Jakub Wisniewski gives the background to Poland's remarkable economic success story.
In our latest case study published in conjunction with Princeton's Innovations for Successful Societies, Laura Bacon and Rushda Majeed tell the story of a remarkable Sicilian mayor who decided to take back his city from the Mafia.
In this week's column, Christian Caryl explains the lingering scandal behind the story of Alexander Lukashenko, Europe's last dictator. Caryl also reports on the reasons why the U.S. government has decided to withhold its assent to the new UN telecommunications treaty that the Americans accuse of infringing on the freedom of the Internet.
Mohamed El Dahshan reports on the internal Muslim Brotherhood politics that are fueling the current unrest in Egypt.
Adam Baron analyzes the problems that plague Yemen on the way to a planned national political dialogue.
Corey Brettschneider argues that the U.S. government should actively condemn hate speech as well as protecting the freedom of the word.
Endy Bayuni explores the reasons behind the current surge in union activism in Indonesia -- including the surprising willingness of local governments to support wage hikes.
Juan Nagel mulls over the continuing speculation about a successor to cancer-plagued Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
The Project on Middle East Political Science offers a video conversation on the new Egyptian constitution with expert Nathan Brown.
At Jadailyya.com, Linda Herrera, Magdy Alabady, and Adel Iskandar analyze the political role of Mohamed El-Baradei in Egypt's current political unrest.
Writing for the Jamestown Foundation, Wladimir van Wilgenburg explains why fighting between Kurdish groups and Arab rebels helps Bashar al-Assad.
The website of the pro-democracy group Girifna offers an update on the latest protests in Sudan.
Democracy Digest offers two useful takes on the situation in Venezuela amid renewed reports that President Hugo Chavez is again struggling with cancer. One post speculates on the fate of chavismo without Chavez. The second brings together commentary on the state of the opposition as speculation about the possibility of a post-Chavez Venezuela revs up again.
Anne Applebaum, writing in The Washington Post, posits that corruption is becoming the new galvanizing issue for activists around the world.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty offers a breakdown on a Swedish documentary that tracks corruption linked with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the dictator of Uzbekistan.
The Monkey Cage features a post in which an array of political scientists weigh in on the function of legislatures in authoritarian regimes:
A new report from the International Crisis Group explains why Muslim insurgents are gaining ground on the government of Thailand in the country's turbulent South.
A new U.N. report details illegal drug trends in Asia and the Pacific.
Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Last week I wrote about the efforts by some countries -- Russia and China in particular -- to push for an international regulatory regime for the Internet. The issue has come to a head because of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), which started on December 3 and is set to end tomorrow (Friday). The conference was supposed to draw up a new international treaty on telecommunications, but the United States, the countries of the European Union, and others who favor an open internet free from state control opposed inlcuding any mention of the Internet, which, they feared, would essentially give a pass to repressive governments that would use the regulations as an excuse to block objectionable content. On Wednesday night the conference erupted in controversy when the chairman attempted -- by questionable means -- to include an Internet resolution into the text of the treaty. That resolution was then approved by a majority of the conference participants.
Photo by ITU Pictures
M. Steven Fish and Katherine E. Michel explain why Tunisia is taking the right approach to establishing democractic institutions.
Anne Applebaum explores the motivations for people to support authoritarian regimes.
Dalibor Rohac argues that religion isn't necessarily the key to understanding the success of Islamist parties in the MENA region.
Endy Bayuni explains the tensions underlying recent violence among Indonesian migrants.
Peter Passell introduces the Legatum Institute's 2012 Prosperity Index.
Jackee Batanda reports on the corruption scandal that has soured Uganda's relations with foreign aid donors.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
David Rieff attacks the assumptions behind America's democracy promotion agenda.
The Arabist provides alternate sources of English versions of the new Egyptian draft consitution -- with a bit of arch commentary along the way.
Amrit Dhillon criticizes the Indian government's restrictions on morphine for the poor.
At The Monkey Cage, Joshua Tucker offers a handy overview of Ukraine's parliamentary elections and what they tell us about the Ukraine's continued drift toward authoritarianism.
Writing for The Irrawaddy, Burmese journalist Aung Zaw explains why the resurgence of ethnic conflict in northwestern Burma bodes ill for the next phase of reforms.
At Jadaliyya, Basma Guthrie and Fida Adely explain why the Jordanian government is tightening the screws on the domestic media.
Foreign Policy's own Marc Lynch writes on the burgeoning dissatisfaction in Kuwait.
Writing for OpenDemocracy.net, Paul Rogers argues that western intervention in Mali would be a gift to Al Qaeda.
Democracy Digest offers a useful situation report on the state of democratic institutions in Tunisia.
[The photo above shows Cubans lining up to receive government coal rations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.]
Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images
In a country where consulting a psychologist is taboo, Portia Walker explores the challenge of overcoming the civil war in Libya.
Endy Bayuni examines why few Indonesians are prepared to come to terms with the darkest chapter of the country's recent history.
Min Zin wonders whether the regime will succeed in its bid to co-opt the pro-democracy opposition through appeals to nationalism amid continuing sectarian strife.
Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections in Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he may run for president for a fourth time in 2018. But some observers think he may face significant challenges during his third term.
At a European Union summit in Brussels, Serbia finally received official approval as a candidate for membership in the EU. At the same the EU's 27 member nations withdrew their ambassadors from Belarus.
The Spanish Supreme Court acquitted Judge Baltasar Garzon, who had been accused of violating a 1977 amnesty law when he tried to prosecute crimes committed during the Franco era.
