Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

Egypt’s Race to a Constitution

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, November 29, 2012
Members of Egypt's constitution committee meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft new Egyptian constitution in Cairo on November 29, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Members of Egypt's constitution assembly meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft new Egyptian constitution in Cairo on November 29, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt’s President Morsi is doubling down. Just last week, he tried to assuage the concerns of opponents by giving the constitutional assembly another two months to work out their differences on a new constitution. Facing mounting opposition from secular opponents, and the real prospect of the judiciary once again dissolving the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly, he put the current draft to a vote in a surprise move today. As of this writing, the assembly has already approved about a fifth of the constitution’s 234 articles. Once the assembly approves the whole draft, Morsi’s intention is to hold a national referendum, perhaps within a couple of weeks. Read more »

Morsi’s Overreach

by Isobel Coleman Monday, November 26, 2012
An Egyptian holds a banner opposing President Mohammed Morsi, comparing him with Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo October 19, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian holds a banner opposing President Mohammed Morsi, comparing him with Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo on October 19, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Well, at least President Morsi knows when to retreat. Last week, basking in the glow of having helped broker a cease-fire in Gaza, Morsi issued a decree that in essence gave Egypt’s president power over the judiciary. But in the face of growing street protests, he now appears to be backpedaling away from that brazen push for broad new powers. Read more »

Afghan Public Opinion

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Afghan soldiers wait before the handover ceremony between the French Army and the Afghan National Army at the forward operating base of Nijrab as part of the withdrawal of the French troops on November 20, 2012 (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters). Afghan soldiers wait before the handover ceremony between the French Army and the Afghan National Army at the forward operating base of Nijrab as part of the withdrawal of the French troops on November 20, 2012 (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters).

As the international military presence in Afghanistan winds down, fears of unrest, civil war, and backsliding on fragile gains loom large. An October 2012 International Crisis Group (ICG) report states that “Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014,” arguing that “…steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse. Time is running out.” The increase of green-on-blue attacks and green-on-green attacks—Afghan soldiers and police attacking international forces colleagues and one another—raises serious questions about the state of the Afghan forces. Mohammad Ismail Khan, a former mujahadeen member who was ousted from his position as governor of Herat by President Hamid Karzai in 2004, recently called on his supporters to rearm, another ominous sign that former warlords are once again preparing for war. Read more »

Missing Pieces: The World in 2060, Middle Eastern Prospects, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, November 16, 2012
Laborers work at a construction site of a commercial complex in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2012 (Vivek Prakash/Courtesy Reuters). Laborers work at a construction site of a commercial complex in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2012 (Vivek Prakash/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews a newspaper piece, a scholarly article, and reports from the OECD and the IMF. Enjoy!
  • The World in 2060: Currently the United States produces 23 percent of global GDP against 17 percent for China and 7 percent for India. By 2060, says an OECD report, these shares will be flipped: China will account for 28 percent, India 18 percent, and the United States only 16 percent. Likewise, while China and India today combine for less than half the G7’s GDP, in 2060 their economies will total more than 1.5 times the G7’s. With this growth, GDP per capita in China and India stands to increase by more than seven times, the OECD says. But strikingly, this will not erase “significant gaps in living standards between advanced and emerging economies.” According to an Economist analysis of the OECD’s figures, GDP per capita in China will be just 59 percent of the U.S. level in 2060. For India the figure will be 27 percent, for Brazil about 40, and for Mexico about 50. Read more »

Egypt’s Reading Revolution

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, November 15, 2012
Egyptian school students attend class at a school in a Giza neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo, September 28, 2010 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian school students attend class at a school in a Giza neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo, September 28, 2010 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

I have been visiting schools in Upper Egypt (the governorates of Qena and Aswan) this week doing research for a new book on education in the Middle East. With young people across the region protesting about a lack of opportunity, improving education is understandably a high priority. Over the last several decades, Egypt’s focus has been on increasing access to education. As its population has more than doubled since 1980, it has worked hard to keep pace with an enormous influx of new students, managing to enroll a higher percent of children in schools and to reduce the overall number of children out of school. In 2000, over 500,000 primary school age children were out of school. In 2009, the last year statistics were available, fewer than 200,000 primary school age children were not attending school. The percentage of girls enrolled in primary school has also increased, climbing from 87.4 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2009. Read more »

Guest Post: Entrepreneurs Innovating for Peace in Afghanistan

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman Tuesday, November 13, 2012
A general view of Kabul, Afghanistan, is seen during sunset, November 7, 2012 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). A general view of Kabul, Afghanistan, is seen during sunset, November 7, 2012 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

This guest post is written by my colleague Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a fellow at CFR and deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program. She tells the story of several technology entrepreneurs who are defying the odds to build successful businesses in Afghanistan. As she writes, these entrepreneurs are not only seeking profits; they are also aiming to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for their country. A post by Tae Yoo of Cisco last week on CFR’s Development Channel also highlighted technology’s role in driving development in Afghanistan. Read more »

Shaping the Post-MDG Agenda

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, November 8, 2012
Families fleeing renewed fighting between the government and M23 rebels near Kibumba walk toward the eastern Congolese city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 25, 2012 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters). Families fleeing renewed fighting between the government and M23 rebels near Kibumba walk toward the eastern Congolese city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 25, 2012 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters).

As 2015 approaches, debate among global development scholars and practitioners is turning to what should succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a topic explored on CFR’s Development Channel earlier this fall. Among the contributions to the debate so far is a thoughtful report recently released by Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Korea Development Institute. Several members of the team behind this effort visited the Council on Foreign Relations this week, where they discussed their report at an event hosted by my colleague Stewart Patrick, director of CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program. (Stewart also wrote a blog post about the report yesterday.) Read more »

Insurance Innovations for the Poor

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Carpenters carry a coffin shaped in the form of a fish over the main road in Teshie, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital of Accra, January 22, 2004. Funerals are important [social] occasions in this West African country and elaborate, brightly coloured coffins have become an art form. Picture taken on January 22, 2004 (Wolfgang Rattay/Courtesy Reuters). Carpenters carry a coffin shaped in the form of a fish over the main road in Teshie, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital of Accra, January 22, 2004. Funerals are important [social] occasions in this West African country and elaborate, brightly colored coffins have become an art form. Picture taken on January 22, 2004 (Wolfgang Rattay/Courtesy Reuters).

The world’s poorest struggle to survive day to day, living with almost no safety net. This makes them particularly vulnerable to financial risk. They are one illness or one injury away from losing their businesses or defaulting on a loan. When that happens, families go hungry and children are pulled from school. Read more »