Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

Guest Post: Pakistan’s Democracy at a Dangerous Crossroads

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman Monday, March 25, 2013
Pakistan rangers stand on alert ahead of Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf's arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi on March 24, 2013 (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters). Pakistan rangers stand on alert ahead of Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf's arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi on March 24, 2013 (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters).

Pervez Musharraf, former general and president of Pakistan, returned to Karachi yesterday after years in exile to contest the country’s upcoming national election expected later this spring. As the election season heats up, many Pakistanis are expressing concern that the anticipated vote will be derailed for one reason or another. Imran Riffat, a former financial industry professional and longtime Pakistan observer, provides a guest post today arguing that Pakistan’s future would be best served by pushing forward with the democratic process, despite its limitations. Read more »

The Internet’s Ongoing Gender Gap

by Isobel Coleman Friday, March 22, 2013
An Afghan woman browses the YouTube website at a public internet cafe in Kabul, September 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters). An Afghan woman browses the YouTube website at a public internet cafe in Kabul, September 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters).

Although the Internet seems ubiquitous, for many people in the developing world it is barely a reality—and women are left behind at greater rates than men.

An extensive report from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, “Women and the Web,” quantifies the Internet gender gap, explains some factors contributing to it, and proposes ways to tackle it. The report estimates “that 21 percent of women and girls in developing countries have access to the Internet, while 27 percent of men have access. This represents 600 million women and girls online—200 million fewer than men and boys.” Because of the spread of the Internet, an additional 450 million women and girls will likely become connected in the next few years, but the report’s authors believe that with the right interventions, an additional 150 million women could get connected. Read more »

Egypt and the Challenge of Subsidy Reform

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, March 21, 2013
Vehicles queue at a petrol station in Toukh, in El-Kalubia governorate, about 25 km (16 miles) northeast of Cairo March 12, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Vehicles queue at a petrol station in Toukh, in El-Kalubia governorate, about 25 km (16 miles) northeast of Cairo March 12, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

When I last wrote about the long-discussed (and much-needed) $4.8 billion IMF loan to Egypt in January, it looked as if the loan was right around the corner. Now, in all likelihood, Egypt will not receive the funds any time soon. Much of the hold up is IMF concern over whether Egypt has the political will, and capacity, to scale back its unsustainable subsidy program. Today on ForeignPolicy.com, I discuss Egypt’s subsidy reform challenges as well as some lessons from other countries that have headed down the path of reform. As I write: Read more »

Youth, Change, and the Future of Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

Saudi watchers have for years debated the stability of the kingdom. In the 1960s, with internecine rivalries dividing the royal family and the kingdom struggling to pay its debts, some American diplomats predicted that the House of Saud wouldn’t last but a few more years. When extremists took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, pundits warned that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, like that of the Shah in Iran, would be the next to fall to religious revolution. In recent years, as the Arab revolutions have swept the Middle East, new questions about Saudi stability, especially given the limitations of its ruling gerontocracy, have come to the fore. Karen Elliott House, in her recent book On Saudi Arabia, paints a dire picture of a “disintegrating society, and the deterioration is only accelerating.” Read more »

Pope Francis: A Cautious Break With Tradition

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, March 14, 2013
Newly elected Pope Francis appears on a large screen as he leads a mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, 2013 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters). Newly elected Pope Francis appears on a large screen as he leads a mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, 2013 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters).

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wasn’t quite the bold choice many were hoping for in a new pope. Personally, I was rooting for a younger, more out-of-the-box possibility like Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. At 76, Pope Francis is on the older side and faces not only a demanding role as global leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but also the myriad challenges of a secretive institution that has not fully confronted the depth of its scandals. At a minimum, he will need the blessing of stamina. Read more »

Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, March 12, 2013
A woman holds a placard during a protest to mark International Women's Day in downtown Sanaa, Yemen March 8, 2013. The placard reads "Not with weapons we build the country." (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). A woman holds a placard during a protest to mark International Women's Day in downtown Sanaa, Yemen on March 8, 2013. The placard reads "Not with weapons we build the country." (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Read more »

Ongoing Struggles for Women’s Rights in Libya and Egypt

by Isobel Coleman Friday, March 8, 2013
A woman shouts slogans against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo on February 6, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A woman shouts slogans against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo on February 6, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, I hosted two women’s rights leaders visiting New York from Libya and Egypt for the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The two leaders, Zahra Langhi and Fatemah Kafaghy, are participating in the CSW as part of a delegation from Karama, a nonprofit that aims to empower Arab women leaders. Read more »

Corruption and Mismanagement in Iraq

by Isobel Coleman Wednesday, March 6, 2013
A U.S. and an Iraqi soldier raise the Iraqi national flag during the handover ceremony of a military camp to the Iraqi army in Baghdad's Gazaliya district on January 1, 2009 (Basim Shati/Courtesy Reuters). A U.S. and an Iraqi soldier raise the Iraqi national flag during the handover ceremony of a military camp to the Iraqi army in Baghdad's Gazaliya district on January 1, 2009 (Basim Shati/Courtesy Reuters).

With the ten year mark of the 2003 Iraq war on the horizon, a new report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) is a must-read. Learning from Iraq: A Final Report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction expands on the organization’s mandate to figure out, in the words of the inspector general, “what happened to the billions of dollars expended to rebuild that country?” Read more »