Archives for Democracy and Governance
Submitted by: Diana Harper
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”
—James Madison, 1788
This month’s historic referendum will determine southern Sudan’s future, either as an independent country of part of a unified Sudan. Voting ends on Saturday, January 15, and enormous efforts have been launched by U.S., Sudanese, and international agencies to support a credible process—that voters know how and where to vote, that the Sudanese referendum commission is equipped to carry out referendum logistics, that sufficient ballots and voting materials are available, and that poll workers and election observers are properly trained.
At the same time, the United States has continued to provide development assistance that strengthens democracy as well as demonstrates the benefits of peace. These efforts include improving health care and access to clean water, building roads and transportation infrastructure, providing microcredit loans to spur economic growth, and—of particular importance—increasing access to and the quality of education.
Formal education is not a prerequisite for wisdom, but it is a critical part of active participation in the democratic process. Literacy is crucial for making informed voting decisions and lobbying representatives for change. The public’s ability to effectively organize and work in groups provides protection against political abuses and dictatorships. Research supports the intuition that investments in education pay returns in peace and democracy. (See a related interactive graph.)
In 2005, when Sudan ended its 22-year civil war, only 37% of southern Sudanese men and 12% of women were literate. Primary school enrollment was low, and girls in particular faced many obstacles to attending school. These obstacles included high direct and indirect costs, discriminatory attitudes and school policies, and poor access to feminine hygiene products and lack of sanitation facilities.
USAID has worked closely with the Government of Southern Sudan Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to improve its ability to plan and implement educational reforms, increase access to primary education especially among girls, train teachers, and foster community-wide support for education.
One example of USAID’s work is the opening of a school in the Blue Nile State—a region on the north-south border of Sudan that was a major site of conflict during the civil war. The Granville-Abbas School serves 120 female students and serves as a model of girls’ education in the region, with three sets of classrooms, a library, theater, and a computer center with internet access. Better education for girls leads to benefits for their families and communities including increased economic growth, reduced poverty, improved health and nutrition, and better HIV/AIDS control.
U.S. educational programs throughout Sudan helped to increase primary school enrollment from 1.1 million in 2007 to 1.4 million in 2009. In addition, U.S. programs have trained over 2,300 teachers, including many female instructors who serve as critical role models to young girls. Beyond bricks and mortar institutions, USAID has also supported radio education to help students study English, math, local languages, and life skills. In 2009 alone, the radio programs reached over 350,000 youth and adults.
On Sunday, voting began in the historic southern Sudan referendum. Through January 15, southern Sudanese will cast their ballots to determine whether the region will stay unified with the north or secede and become an independent country. More than 3.9 million people are registered to vote in Sudan, and more than 60,000 are registered in eight countries that have large populations of southern Sudanese, including the United States.
President Obama wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Saturday, “Not every generation is given the chance to turn the page on the past and write a new chapter in history. Yet today — after 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees — this is the opportunity before the people of southern Sudan.” The White House also released a written statement yesterday in praise of the referendum and its implications for the peace process.
On Saturday, Senator John Kerry and U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration held a press conference in Sudan. On the importance of the vote, Senator Kerry said:
“What happens in Sudan – some people may be scratching their heads in some parts of the world and say, ‘Well how does this affect me?’ The truth is that the stability of Sudan is important to all of us. In a world that has become increasingly more complicated, increasingly more volatile, increasingly more extreme in various places, we want to see Sudan — north and south — contribute to global stability, and become a partner for peace all around the world. That’s the future that we can grab onto tomorrow, and we’re proud to be here today to help contribute to it.”
Two hands clasped together, or one hand alone? This is the choice that southern Sudanese voters will face in less than one week, when they choose either to remain part of a unified Sudan or to secede and form an independent country.
Several democratic milestones have paved the way for Sudan to reach this point: a peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war, the first national census in 15 years, and the first multi-party elections in 24 years. While these achievements were not without hurdles, the country is nevertheless still on track for its historic referendum on January 9 to 15, 2011.
The next step in the peace process invokes complex and controversial issues: self-determination and government cooperation, the re-integration of soldiers into civilian life, and a decision on the fate of Sudan’s profitable oil fields, just to name a few.
But for the vote to be successful, the smaller, tangible pieces also need to be in place. Poll stations need to be well-equipped and orderly, with the right materials in the right places in the right quantities. And perhaps most importantly, the frontline poll workers need to know how to use the materials to carry off a successful and fair vote.
For established and peaceful democracies, these voting logistics are a given. But in a region that is still recovering from war and that has poor transportation, education, and communication infrastructures, details matter.
