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National Endowment for Democracy News and Information Summer 2002 Newsletter
Inside This Issue
Civic Education Gaining Popularity in Northern Iraq
The Badlisy Cultural Center (BCC), a nongovernmental organization based in Northern Iraq, which focuses on promoting human rights and civic education, is a bit surprised at the success of its own innovative programs.
BCC uses cultural tools like plays to convey lessons about human rights to a wide array of Iraqi citizens, including children, teachers, clergy and government officials. BCC has also used art exhibitions, teacher trainings, human rights curriculum development, and human rights training for Imams to raise public awareness about human rights, especially the rights of women and children, and to create a public forum for debate of these issues. Participants in BCC activities have responded very positively - and there is increasing demand for BCC programs within parts of Northern Iraq. "We never anticipated such an overwhelming response both from the general public and officials in welcoming our initiatives," says BCC's executive director, Bukhtiyar Abdullah. "Other groups now are coming to us to learn from our experience."
BCC was founded in 2000 by Dr Salah Aziz, an Iraqi Kurd with extensive contacts in the region, which includes the Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Dahok and Sulaymania and is home to more than 3 million Iraqis. Ms. Amina Mahmud, a human rights activist, lawyer and member of the Bar Association in Kurdistan, was the BCC's first project director, and together with Aziz, they attracted the participation of many young University graduates and lawyers. The group received its first grant from NED in 2001.
One of the innovative methods used by BCC is writing and staging plays. "The Happiness Forest," performed in 53 schools in the Sulaymania province reached about 12,000 students and 500 teachers. The play teaches children the importance of tolerance, and its central message is that every child has a right to happiness. The opening show was attended by the local minister of education, the local governor and heads of many educational organizations. BCC's second play, "Women Wedged in Rocks," focused on discrimination against women and advocated equal rights. The opening show attracted wide media coverage and premiered to an audience of more than 1,300 in three cities. Combined with an art exhibit, the play was preceded by speeches from heads of local women NGOs, officials and other dignitaries.
In other activities, a team of experts from BCC developed a course on teaching human rights for teachers at primary and middle schools. The team also visited 20 schools and trained more than 300 teachers, mainly in Sulaymania, on how to teach the basic principles of human rights.
Working with a team of Islamic scholars BCC also developed a detailed curriculum for teaching human rights from an Islamic perspective, and then carried out a two-week human rights course for 24 Imams. The course material included the foundation of human and civil rights in Islam, the legitimacy of the modern state, morality in politics, property rights in Islam and the legitimacy of the social contract. To reach a broader audience, BCC also offered 24 two-hour sessions, which were held over a 12-day period and attended by 24 imams. Feedback from the participants in these programs indicated a high degree of satisfaction and continuing demand for the course.
While enormous challenges remain for all those working for a democratic Iraq, the success of BCC and its programs is notable in a country dominated for more than 30 years by a brutal dictatorship. "In a region characterized by pessimism and negative expectations, this is a positive story," says NED's Senior Program Officer for the Middle East and Northern Africa, Laith Kubba.
"That this is happening in Iraq," he says, "demonstrates that with some help, people can emerge out of a culture of violence to build a democracy."
Laura Bush Presents 2002 Democracy Award to Muslim Women Activists
Four inspiring women activists from predominantly Muslim countries received the National Endowment for Democracy's 2002 Democracy Award at a Capitol Hill reception on July 9. First Lady Laura Bush presented the awards and was joined by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and NED Chairman Vin Weber, all of whom made remarks at the event, which was attended by more than 300 guests.
The four awardees, Mehrangiz Kar of Iran, Muborak Tashpoulatova of Uzbekistan, Nadjet Bouda of Algeria, and Mariam Hussein Mohamed of Somalia, share common goals - to educate and empower citizens to know and protect their rights and to demand accountability from their governments. The circumstances, in which they work, however, represent the broad diversity of challenges that confront those working for democracy in the Muslim world. In heartfelt and often moving remarks, each of the activists spoke of the power of democracy to transform societies and improve the lives of their fellow citizens, whether in theocratic and repressive Iran, war-torn Somalia and Algeria, or the postcommunist, authoritarian country of Uzbekistan.
According to UNDP's Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, "the central message of this report is a simple one: to promote human development successfully we need to put the politics back into poverty eradication. That means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice and access to strong, transparent institutions capable of providing them with the kind of personal security accessible to justice, and services from health to education they so desperately need."
In other words, the best way for societies to guarantee their citizens economic security is to make sure that they get their political institutions in order. For the international community, this means helping these countries tackle what Êthe UNDP report terms "the global democracy deficit," something we at NED have been doing since our inception.
Here are some (not so dry) statistics highlighted in the report: In 1980, only 54 countries with 46% of the world's population, had some or all of the elements of formal democracy. By 2000, those numbers had risen to 121 and 68%. Encouraging? Yes, but these facts do not by any means tell the whole story, since of the 81 countries taking steps during that period to democratize, only 47 can be considered "functioning" democracies that guarantee civil and political rights, a free press, and broad political participation.
