4th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy
On April 2–5, the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) convened its Fourth Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey. The theme was “Advancing Democracy: Justice, Pluralism, and Participation,” and it brought together nearly 600 democracy activists, practitioners, trade unionists, scholars, policy makers, and others engaged in promoting democracy around the world.
In more than 50 workshops, participants discussed challenges faced by democrats across countries and regions, such as preparing for democratic breakthroughs and the challenges of consolidation; reconciling the universality of democratic principles and different cultural contexts; addressing the linkages between democracy and human development; confronting the challenges of terrorism and antiterrorism; ensuring the democratic inclusion of women and marginalized populations; and defining the advantages and disadvantages of populism and nationalism. Functional workshops enabled participants from all regions to develop strategies for networking and solidarity. Regional workshops allowed those from different areas of democracy work—including political parties, labor organizations, and NGOs—to focus on regional challenges and needs. Participants also attended a variety of skills-sharing and capacity-building workshops, as well as a Democracy Fair.
The Assembly opened with an address by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo¢gan, followed by presentations by Kim Campbell, secretary-general of the Club of Madrid, and Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia. Welcoming speakers also included Ayo Obe, chair of the WMD Steering Committee; Can Paker, chair of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV); and Murat Belge, of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, Turkey (HCA). TESEV and HCA served as local-partner organizations. [End Page 186]
A highlight of the event was the presentation of the World Move-ment’s Democracy Courage Tributes at the John B. Hurford memorial dinner. The Tributes draw attention to groups working in difficult circumstances, often without much recognition. Recipients were democracy activists in Vietnam, especially recognizing Hoang Minh Chinh and Thich Quang Do; the human rights and democracy movement in Uzbekistan; Nepal’s civil society; and the Crimean Tatars and their Mejlis (parliament), especially recognizing Mustafa Djemilev.
Founded in 1999 to “strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even where it is longstanding, and to bolster prodemocracy groups in countries that have not yet entered a process of democratic transition,” the WMD is a global network that meets periodically to exchange ideas and experiences. It encourages the use of new information and communication technologies to foster collaboration among democratic forces.
A published report on the Assembly, including reports from the individual workshops, will be available later this year. For more information, visit www.wmd.org.
Iranian Scholar Detained
Ramin Jahanbegloo, an internationally known Iranian-Canadian intellectual and human rights advocate, was arrested on or around April 27 at the Tehran Airport on his way to attend a conference in Brussels. Jahanbegloo is reportedly being held in the notorious Evin prison, where many political prisoners have reported being tortured. Reasons for Ramin Jahanbegloo’s arrest are still unclear. There has been an outcry in the international community against his arrest. Until his arrest, Jahanbegloo headed the Department of Contemporary Studies at the Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University and the University of Toronto, and in 2001–2 he was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies.
Kyrgyz Activist Assaulted
Prominent civil society activist Edil Baisalov was seriously assaulted near his office in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on April 12. Baisalov, leader of the For Democracy and Civil Society Coalition, has been a vocal critic of the growing power of organized crime and its penetration of state institutions since the March 2005 Tulip Revolution. Baisalov had recently returned from the WMD’s Fourth Assembly.
30th Anniversary Celebration of the Moscow Helsinki Group
On May 12, the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) celebrated its 30th anniversary in Moscow. The celebration included presentations by Yuri Orlov, the MHG’s founder; Ella Pamfilova, chair of the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council; and Yuri Dzhibladze, director [End Page 187] of the Center for Development of Democracy and Human Rights. Founded on 12 May 1976 to promote the Soviet Union’s implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the MHG is Russia’s oldest human rights organization.
Robert Putnam Awarded Skytte Prize
The Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University, Sweden, has awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for 2006 to Robert Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, for his path-breaking research on social capital. The award includes a US$50,000 prize. One of Putnam’s most cited articles is “Bowling Alone,” which first appeared in the Journal of Democracy in January 1995 and concerns the decline of U.S. social capital. The Skytte Prize will be awarded in Uppsala on 30 September.
Conference on Populism in Europe
On May 10–11, the Centre for Liberal Strategies and the Open Society Institute hosted a conference entitled “The Challenge of the New Populism” in Sofia, Bulgaria. The conference focused on the rise of a new populism and its effects on democracy. Participants included Ivan Krastev, Bulgaria’s Centre for Liberal Strategies; Alexander Smolar, Stefan Batory Foundation, Warsaw; Gerald Knaus, European Stability Initiative, Istanbul; and Maria Lipman, Carnegie Moscow Center.
CSID 7th Annual Conference
On May 5, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy held its 7th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, titled “Improving Understanding: Supporting Muslims in Their Own Vision for Democracy,” featured addresses by Saad Eddine Othmani, secretary-general of the Party of Justice and Development in Morocco; Ambassador Randall Tobias, director of U.S. foreign assistance and USAID administrator; Asma Afsaruddin, University of Notre Dame; and Laith Kubba, NED’s director of Middle East and North Africa programs.
Conference on North Korea
On May 9–11, the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) and the Rafto Human Rights House held the 7th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees. The conference, entitled “North Korea: New Approaches,” brought together human rights activists, NGOs, and others to discuss strategies for improving the situation in the country. Speakers included Carl Gershman, president of NED; Monica Mæland, chief commissioner of Bergen, Norway; Kjell Bondevik, president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights; Vitit Muntarbhorn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in North Korea; [End Page 188] and Professor Sung Wook Nam, from Korea University’s Department of North Korean Studies.
Due to an editorial oversight, Leila Alieva’s essay “Azerbaijan’s Frustrating Elections” (April 2006) mistakenly cited Sabit Baghirov as calculating that Azerbaijan’s oil revenues were “set to skyrocket perhaps as high as US$170 billion per year by 2024″ (p. 149, emphasis added). The passage should have said that Azerbaijan’s total oil income accumulated across the entire period from 2005 to 2024 may reach US$170 billion. The Journal of Democracy regrets the error.
Report on NED’s International Forum
On April 25, the International Forum sponsored a discussion of “The Assault on Democracy Assistance,” an article by Carl Gershman and Michel Allen in the April 2006 Journal of Democracy. Moderated by Journal coeditor Marc F. Plattner, the event featured a presentation by Gershman, along with comments by Barry Lowenkron, U.S. assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, and Michel McFaul, professor at Stanford University. An audience of 150 people attended the meeting, which was held at SAIS and included opening remarks by Francis Fukuyama.
Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition, a new book edited by Andreas Schedler, has been published by Lynne Rienner. The volume is based on an April 2004 conference in Mexico City cosponsored by the International Forum and CIDE (the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas).
The Forum hosted a number of luncheon lectures featuring Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows:
On April 27, Togolese fellow Dany Komla Ayida, program officer at NDI–Burkina Faso and veteran democratic activist in Togo, gave a presentation entitled “Toward a Democratic Transition in Togo.” On May 11, Hossein Bashiriyeh, associate professor of political science at the University of Tehran, spoke on “The Agonies of Political Transition in Iran.” Miria Matembe, a women’s rights activist and a former minister of ethics and integrity in Uganda, gave a presentation on May 16 entitled “Participating in Vain: The Betrayal of Women’s Rights in Uganda.” Former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Anne Mugisha commented on the presentation.
In a May 18 roundtable entitled “Strengthening Civil Society in Burma,” Judy Thein, a former political specialist at the U.S. embassy in Rangoon, discussed the political situation in Burma. The commentator was Brian Joseph, NED director of South Asia programs. On May 25, Aasiya Riaz, joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, gave a presentation entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Pakistan: The Role of Research Institutes.” Michael McFaul commented.