In recognition of this fact, on December 23, 2010, USAID and the United Nations delivered polling kits and ballots to assist the official Sudanese commission carrying out the referendum. This delivery followed earlier support to the voter registration process. USAID’s polling kits included critical materials for running a polling site, such as indelible ink, thumbprint pads, ballot box seals, and banners.
The ballots ask voters to place a thumbprint next to their choice—unity or secession, shown in English and Arabic text as well as pictures for voters who may speak one of the country’s more than 125 other languages. In addition, thanks to USAID and its partners in Sudan, over 14,000 poll workers will have been trained in polling and counting procedures by the time the referendum takes place.
USAID’s attention to the details of a successful vote complements its broader activities to support peace, security, and good governance throughout Sudan.
Last week we reported on the successful and peaceful close of voter registration in Sudan for January’s referendum on southern independence. In another promising development, this month Blue Nile state began popular consultations, a political process guaranteed by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan’s violent, 22-year civil war. Located on the north-south border, Blue Nile was on the frontlines of the war, and the state’s people had mixed loyalties—some aligned with the north and others with the south.
While the CPA stipulated that southern Sudan would vote on whether or not to secede from the north, it also determined that Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states are part of the north. The agreement further required public hearings in the two states to determine the will of the citizens—whether they felt the peace agreement adequately met their aspirations. If not, additional negotiations would proceed between the states’ democratically elected state legislatures and the central government. Popular consultations are significant because they provide a unique opportunity to instill civic participation into Sudan’s public life, empowering citizens to understand their rights and responsibilities and make their opinions heard.
In Blue Nile, the process began with pilot citizen hearings in Damazin and Roseires December 12-13, where 876 citizens registered to attend, and nearly 300 of those expressed their opinions. Participation among women was strong. The Chair of the Commission encouraged women to come forward and minorities to speak in their own language, providing a positive sign that the state’s diversity will be reflected in the consultations. Over 100 similar meetings supported by USAID will be held across Blue Nile by January.
In Southern Kordofan, popular consultations cannot begin until after state elections are held next year.
USAID has been helping Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan prepare for the popular consultations since 2008—providing logistical support, organizing civic education campaigns to inform citizens about the process, and taking community leaders on study tours to Indonesia and Kenya, which have conducted processes similar to popular consultations. Many citizens have incorrectly believed that the process includes a vote on secession, like the southern referendum, which highlights the importance of civic education so that citizens understand the process and their rights.
For further analysis on the importance of the popular consultation process, read this special report from the United States Institute for Peace.
For more information on USAID’s work in Sudan:
Last week, voter registration for the January referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan came to a close in Sudan after a process described as peaceful, well-managed, and participatory. To see first-hand what voter registration was like, USAID staff captured video at the registration kickoff in Juba, the regional capital of southern Sudan, and Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria state. U.S. Consul General in Juba Barrie Walkley encouraged southern Sudanese to register: “It is your decision, whether it’s for unity or for separation. The decision is yours.”
During Sudan’s 22-year civil war, 2 million people died and 4 million were driven from their homes. The referendum on whether southern Sudan will become an independent country or remain part of a united Sudan is a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army that finally ended the devastating war. Two major components of the agreement have already been completed: a national census in 2008 and national multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year.
As part of efforts to promote peace in Sudan, USAID is supporting a free and fair referendum process. In particular, USAID is:
- Providing expert advice, training, and office space for the Sudanese commission in charge of carrying out the referendum
- Delivering critical materials such as voter registration books and cards, training manuals, and polling kits
- Training voter registration and poll workers
- Educating voters about the referendum process through mass media and community outreach
- Funding registration and voting for the Sudanese diaspora in eight countries
- Supporting observation by both Sudanese and international organizations
Voter registration in Sudan was held from November 15 to December 8. Registration in eight other countries with large southern Sudanese populations will be completed by December 22. The referendum is scheduled for January 9-15, 2011.
For more information:
Today, in honor of International Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.S. Embassies and USAID missions around the world are opening their doors to civil society; to the Russian journalists who bravely report on corruption and abuse in the face of grave danger; to the Egyptian human rights activists who fight every day for justice; to the Kenyan political activists who recently helped shepherd a peaceful vote on a Constitutional referendum.
In 1994, USAID became the world’s first donor agency to establish democracy, human rights, and governance as core development objectives. Since then, USAID has become the leading development agency on these issues. With over 400 experts worldwide, USAID manages and programs the vast majority of the U.S. Government’s total budget—over three billion dollars this year alone—devoted to these issues.
These investments are critical to our national security and to reflect our national character, making the word safer and more equitable. That’s why the Obama Administration has laid out an ambitious democracy, human rights, and governance agenda for USAID. We are engaged in a renewed focus to help our partners deliver for their citizens.
In Colombia, USAID created an early warning system to help prevent human rights violations by illegal armed actors, paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and drug mafias.
