Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

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Guest Post: Daniel Markey on Reorienting U.S.-Pakistan Strategy

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 5, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Jason Lee). Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 5, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Jason Lee).

Since 9/11, U.S. policymakers have tended to consider Pakistan in the context of the war in Afghanistan and the counterterrorism campaign against al-Qaeda. This year, however, U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan will end. In addition, the security threat posed by international terrorism is increasingly diffuse, with al-Qaeda and its affiliates seemingly less dependent on safe havens along the Af-Pak border than they were in the past. In this context, an “Af-Pak” framework for U.S. strategy is no longer wise. Read more »

Is Kuwait Ready for a Female Judge?

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee). A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee).

This guest post is by Alessandra L. González, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University and author of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait: The Politics and Paradoxes. Here she discusses the likelihood of women becoming judges in Kuwait. Read more »

Guest Post: Daniel Markey on No Exit from Pakistan

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
An internally displaced girl at a UN refugee camp outside of Islamabad, Pakistan, May 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Faisal Mahmood). An internally displaced girl at a UN refugee camp outside of Islamabad, Pakistan, May 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Faisal Mahmood).

This guest post is from my colleague, Daniel Markey, a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. Here he discusses his latest book: No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad. Read more »

Guest Post: Ed Husain on How to Counter Islamic Extremism

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
The "Tribute in Lights" illuminates the sky over lower Manhattan on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Jim Young). The "Tribute in Lights" illuminates the sky over lower Manhattan on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Jim Young).

This guest post is written by my colleague, Ed Husain, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR. Here he discusses his latest Policy Innovation Memorandum, which lays out a plan for countering violent extremism.  Read more »

Guest Post: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Women in the Middle East stand to play a vital role in the region’s economic and political future, if given the opportunity. This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank’s senior adviser to the chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Nadereh Chamlou, spoke about women’s economic empowerment in the Arab world. Today, my colleague Reza Aslan–author of books including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—writes about Chamlou’s remarks and the challenges to women’s participation in the workforce. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Chavez’s Legacy, Global Growth Redux, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A man walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, January 9, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters). A man walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, January 9, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Latin America and the Middle East, as well as an IMF report. I hope you enjoy the selection.
  • Chavez’s Legacy: As Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez lingers in uncertain health, a New Yorker piece explores the capital city he is leaving behind. “After decades of neglect, poverty, corruption, and social upheaval,” it says, “Caracas has deteriorated beyond all measure.” Crime is rampant, trash and pollution widespread, and housing scarce. The article focuses on the government’s nebulous attitude toward property rights. Groups of squatters have invaded hundreds of buildings, including a half-finished skyscraper called the Tower of David. Some 3,000 people now live there, led by a Chavez partisan who paints himself as a benevolent manager but whom others call a thug. As the article says, many Caracas residents see the tower as “a byword for everything that is wrong with their society: a community of invaders living in their midst, controlled by armed gangsters with the tacit acquiescence of the Chavez government.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: China’s College Graduates, Global Growth, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Students prepare for the university entrance exam in a classroom in Hefei, Anhui Province, China, June 2, 2012 (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters). Students prepare for the university entrance exam in a classroom in Hefei, Anhui Province, China, June 2, 2012 (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow highlights two articles and two reports in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!
  • China’s College Graduates: Last week I noted a paper suggesting that in order to avoid the middle-income trap, China must produce highly skilled college graduates. A New York Times piece this week explores that very challenge. Through vast investments in both public and private universities, China should have some 195 million “community college and university graduates” by 2020—more than the United States (which will have 120 million), though still a far lower percentage of the population. The question is whether China can foster “the world-class creativity and innovation that modern economies require.” According to the article, some believe college enrollments have “outstripped the supply of qualified professors and instructors.” It is also unclear whether “hierarchical” Chinese firms can make the best use of the country’s talent, and whether China’s economy can produce enough satisfying jobs for its “glut of college graduates with high expectations.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Cash Transfers, Goals for 2030, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (R) presents the 210 millionth biometric card to Vali (L), a villager residing in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, during the national launch of a scheme to make direct cash transfers to the poor, at Dudu town in Rajasthan, India, October 20, 2012 (Vinay Joshi/Courtesy Reuters). Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (R) presents the 210 millionth biometric card to Vali (L), a villager residing in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, during the national launch of a scheme to make direct cash transfers to the poor, at Dudu town in Rajasthan, India, October 20, 2012 (Vinay Joshi/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow looks at items on India, Africa, the post-2015 agenda, and economic growth. Enjoy the reading and the weekend.
  • India’s Cash Transfers: The new year brought a new development program in India with revolutionary potential. Under the scheme, Voice of America reports, “245,000 people across 20 districts… are getting pension and scholarship money transferred directly into their bank accounts, instead of having to wait to receive it from post offices or bank officials.” The aim is to eliminate skimming. And the current effort could be just a start. The real test would be using cash transfers to replace India’s massive distribution of subsidized food and fuel. Some analysts enthusiastically support doing so. Others, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, caution that food rations tend to benefit families—especially girls—while cash might not. Scaling up cash transfers also requires giving bank accounts and reliable identification to hundreds of millions of Indians, which is no easy task. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Africa’s Outlook, Corruption in India, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Angolan youths play on the beach in the capital Luanda, September 2, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). Angolan youths play on the beach in the capital Luanda, September 2, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers stories on Africa, India, and the World Bank in the first Missing Pieces installment of the new year. I hope you enjoy the selection.

  • Africa’s Outlook: What are the essential issues affecting Africa in 2013? In the Brookings Institution’s “Foresight Africa” report, scholars offer eight suggestions: employment, “energy poverty,” China-Africa relations, Kenya’s presidential elections, “discordant development,” education, infrastructure, and leveraging Africa’s diaspora. On employment, one essay argues that Africa’s “rapid growth has created few good jobs.” It calls for better education and training, along with more investment in industry. The piece on “discordant development” focuses on “how deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress can generate uncertainty and violent conflict.” Sounder governance is a big part of the answer, the piece says. Meanwhile, CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby writes in the Financial Times that Africa’s growth, often deemed unsustainable, is proving enduring. Though commodity prices, demographics, and technology are helping, he says, “better policy has also made a difference,” especially by enabling higher productivity. Read more »

Missing Pieces: The Year in Indexes

by Isobel Coleman
A NASA handout photo shows Earth's airglow seen with an oblique view of the Mediterranean Sea area, including the Nile River with its delta, and the Sinai Peninsula, taken from the International Space Station, October 15, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters). A NASA handout photo shows Earth's airglow seen with an oblique view of the Mediterranean Sea area, including the Nile River with its delta, and the Sinai Peninsula, taken from the International Space Station, October 15, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters).

As he did last year, Charles Landow draws highlights from a range of democracy and development indexes for this year-end edition of Missing Pieces. The UN Human Development Index and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy are not included this time because they were not published in 2012. Enjoy the reading and the holiday season.

  • Freedom in the World: In Freedom House’s 2012 report, 26 countries showed “declines” in their level of political freedom while only 12 made “gains.” As the report says, “this marks the sixth consecutive year in which countries with declines outnumbered those with improvements.” The Middle East saw the biggest strides but also serious regression. Eurasia declined, and the report sees “danger signs for new democracies,” including South Africa and Turkey. Asia, though, experienced a moderate rise in freedom. Overall, there are 87 “free” countries and 60 “partly free” countries, both equal to last year. Forty-eight countries are “not free,” an increase of 1 because of South Sudan’s independence. Niger, Thailand, and Tunisia joined the ranks of electoral democracies. Nicaragua dropped off. Read more »