The report rightly places a strong emphasis on accountability, the means by which ordinary citizens have not only a say in official decisions but also the right to hold their leaders to account. Sadly, the mechanisms of accountability are often inadequate in new and developing democracies, whether because of weak political parties, Êpoorly organized governing institutions, or outright corruption by those in charge.
There are, to be sure, encouraging signs, not least the fact that the United Nations has placed itself firmly behind those who, like us, Êhave long argued that there is an inevitable link between democracy and development. Ê(It is hoped that the agency's practice of working directly with governments will not diminish its effectiveness, having committed itself to spending 60% of its aid budget this year on what it calls "good governance.") The report clearly repudiates the contention that democracy is simply a western value that is irrelevant to the needs of ordinary people.
In the words of Mark Malloch Brown, "these are now yesterday's debates."
Fellows Describe Discouraging Struggle for Democracy in West Africa
The three speakers, Charlie Hughes of Sierra Leone, Benedict Sannoh of Liberia and Ndubisi Obiorah of Nigeria, are all activists-in-residence at the IFDS's Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program, which provides the opportunity for democracy activists, practitioners, scholars and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change. They were joined on the panel by a commentator, Professor Richard Joseph of Emory University, a leading scholar of democracy, state-building and constitutionalism in Africa.
Charlie Hughes is the director and driving force behind the NED-supported Forum for Democratic Initiatives in Sierra Leone and is using his fellowship to research civic education initiatives in the United States, which can be applied in Sierra Leone. He is also working closely with NED staff to survey NED-funded projects in civic education worldwide.
Hughes told the symposium audience that "Sierra Leone's report card today is a tragic betrayal of her people's hope. Today, the country is officially certified by the United Nations as the poorest in the world."
Benedict Sannoh is a human rights attorney. He is founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Human Rights Education in Monrovia and assistant professor of law at the University of Liberia. As a Reagan-Fascell Fellow he is examining the problems and prospects of democratization in Liberia in the aftermath of the civil war and the elections of 1997.
Sannoh described the enormous challenges facing those working for peace and political change in Liberia, and had particularly sharp criticism for Liberia's opposition parties, whom he chided for deserting the country at a critical time. "Even as I speak," Sannoh said, "a good number of political leaders are here in the United States, and we are talking of elections less than 18 months away."
Ndubisi Obiorah is a Nigerian human rights lawyer who has worked for HURILAWS, the Human Rights Law Service in Lagos. Currently a student at Harvard Law School, he is using his fellowship to research the impact of corruption on human rights and democratic development in Nigeria and is examining the legislative and enforcement mechanisms developed in the United States.
Hughes, Obiorah and Sannoh agreed that their countries' common enemy is "a circle of corrupt, incompetent and generally brutal military regimes, interspersed with corrupt incompetent civilian governments," as Obiorah put it. This has retarded political and economic development, and frustrated efforts by civil society to develop viable institutions to promote democracy and human rights.
Marc Plattner, co-director of the IFDS and moderator of the symposium, held up the three panelists as a glimmer of hope, noting that despite the discouraging realities in West Africa, "courageous African democrats keep fighting to fulfill the desire to live in peace and freedom."
World Movement for Democracy To Meet in South Africa
The theme of the Assembly, which will take place at the International Convention Centre in Durban, will be "Building Democracy for Peace, Development, and Human Rights." South African President Thabo Mbeki has been invited to speak at the opening session. Organizers are expecting more than 500 participants.
Launched in 1999, the World Movement is a global network of democracy activists, scholars and practitioners from around the world that meets periodically to exchange ideas and experiences and uses new information and communication technologies to foster collaboration among democratic forces. The World Movement is governed by an International Steering Committee, and the Washington, DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) currently serves as its secretariat.
"The unique aspect of World Movement assemblies is that we focus on the practical needs of grassroots democrats," said World Movement Steering Committee member Mahnaz Afkhami of Iran (in exile). "By sharing experiences in their efforts to advance democracy, participants in the World Movement educate each other about effective strategies and 'best practices.' Given their day-to-day work on behalf of democracy and human rights, they are the experts." Afkhami is president of the Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace.
Christopher Landsberg, also a member of the Steering Committee and co-director of the Centre for Africa's International Relations at Wits University in Johannesburg, commented on the choice of South Africa as the host of the Third Assembly. "South Africa is a fitting place," he said. "In this country, you have both the striking achievements of a recent transition to democracy as well as the continuing challenges that both new and long-established democracies face."
Three South African organizations -- the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) -- will serve as local partner organizations.