In Indonesia, USAID worked across 9 provinces with nearly 600 local nongovernmental organizations to increase citizen participation in local governance and social service provision.
Across Asia, USAID helped uphold rights to access for at-risk populations, including transgender communities and men who have sex with men, to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, as well as building regional and in-country capacities to respond.
In Egypt, USAID is supporting disability advocates to organize and lead the development of policies and programs targeting the inclusion of people with disabilities, impacting over 15,000 Egyptians with disabilities at both the local and national levels.
And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and its partners helped provide medical services, fight impunity, and promote community awareness of and response to sexual and gender-based violence for more than 100,000 survivors of rape.
At USAID, we cherish the fundamental liberties contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we promote democratic institutions to fulfill these rights for every global citizen.
Every day, we are dedicated to making USAID the leader on advancing democracy, human rights, and governance globally. Today on this day, with our friends, with our allies, and especially with human rights activists around the world, we support and honor the global efforts to expand human rights for all.
Human trafficking is an abuse of human rights and a form of modern slavery that transcends societal borders without regard to race, gender or age. It affects men, women and children all over the world but most especially in developing countries.
Individuals and families are entrapped in through forced labor and complicated schemes of debt bondage that often continue from one generation to the next. Countless victims are forced to become child soldiers or sexual slaves, coerced into prostitution and humiliating, often brutal situations that result in physical and psychological trauma.
The global community has condemned human trafficking and is committed to finding ways to stop traffickers and better assist victims. Today, USAID Chief Counselor, Bambi Arellano spoke at the Washington D.C. premiere of the anti-trafficking film, Saving Seca, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The screening was a joint collaboration between USAID and The Asia Foundation for the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence,” campaign which runs each year from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women through International Human Rights Day.
The film is intended as a police training tool that demonstrates best practices for ensuring the protection of trafficking victims during brothel raids and rescues. It is a dramatization presented in Cambodian with English subtitles; it follows Seca, a young trafficking victim who has been sold to a brothel and the Cambodian’s police efforts to free her and other victims. The film has been endorsed by the Royal Government of Cambodia and is now included in the official training for police in that country.
Gender violence is a global epidemic – a human rights abuse that encompasses a broad range of issues including human trafficking. USAID is committed to working with our partners and the NGO community to continue to combat gender based violence and human trafficking around the world.
To commemorate this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, USAID is hosting a photo display, “USAID and Inclusive Development” in the lobby at the 14th Street entrance of the Ronald Reagan Building on December 3. Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, will speak at the display opening at 4:00 P.M. The display consists of images from USAID’s programs worldwide and illustrates the progress USAID and our partners have made in integrating persons with disabilities into the political, social, economic, and cultural life in communities around the world. It demonstrates how USAID’s inclusive development programming aligns with the Millennium Development Goals.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, annually observed on December 3, aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues worldwide. Established by the U.N. in 1981, it focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities and the value of integrating persons with disabilities into every aspect of society.
This year’s theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Keeping the Promise: Mainstreaming Disability in the Millennium Development Goals Towards 2015 and Beyond.” It continues the connection between disability programming in the developing world and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It reminds us that although many commitments have been made by the international development community to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of development, much work remains to fulfill those commitments.
Last year’s theme, “Making the Millennium Development Goals Disability-Inclusive: Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and Their Communities Around the World,” linked disability to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). USAID supports the MDGs and inclusive development in its own policies and programming in its missions around the world.
In 2008, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities acknowledged the development of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention provides a legally binding instrument to ensure that societies recognize that all people must be provided with the opportunities to live life to their fullest potential. The United States signed the U.N. Convention on July 30, 2009.
In September 1997, USAID adopted a groundbreaking policy which led to the creation of a detailed framework to guide USAID’s efforts in the area of disability and inclusive development. The policy states that USAID will not discriminate against persons with disabilities and will work to ensure the inclusion of these individuals in USAID-funded programs and activities. The policy also calls on USAID missions to enlist partners, host-country counterparts, and other donors in a collaborative effort to end discrimination against and promote equal opportunity for persons with disabilities.
In 2005, Congress provided USAID with a dedicated source of funding to complement their commitment to include persons with disabilities in development programs and to empower them to advocate for their own rights. To date, these initiatives have supported programs in more than 40 countries, primarily through financial and technical assistance to USAID missions to promote their own inclusive development activities.
USAID works to educate employees on disability issues through courses and workshops. USAID provides tools and technical assistance to field missions as they institutionalize the policy and it has developed self-reporting mechanisms to track progress in implementing the policy in Washington, D.C. and overseas.
Learn more about USAID’s Disability Policy and Inclusive Development programming.
Contact: Rob Horvath, firstname.lastname@example.org