Democracy embodies responsive and responsible governance, rule of law, human rights, civic participation and peaceful transfers of power through electoral processes. Each of these underpins a peaceful and stable society. The U.S. Institute of Peace teaches democratic principles and democratization processes and techniques that are critical to both peacebuilding and effective governance. USIP seeks to strengthen governance by supporting inclusive, accountable institutions and a robust civil society. These in turn uphold human rights, justice and the rule of law, and promote public participation in social and political processes.
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to win Myanmar’s general elections on November 8, but the 2020 race is much more hotly contested than 2015. The growing political frustration of the country’s non-Burma ethnic nationalities is fueling insurgencies and the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party, and its armed forces patrons, are criticizing the government and attacking the country’s feeble electoral institutions. The way Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities experience the process will have major implications for peacemaking efforts moving forward.
On October 16, when it took the stunning and sweeping decision to cancel most of the vote in Rakhine State on November 8, the Union Election Commission (UEC) disenfranchised an estimated 73% of Rakhine voters, in addition to the Rohingya who had been stripped of voting rights in 2015. The UEC justified its decision on the grounds that the election could be neither free nor fair because of ongoing armed conflict in the state. When critics asked why the elections had not been cancelled in war-stricken Paletwa, where security concerns are most acute, the UEC called off elections in parts of that Chin State town and restored them in a few village tracts in Rakhine.
Algerians took to the streets in February 2019 to protest the re-election bid of longtime authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Those protests—which came to be known as the Hirak movement and resulted in Bouteflika’s resignation in April of that year—evolved quickly to calls for a fundamental overhaul of the country’s political system. Few real changes have been made since. This Sunday, Algeria will hold a referendum on constitutional amendments to ostensibly bolster the country’s democracy. But, the Hirak says the constitutional changes do not go far enough. USIP’S Tom Hill looks at why the constitutional amendments have stirred tension with the opposition, the movement’s struggles to coalesce behind specific demands, and the role of Algeria’s military and floundering economy in the transition.
Despite the degree of stability that Tunisia has achieved since its 2011 revolution, there are still obstacles to democratic consolidation, as well as unaddressed issues that threaten social and political stability—such as growing economic disparities, deepening mistrust between civil society and the government, weak local governments, and the difficult process of achieving meaningful institutional reforms.
The Informing Criminal Justice Reform in Libya project was launched in July 2020 to fill existing knowledge gaps on correctional facilities in Libya and the criminal justice system in the Fezzan region. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), this project aims to strengthen the rule of law in Libya by providing the international community and Libyan officials with a more complete picture of the region’s institutions, as well as actionable recommendations to inform the development and implementation of future policy and programming.
Government restrictions on religion have risen steadily in recent years, raising questions about both their causes and consequences. In partnership with USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, USIP launched the Closing the Gap initiative earlier this year to more carefully examine these trends. The project, which will take place over the course of 2020, will explore the relationship between freedom of religion, peace, and development through statistical analysis and case studies. The findings will inform a more nuanced, strategic, and impactful policy and practice of advancing religious freedom.