiple underlying reasons for failure to democratize was the absence of free and fair election, which reflects the principle of democracy by allowing legitimate transfer of authority and regime change. However, Zimbabwe has not seen transfer of power for more than thirty years – allowing competitive authoritarianism to thrive – due to the manipulation of election that imposed great obstacles to conducting a democratic election. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new President, must understand this fundamental aspect of democratic society, and thereby, end his predecessor’s competitive authoritarianism and political violence.

Continue reading “Defeating Competitive Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe with Democratic Elections”

A New ‘Step’ in Armenia: A Cause for Hope or Concern?

Photo: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan leads “Take a Step, Reject Serzh” campaign. (Photo by Yerevantsi via Wikimedia)

By Aleksandra Zaytseva

A day before “Victory Day”, on May 8th, former newspaper editor, MP, and political prisoner, Nikol Pashinyan, was elected interim Prime Minister of Armenia, 59-to-42, in a historic exchange of power. This peaceful cessation of power by those who sought to keep it indefinitely, especially in a former Soviet republic, is undeniably an event to be celebrated. “Your victory is not that I was elected Prime Minister; your victory is that you decided who should be Prime Minister,” Pashinyan said. It is widely lauded as a new velvet revolution with many public figures sending public congratulations. Yet, many Eurasia watchers are uneasy. Continue reading “A New ‘Step’ in Armenia: A Cause for Hope or Concern?”

The Swamp of Taiwan’s Transitional Justice

By Yufei Zhang.

A Bill Facing Polarization

On December 5th, 2017, Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill of transitional justice, which is following a set of similar policies issued by the governing party—DPP. According to the law, a powerful committee, under the Premier, will be established to investigate thoroughly and, then, re-evaluate Taiwan’s authoritarian past, which covers the end of WWII to the early 1990s. The committee’s primary and controversial missions include opening private archives, re-naming hundreds of streets and institutions after authoritarian figures, and acquiring assets owned by the once-ruling party in the authoritarian period, which, nowadays, is the main opposition party—KMT.

Continue reading “The Swamp of Taiwan’s Transitional Justice”

Civil Society’s Hidden Threat

Monica O’Hearn

Overall, 2017 was a poor year for safeguarding the rights of civil society organizations (CSOs). Several countries passed draconian legislation designed to attack and stifle civil society by delegitimizing CSOs.Restrictions on civil society, which represents the collective interests of citizens, ultimately leads to a poor enabling environment for citizen engagement, one where the linkages between civil society and the State are weak and provide little or no monitoring and advocacy functions.

In June, Hungary’s parliament passed a law that required organizations receiving more than 24,000 euros ($29,500) from foreign sources to disclose their funding sources or risk being shut down. Between March and July, Ukraine proposed a number of reformsspearheaded by President Petro Poroshenko, demanding any organization with annual budgets over approximately $18,500 to disclose its funding sources online; the rationale for the reforms was “to ensure public transparency of the financing.” And in Egypt, President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi ratified legislation in May required pre-approval of donations above 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($550) to any non-governmental organization (NGO), and restricted donations related to “political activity.”

Continue reading “Civil Society’s Hidden Threat”

The Renewal of South African Democracy

Photo: South African President Cyril Ramophosa (L) shakes former President Jacob Zuma’s (R) hand at a farewell reception for President Zuma. Photo credit: South African Government

By Kwadwo A. Boateng

Jacob Zuma’s presidency has ended, leaving behind a devastated economy. South Africans are eager to have a transparent government, and anti-corruption reform. The country now has a new president – Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office as interim president just six hours after a National Assembly vote saw Zuma resign under 783 counts of corruption. The country’s new leadership must adopt an effective policy of anti-corruption. Furthermore, it must pursue state-led reform, which starts with restraining executive control and empowering civil society, including black South Africans who face high levels of wealth inequality. Continue reading “The Renewal of South African Democracy”

The Polls Just Closed in Sierra Leone. Here’s What You Need to Know.

By Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Ph.D.

Today, Sierra Leoneans headed to the polls for the fifth time since the country returned to multiparty elections in the 1990s.  The incumbent, Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People’s Congress (APC) is constitutionally barred from running for a third term, so one way or another the country is about to get a new president.

Continue reading “The Polls Just Closed in Sierra Leone. Here’s What You Need to Know.”

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