The Third Assembly will be composed mainly of workshops -- topical, regional, and functional -- to maximize participation and to produce practical recommendations and initiatives. Topical workshops will address the myriad challenges democrats confront worldwide, including developing viable political parties, ensuring free and fair elections, securing workers' rights, combating corruption, instituting economic reforms, increasing women's equal participation in politics, and reducing or eliminating racism and ethnic and religious violence. Regional workshops will be organized by networks that emerged from the Second Assembly, such as the Africa Democracy Forum and the Citizens Network for Democracy in the Americas. Other networks, such as the Democracy Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Group and the Network of Democracy Research Institutes, will organize functional workshops to initiate and strengthen global networking in particular areas of democracy work.
The Assembly will also feature a "Democracy Fair" with an exhibition area, a computer training lab, a video screening room, and a "Town Hall," in which participants can educate each other about specific causes and generate support for them.
The Third Assembly will conclude, appropriately, on South Africa's Freedom Day, which commemorates the first democratic elections in 1994, ending the Apartheid regime.
For more information about the Third Assembly, please visit http://www.wmd.org/third_assembly/index.html. Information about the World Movement for Democracy is available at: www.wmd.org.
Jan Nowak Honored by NED with Democracy Service Medal
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) awarded its Democracy Service Medal to Jan Nowak, a Polish-American patriot who served both Poland and the United States as a messenger of freedom for more than half a century. Nowak, 89, returned home to Poland in July after living and working in the US since 1976.
"As Jan makes his final preparations to return to Poland," NED President Carl Gershman said at the July 11 ceremony, "the National Endowment for Democracy is honored to pay tribute to a lifetime of outstanding work."
Novak's life story is truly that of a Polish hero who started out resisting Nazi occupation of Poland, and who has never relented in his tireless advocacy for his homeland.
Novak's career started when he served as a daring courier of messages between the Polish underground movement in Warsaw and the government in exile in London during the Second World War. After working as a radio operator with the Polish underground and a broadcaster with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Nowak was recruited by the United States in the early 1950s to launch the Polish service of Radio Free Europe (RFE), which ended Soviet media domination and frustrated the efforts of the USSR to isolate Poland and other countries under Communism from the outside world.
Nowak directed RFE's Polish service for 25 years before retiring and coming to the United States, where he immediately got involved in other American efforts to support the Polish people during the Cold War. In the early 1980's Nowak helped to mobilize support for NED because he viewed the Endowment, with its assistance to the Solidarity trade union, Polish political prisoners and democratic intellectuals, as a critical player in the struggle to bring democracy to Poland and the other countries of the Soviet Bloc. Since Poland's successful democratic transition, Nowak has been tireless in pressing for every measure that would enhance Poland's democratic institutions and political security, from the admission to NATO to the creation of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
Accepting the award, Nowak responded: "I am absolutely overwhelmed by all these generous presentations, by this recognition of what I could achieve with your help. The very people who did speak today are the people without whom I could not have made some kind of a contribution to freedom and democracy.
"I came here late in my life. I was 63; I did not have great resources; I did not have many contacts. But within one year, thanks to the kind of support that I got, I could get access to people in position who could help me. And I do not think that could happen in any part of the world but the United States."
Highlights of Recent NED Grants
Gender Center for Research Training (GCRT)
The GCRT will prepare a training manual on gender issues and democracy, and organize three five-day workshops on gender and politics to train 25-30 of Sudan's women political leaders and civil society activists on political participation. The Center will conduct two additional seminars focusing on key issues regarding women and democracy in Sudan, and organize a dialogue between women political leaders and invited male political and civil society leaders.
Badlisy Cultural Center (BCC)
The BCC will organize a human rights campaign in northern Iraq consisting of 13 training workshops for teachers, 13 training workshops for Imams at local mosques, and sponsor two theater plays about human rights. In addition, BCC will hold monthly meetings with youth and civic organizations and produce and distribute a 16-page monthly, Arabic and Kurdish-language newsletter, which will promote civic initiatives and voluntary work.
Center for Civic Initiatives (CCI)
CCI will monitor Bosnia-Herzegovina's October 2002 nationwide elections in cooperation with a coalition of 200 NGOs from both the Serb Republic and the Federation. These elections will be the first to be entirely organized and managed by Bosnian institutions. CCI and its regional coalition partners will recruit and train 200 mobile monitors who will be responsible for the recruitment, training, and deployment of 5,400 volunteer observers to monitor approximately 2,600 polling stations throughout the country.
GOLOS NGO Coalition
GOLOS NGO Coalition will work with affiliates in 15 regions of Russia to increase public awareness of the activities of local governments and to stimulate greater citizen involvement in the policy-making processes.
The Coalition will analyze roll-call votes from the regional legislature, poll deputies, monitor deputies' public offices and attendance at parliamentary committee meetings, and track the final outcome of legislation.
The monitoring results will be printed and distributed among the voters of the 15 regions.
Pontificía Universidad Católica del Ecuador (Catholic University)
As the military becomes increasingly more involved in political parties, Catholic University will increase civilian capacity to manage and oversee security and defense policy by developing the expertise of civilians on issues of security and defense, providing advice and analysis to congress and political parties on defense policy and administration, and hosting a series of civil-military dialogues.
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