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Tensions soared in Senegal ahead of the Feb. 26 elections as security forces clashed with protestors. Opposition leader Youssou N'Dour, the singer, was injured during a political rally. At least six protestors have reportedly died over the past month. Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo met with the government and opposition leaders in an effort to mediate the political standoff.
President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali said that presidential elections will be held on time in April despite a heavily-armed Tuareg uprising taking place in the north of the country.
The International Criminal Court announced it will investigate possible war crimes committed in Cote d'Ivoire as far back as 2002, after Laurent Gbagbo became president. The court was previously only looking at crimes committed in the violence that followed the 2010 election when Gbagbo, currently in jail in The Hague, refused to step down.
In Burma, the largest strike since 1938 is testing the limits of the new law allowing labor unions. China's leaders urged the Burmese government to reinforce its control over the two countries' turbulent border.
Experts warned of potential security risks in the lead-up to Timor-Leste's general elections in March.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to call on the Sri Lankan government next week to report its progress on investigating possible war crimes committed at the end of the civil war in 2009. The UN also wants to see an accounting of reconciliation measures taken by the authorities.
Amid the continuing political crisis in the Maldives, the Commonwealth urged government and opposition to start an immediate dialogue leading toward early elections at the end of 2012.
CAMILO PAREJA/AFP/Getty Images
On Friday, the Burmese monk Shin Gambira, one of the leaders of the 2007 protests, was reportedly detained by the authorities. Earlier this week, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received formal approval from the election commission to run in the parliamentary elections in April and a UN envoy said Burma was considering allowing foreign election observers in to monitor the polls. The US waived one of its sanctions against the country, making it easier for Burma to get help from international financial institutions, and reports indicated CIA director David Petraeus may travel to Burma later this year. According to a report ranking countries on their respect for the rule of law, Burma ranked last out of 197 countries, offering the least legal protection for foreign companies and investors.
Thailand's ruling party submitted a plan to the Parliament to amend the country's constitution, which was drafted after the 2006 coup. A similar attempt four years ago led to large protests.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the country's notoriously powerful spy agency, faced a rare wave of court actions against it. Although most of the cases have little chance of success, some analysts believe they demonstrate new resolve on the part of the judiciary to curb the power of the security establishment.
Two Tibetan brothers are said to have been shot down by Chinese security forces. They had been on the run since participating in January protests against Chinese rule. This comes after another Tibetan protester was reported to have set himself on fire in China's Sichuan province. A Chinese human rights group said that a dissident writer had been sentenced to seven years in jail for inciting subversion in a poem he wrote. Three other dissident writers have been sentenced to jail in the past few months.
The Maldives President resigned - under duress, according to him - after three weeks of protests and a police mutiny. Since then there have been violent clashes, and the Maldives' Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against the former president and the former defence minister. The UN arrived Friday to meet with both parties.
(As FP's Joshua Keating noted in his report on the turmoil, the incident reminds us coups have become an increasingly rare phenomenon in recent years.)
Spain's notorious international human rights judge Baltazar Garzon, most famous for indicting former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, was convicted for overstepping his jurisdiction and barred from the bench for 11 years. (The photo above shows a pro-Garzon demonstration in Madrid.)
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
Welcome to the Weekly Brief from Democracy Lab, Foreign Policy's new online project devoted to the story of societies attempting to make the difficult transition from authoritarianism and closed economies to democracy and openness. A unique journalistic collaboration between FP and the Legatum Institute, Democracy Lab pursues this story through a genuinely global prism. Our coverage includes our new Transitions blog, a collective report from countries all along the spectrum of change, as well as case studies, in-depth investigations, and topical reporting - all aimed at illuminating the day-to-day complexities of this constantly evolving story.
Now for our take on the week's events:
The story in Burma (Myanmar) gets more interesting by the day. Last week's release of political prisoners has Western governments wondering whether it's time to ease up on sanctions. During a meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma early in the week, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell hinted that Washington might be prepared to reconsider its stance if reforms continue while emphasizing that the U.S. will follow Aung San Suu Kyi's lead on the matter. (For the moment, she and her fellow activists say that the government hasn't done enough to merit a relaxation of the West's bans on dealings with the regime.) By contrast, President Thein Sein, in an interview with The Washington Post, urged the West to lift sanctions now. He also said that he'd be willing to consider Aung San Suu Kyi for a government post if she wins a seat in parliamentary by-elections in April.
The Arab Awakening continues to offer a mixed picture. An IMF delegation visited Cairo without coming to an agreement on an envisioned $3.2 billon loan to boost that country's struggling economy; the two sides promised to continue the talks in February. Yemenis are preparing for next month's presidential election next month amid controversy over a proposed "immunity bill" that would protect current President Ali Abdullah Saleh from prosecution if he agrees to cede power. And in Syria, where dozens of activists appear to be dying in clashes with government forces each week, opposition forces succeeded in gaining tenuous control over the town of Zabadani, on the border with Lebanon.
Elsewhere, Bangladeshis awoke to the news that their government had foiled an attempted coup back in December. In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan backed down on his campaign to end popular fuel subsidies but showed ominous signs of an inclination to retaliate against protestors.
Finally, the annual Freedom House report on the state of democracy counted Ukraine, Hungary, and South Africa among countries that have shown signs of backsliding on fundamental freedoms.
The Latest from FP
Charles Villa-Vicencio explains how the experience of South Africa's truth and reconciliation process could help the countries of the Arab Awakening.
Sheldon Garon argues that Chinese save a lot because their government has created institutions that provide corresponding incentives.
Christian Caryl makes the case that the recent victory for Malaysia's opposition undermines the arguments of authoritarian rulers around the region.
Min Zin offers an update on sanctions against Burma.
Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.