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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Inclusive Economic Growth and Brazil’s Protests

by Isobel Coleman
Demonstrators march toward the Mineirao Stadium, where Nigeria was playing Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, during one of the many protests around Brazil's major cities in Belo Horizonte June 17, 2013 (Pedro Vilela/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators march toward the Mineirao Stadium, where Nigeria was playing Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, during one of the many protests around Brazil's major cities in Belo Horizonte on June 17, 2013 (Pedro Vilela/Courtesy Reuters).

Brazil’s weeklong protests, which have brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets across the country, have scored their first victory: officials in the major cities of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to rescind the 20 cent bus fare hike that sparked the protests in the first place. But this conciliatory move, far from placating the crowds, seems to have energized their demands. Large marches are planned for today with demands now focused on better education and health care and greater efforts to tackle corruption. Read more »

Pathways to Freedom: Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions

by Isobel Coleman
A man casts his vote at a polling station in Ciudad Juarez on July 1, 2012 (Jorge Luis Gonzalez/Courtesy Reuters). A man casts his vote at a polling station in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on July 1, 2012 (Jorge Luis Gonzalez/Courtesy Reuters).

Today marks the publication of a new Council on Foreign Relations book, Pathways to Freedom: Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions, which I co-edited with my colleague Terra Lawson-Remer; other CFR colleagues, John Campbell, Joshua Kurlantzick, and Shannon O’Neil contributed chapters, as did scholars from other institutions. The book looks at eight different countries–Mexico, Brazil, Poland, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Nigeria–that have been through democratic transitions, some successful, others less so. Read more »

Youth Unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
Graph by author. Data are from ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report. Regional data are from ILO's 2012 preliminary estimates; U.S. and E.U. data are from the OECD's second quarter 2012 data. Graph by author. Data are from ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report. Regional data are from ILO's 2012 preliminary estimates; U.S. and E.U. data are from the OECD's second quarter 2012 data.

As the graph above makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.” Read more »

Rached Ghannouchi and Tunisia’s Transition

by Isobel Coleman
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, Tunisia's main Islamist political party, speaks during a demonstration in Tunis on February 16, 2013 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters). Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Nahda movement, Tunisia's main Islamist political party, speaks during a demonstration in Tunis on February 16, 2013 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, my colleague Ed Husain and I hosted a meeting with Rached Ghannouchi—the cofounder and president of Tunisia’s Islamist Nahda party—at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The audio is available here. Read more »

Financial Inclusion and the World’s “Unbanked” Population

by Isobel Coleman
A man leaves an M-PESA booth after a money transaction in Nairobi on May 12, 2009 (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters). A man leaves an M-Pesa booth after a money transaction in Nairobi on May 12, 2009 (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters).

Imagine life without a bank account. Completing a simple financial transaction can require traveling a distance, incurring expenses, and losing precious income. Savings are more difficult to track and certainly don’t earn interest. Theft or loss of the proverbial “cookie jar” is a constant worry. Indeed, studies show that informal savers lose as much as 25 percent of their hard-earned cash each year due to theft and loss. Yet for over 2.5 billion people globally, this inconvenient, inefficient, and expensive reality is the case. Read more »

Challenges for Pakistan’s Prime Minister

by Isobel Coleman
Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters). Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters).

A few years ago on a flight from London to Karachi I sat next to one of Pakistan’s leading textile manufacturers who spent several hours discussing the sorry state of his business. The fact that his European clients will no longer visit the country because they view it as too dangerous was not even his biggest problem. His real issue is the constant blackouts his factories face due to a lack of reliable energy. “We can’t compete with the likes of Bangladesh and Vietnam,” he bemoaned. This is the tough economic reality that Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, inherits. Read more »

Combating Obstetric Fistula

by Isobel Coleman
An Ethiopian woman sits on her bed inside a clinic for obstetric fistula in Bahir Dar on March 10, 2007 (Eliana Aponte/Courtesy Reuters). An Ethiopian woman sits on her bed inside a clinic for obstetric fistula in Bahir Dar on March 10, 2007 (Eliana Aponte/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. To be honest, I was not very familiar with the tragedy of fistula until about a decade ago, when I met the remarkable Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who has devoted her life to treating the problems of fistula in Ethiopia. More on her work below, but for those of you who don’t know what this terrible condition entails, I refer you to the UNFPA explanation: Read more »

Putting an End to Child Marriage

by Isobel Coleman
Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, CFR published a new report, Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives. The report looks at the scope and causes of this practice, what it means for U.S. foreign policy, and ways the U.S. might tackle child marriage through policy. Read more »

Debating Hillary Clinton’s Legacy as Secretary of State

by Isobel Coleman
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) meets with Afghan women during a Civil Society roundtable discussion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul October 20, 2011. From left are Selay Ghaffar, Maria Bashir, Fawzia Koofi, Clinton and Dr. Sima Samar (Kevin Lamaruqe/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) meets with Afghan women during a civil society roundtable discussion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul October 20, 2011. From left are Selay Ghaffar, Maria Bashir, Fawzia Koofi, Clinton and Dr. Sima Samar (Kevin Lamaruqe/Courtesy Reuters).

In light of the ongoing controversy over Benghazi, the New York Times’ Room for Debate asked contributors to weigh in on Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state. Read more »

Women and Sports in Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman
Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar (R) starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar (R) starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

Last summer, I wrote about two young women from Saudi Arabia, Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, who were the first Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics. They had to endure criticism from conservatives at home and lots of discussion about what they would wear to compete, but they served as a powerful symbol of a better future for Saudi women’s athletic participation. Read more »