Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Missing Pieces: South Africa’s Struggles, India’s Struggles, and More

by Isobel Coleman Monday, October 29, 2012
Children play in the dump as the Lonmin mine is seen in the background in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 21, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). Children play in the dump as the Lonmin mine is seen in the background in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 21, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow highlights developments in Africa and Asia in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

  • South Africa’s Struggles: As South Africa’s labor unrest finally seems to abate, two Economist articles (here and here) survey the country’s unsettling scene. “After 18 years of full democracy,” the magazine says, “South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world.” A leading culprit is education. Despite healthy spending, outcomes lag: just 15 percent of 12-year-olds reach minimum proficiency in language, and 12 percent do so in math. Unemployment is officially 25 percent—but 29 percent for blacks against 6 percent for whites. The Economist says that “economic malaise and the chronic failure of government services are an indictment of South Africa’s politicians.” Many view positions with the African National Congress (ANC) as “a ticket for the gravy train.” Officials, generally elected on party-controlled lists, “have little incentive to provide for their voters.” Despite these failings, the magazine reports, the ANC’s dominance is not yet in doubt. Progress might not come until it is. Read more »

Female Leaders in North Africa

by Isobel Coleman Friday, October 26, 2012
Moroccans attend a women's rights rally while holding placards reading "Stop abusing girls" in Rabat on February 20, 2012 (Youssef Boudlal/Courtesy Reuters). Moroccans attend a women's rights rally while holding placards reading "Stop abusing girls" in Rabat on February 20, 2012 (Youssef Boudlal/Courtesy Reuters).

Women have played an important role in spurring reform throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But as elections take place and constitutions are drafted, their rights are at risk of being sidelined.

This morning, I had the opportunity to host at the Council on Foreign Relations (audio available) two civil society leaders who are working to ensure that women’s rights have a central place in the new Middle East: Marianne Ibrahim from Egypt and Souad Slaoui from Morocco. They discussed initiatives in their home countries to empower women and girls, improve interfaith dialogues, and encourage positive policy changes to support human rights and international development. Read more »

Food Insecurity and the Future of the Sahel

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, October 25, 2012
Malians who fled unrest in the rebel-held northeastern cities of Gao and Timbuktu arrive by bus in Mali's capital, Bamako, on April 11, 2012 (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters). Malians who fled unrest in the rebel-held northeastern cities of Gao and Timbuktu arrive by bus in Mali's capital, Bamako, on April 11, 2012 (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters).

The countries of the Sahel, a semi-arid region of Africa that stretches across the continent below the Sahara desert, rank among the lowest on the Human Development Index and measures of GDP per capita. For more than a year, experts have been warning about mass starvation in the region as an enduring drought and various wars take their toll. But now, finally, some good news: a large humanitarian response to the crisis has helped avoid a disaster. Factors contributing to this success include affected countries’ openness about their food insecurity and effective early interventions to avert the impending crisis. Moreover, greater-than-expected rainfall has mitigated the drought and prevented the worst predictions about crop failure from coming true. Crop yields in some areas should be strong in coming months. Read more »

Tunisia’s Transition Continues

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Supporters of the ruling Al Nahda party shout slogans during celebrations on the first anniversary of the country's first free elections in Tunis on October 23, 2012 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of the ruling Al Nahda party shout slogans during celebrations on the first anniversary of the country's first free elections in Tunis on October 23, 2012 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

Today marks the one year anniversary of Tunisia’s first free and democratic election. Last October 23, some ten months after Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali fled the country, Tunisians flocked to polling stations to vote for members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The assembly was tasked with forming an interim government and writing Tunisia’s new constitution. The historic moment was filled with great hope for Tunisia’s future. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Commitment to Development, Global Inequality, and More

by Isobel Coleman Monday, October 22, 2012
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) greets Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt after a meeting during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 22, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters). Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) greets Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt after a meeting during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 22, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow covers topics ranging from foreign aid to corruption and from inequality to governance in this edition of Missing Pieces. I hope you enjoy the selections.
  • Commitment to Development: The Center for Global Development last week released its 2012 Commitment to Development Index. The index measures wealthy countries “on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5.5 billion people living in poorer nations.” These include the quantity and quality of foreign aid, openness to trade and migration, promotion of investment in developing countries, environmental policies, contributions to peacekeeping and other security efforts, and more. Read more »

Libya: Successes and Challenges One Year After Qaddafi’s Death

by Isobel Coleman Friday, October 19, 2012
Head of Libya's national congress Mohammed Magarief speaks as Libya's Chief of Army staff Yusuf al-Mangoush (L) and Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour (R) stand on either side of him during a news conference in Benghazi on September 22, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Head of Libya's National Congress Mohammed Magarief speaks as Libya's Chief of Army staff Yusuf al-Mangoush (L) and Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour (R) stand on either side of him during a news conference in Benghazi on September 22, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

This weekend is the first anniversary of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s death. While Libyans have made important gains in holding elections and developing civil society, they are confronting the existential task of controlling the country’s militias. As I write today on CNN.com: Read more »

Debate Over Egypt’s Draft Constitution

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, October 18, 2012
The members of Egypt's constitution committee meet in Cairo on September 11, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). The members of Egypt's constitution committee meet in Cairo on September 11, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt is deep into the messy process of drafting its new constitution. In the past few weeks, two different drafts were released within days of each other. Not surprisingly, there are several areas of major contention. At the heart of the matter are profoundly different views between religious conservatives and secular liberals on such touchstone issues as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and women’s rights. Read more »

Research to Improve Women’s Economic Potential

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, October 16, 2012
A woman and child sit in front of their stall in Sambizanga informal settlement outside Luanda, Angola on August 28, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). A woman and child sit in front of their stall in the Sambizanga informal settlement outside Luanda, Angola on August 28, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

The benefits of improving women’s economic opportunities are clear: when women control income, they invest it in their families, particularly in the health and education of their children, helping to break cycles of poverty. Women also contribute to the economic growth of their communities. Research from McKinsey shows that since 1970, as women’s greater labor participation took off, their productivity has accounted for a quarter of U.S. GDP. In the developing world, women are estimated to own 40 to 50 percent of businesses. Read more »

Observing the International Day of the Girl

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, October 11, 2012
Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters). Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the United Nations’ first ever International Day of the Girl. The UN’s designation of this day reflects the growing awareness of the special challenges girls face around the world. It comes at a sober moment: just this week, the Taliban in Pakistan shot a 14 year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, for her outspoken advocacy of girls’ education.  Although Malala survived the attack, she is in critical condition and the Taliban has vowed to finish the job if and when she leaves the hospital. Read more »

Thoughts on Tunisia’s Transition

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Protesters set fire to the American School in Tunis on September 14, 2012, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops and tablet computers (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters set fire to the American School in Tunis on September 14, 2012, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops and tablet computers (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

I was in Tunisia last week and met with a wide range of people, including business, government, and civil society leaders; educators, journalists, bloggers, university students, and Salafist youth; young people unemployed and looking for jobs, and graduates who have newly entered the workforce. Below are some reflections on what I heard: Read more »