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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CFR Backgrounders

by Isobel Coleman
Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 10, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer). Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 10, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer).

The Council on Foreign Relations recently revamped its backgrounder portal, which offers useful insights on today’s most pressing international issues, including unrest in Iraqtensions in the South China Seacrisis in Ukraine, and Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria. Given what is going on in the world today, here are three I find particularly relevant: Read more »

Algeria’s Presidential Election and the Challenges Ahead

by Isobel Coleman
A woman stands at a bus stop beside election campaign posters of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika at Bab El Oued district in Algiers, April 14, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters) A woman stands at a bus stop beside election campaign posters of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika at Bab El Oued district in Algiers, April 14, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

Algerians head to the polls today to vote in presidential elections. Although six candidates are running, the country’s long-serving president, seventy-seven year old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is expected to coast to a fourth term. In a region rife with revolution, Algeria is caught in a political time warp. The ruling elite swim against the tide of political change that the Arab uprisings unleashed. They rally around the ailing Bouteflika–who suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public during the campaign–as the candidate of stability and security. Read more »

Egypt’s New Constitution, Again

by Isobel Coleman
Members of Egypt's constitutional assembly finish their vote during the closing session at the Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt, December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Members of Egypt's constitutional assembly finish their vote during the closing session at the Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt, December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier today, Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour received a final draft of the country’s new constitution from the committee tasked with making revisions to the one approved just a year ago. Read more »

Egypt: Another Step Backward on Civil Society

by Isobel Coleman
Egyptian soldiers stand guard near Rabaa al-Adawiya square during a protest by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo, Egypt, October 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh). Egyptian soldiers stand guard near Rabaa al-Adawiya square during a protest by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo, Egypt, October 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh).

Last month, Egypt’s interim ministry of justice proposed a law that would severely restrict Egyptians’ right to protest and assemble. If signed into law, the drafted legislation would give authorities the ability to cancel and violently crackdown on demonstrations without clear reason or warning. Read more »

Missing Pieces: USAID’s Approach, Myanmar’s Path, and More

by Isobel Coleman
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, is briefed at a stall during his visit to highlight the work of female micro entrepreneurs in Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2012 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, is briefed at a stall during his visit to highlight the work of female micro entrepreneurs in Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2012 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights stories from three developing regions, as well as Washington, DC. Enjoy!

Missing Pieces: India’s Needs, Mozambique’s Resources, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A man stands on a stepladder to fix tangled overhead electric power cables at a residential area in Noida, India, June 1, 2011 (Parivartan Sharma/Courtesy Reuters). A man stands on a stepladder to fix tangled overhead electric power cables at a residential area in Noida, India, June 1, 2011 (Parivartan Sharma/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow focuses on Asia and Africa in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy and have a good weekend.

  • India’s Daunting Needs: New household data from India’s 2011 census starkly show how many Indians still lack basic needs. Only 47 percent of households have a toilet in the home; the same percentage have a water source. Sixty-seven percent have electricity and 63 percent have a phone (mostly mobiles). Computers are found in less than 10 percent of households and internet access in 3 percent. These findings represent progress since the 2001 census. For example, only 9 percent of households had a phone that year, according to an Economist blog post. The figures for electricity and toilet access in the home are also up 11 points each. A Wall Street Journal blog post and BBC story provide additional analysis. Read more »

Libya’s New Election Law: Part II

by Isobel Coleman
Libyan PM Keib and NTC Chairman Jalil speak in Benghazi, Libya, December 26, 2011 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Libyan PM Keib and NTC Chairman Jalil speak in Benghazi, Libya, December 26, 2011 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

I’ve received a number of comments on my post yesterday about Libya’s new (draft) election law, so I’m revisiting that topic again today.  First, for those of you who are interested (and several have asked), here’s a link to an unofficial English translation of the draft law. Second, in a new development, the Libyan interim government yesterday scrapped the 1972 law banning political parties. In anticipation of this, new parties have been forming over the past several months and many more are undoubtedly in the wings. Civil society, lacking for decades in Libya, is resurrecting itself, although the challenges it faces will be formidable. Religiously oriented groups will likely have an edge both in organizational capacity and in financing. Read more »

Missing Pieces: IMF Projections, Mobile Money, and More

by Isobel Coleman

Finance ministers and central bank governors of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa attend the BRICs news conference during the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings in Washington, September 22, 2011 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

In this week’s Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights the latest economic projections from the IMF as well as interesting stories from Africa and the Middle East. We look forward to your thoughts as always. Enjoy!

  • The IMF’s New Projections: The IMF last week released its latest World Economic Outlook. The title is grim: “Slowing Growth, Rising Risks.” With troubles in the United States and Europe, natural disaster in Japan, and unrest in the oil-rich Middle East, “the global economy is in a dangerous new phase.” Unsurprisingly, the good news is reserved for certain emerging markets. China is projected to maintain blistering growth, with India trailing somewhat but still robust. (India does face far higher, though declining, inflation.) In Latin America the picture is split between booming South American economies, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru, and their northerly neighbors harder hit by the struggling United States. Growth in both Brazil and Mexico is projected to drop but remain respectable. In sub-Saharan Africa, low-income countries, largely detached from the global economy and therefore spared from the recent crisis, are expected to grow strongly. Africa’s middle-income countries (including South Africa) have felt the global slowdown more, but the IMF still projects solid average growth. The continent’s major oil exporters, such as Nigeria and Angola, are expected to continue robust expansion. Finally, in the Middle East, the outlook is unclear given political events and global uncertainty. Oil exporters are projected to grow strongly for the most part, with Qatar leading the way and Iran lagging behind. Oil importers, by contrast, are projected to achieve only slow growth. This group includes Egypt, which faces growth prospects of under 2 percent and inflation of more than 11 percent–a difficult environment in which to manage surging post-revolution expectations. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Libya’s Transition, Afghanistan’s Police, and More

by Isobel Coleman

France's President Sarkozy; NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil; Mahmoud Jibril, head of NTC executive; and Britain's PM Cameron address a news conference in Tripoli, Libya, September 15, 2011 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters).

In this week’s Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights developments from Guatemala to Nigeria, with several stops along the way. Please share your views on these or other stories from the past week. Enjoy!

Missing Pieces: Syria’s Conflict, Latin America’s Cities, and More

by Isobel Coleman

Syrian government loyalists hold up placards during a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Damascus, July 11, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters).

In this week’s Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights the latest developments in Syria and Pakistan, as well as interesting scholarly work on other regions and issues. I hope you enjoy the selection and look forward to your comments.

  • Syria’s Political Perspectives: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has managed to retain power through six months of rebellion and the fall of three fellow Arab autocrats. The New York Times last week offered a fascinating glimpse at a central reason why: many Damascus elites support Assad’s regime and deny that their country is in upheaval. The piece explores the views of clients at a fancy Damascus salon, where the debate centers not on democracy but on nail polish. Some agree with the government that protesters are seeking to foment division. Others are minorities, such as Christians, who fear life under Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority in a post-Assad era. The article gives a starkly different perspective from most news reports on Syria, making it a valuable read. For a longer but no less worthwhile look at the country’s revolutionary stirrings, see Wendell Steavenson’s “Roads to Freedom” in the August 29 issue of the New Yorker. It offers a nuanced portrait of several leading revolutionaries, ending on an optimistic note for Syria’s future. Read more »