A happy Easter to all those celebrating this week!
In the latest for our new Putinology column, Anna Nemtsova reveals the unruly forces that are troubling the Kremlin's security services.
Juan Nagel bemoans the absurdity of Nicolás Maduro's presidential campaign in Venezuela.
Mohamed Eljarh assesses a weak point in Libya's media reform that is essential to the country's democratic transition.
Jonathan Morduch and Timothy Ogden advocate using microfinance to meet the real financial needs of the world's poor.
Min Zin argues that Burma's political elite have failed their country in preventing a recurring pattern of ethnic violence.
Greg Rushford argues that it's not just the world's advanced economies driving trade inequality.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
Reporting for The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin shares the economic hardships forcing an Afghani father to give away his daughter, and the government that won't support him.
In a new paper for the New America Foundation, Philip Napoli and Jonathan Obar examine the global phenomenon where new internet users are gaining access by using cell phones instead of computers.
International Crisis Group assesses the growing discontent in Eritrea and the potential for a violent power struggle.
In a recent Issue Perspective for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Stephen Engelken argues that India and Pakistan need to expand their trade ties in order to maintain peace in South Asia.
Following Russia's latest crackdown on non-profits and activists, Russian journalist Masha Gessen writes for the International Herald Tribune, comparing the tactics to the Soviet Union.
ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
On Thursday, a Bangladeshi tribunal found Delwar Hossain Sayeedi guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The tribunal condemned him to death -- in stark divergence from their ruling in the case of his political colleague, Abdul Quader Mollah, who received a life sentence from the same court. In response to the Sayeedi verdict, Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamist party in which both Sayeedi and Mollah hold prominent positions, stepped up its protests against the tribunals. The result was a spate of violence that has now left more than fifty people dead.
Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images
There's a statistic that sheds a harsh light on the current gang-rape scandal in India. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a nongovernment organization, there are quite a few Indian politicians who stand accused of rape and other crimes against women. Six state assembly members have actually been elected to office despite facing rape charges.
Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/GettyImages
Rick Rowden argues that recent accounts of "Africa's rise" are fundamentally flawed.
In his column, Christian Caryl explains why 2012 was a good year for elections, but a bad one for democracy.
Juan Nagel outlines possible scenarios for Venezuela if Hugo Chávez leaves the scene.
Peter Passell sums up some of the recent research in transitional economics.
Reflecting on the holiday season just past, Endy Bayuni shows how Indonesians are winning the war on Christmas.
And Jackee Batanda rounds out the year 2012 out with stories about extraordinary Ugandans
And here are this week's recommended reads:
Syria Deeply publishes the powerful tale of a young Alawite woman whose pro-revolutionary mother was killed by her pro-regime father -- a vivid example of how the civil war is tearing families apart. Al-Monitor shares the experience of Alawites living under siege.
Democracy Digest provides a useful collection of views from the experts on the directions that might be taken by a post-Chávez Venezuela.
Writing for The Irrawaddy, Gustaaf Houtman offers a vivid take on the recent changes in Burma as the society continues to open up.
Over at The New York Times, Simon Romero presents an unforgettable portrait of Uruguay's ultra-modest president.
A new working paper from the International Monetary Fund analyzes economic transitions in post-conflict nations.
Rami G. Khouri casts a critical gaze on some of the most frequent analytical assumptions about the Arab Spring.
Sebastian Mallaby, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, joins the argument over Africa's economic development, insisting that the continent is growing in more ways than one.
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
Joseph Allchin explains why the war crimes trials under way in Bangladesh show why transitional justice and party politics don't mix.
Christian Caryl argues that treating democracy as an inevitable outcome may actually hurt the cause of democracy.
Nazila Fathi looks at how Iranian leaders are responding to the deepening economic crisis created by sanctions.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
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
Writing from Libya, Christopher Stephen offers a forensic analysis of the Benghazi consulate attack.
Syrian dissident Ahed Al Hendi recalls what it was like growing up under the personality cult surrounding the Assads.
Christian Caryl examines little-noticed corners of the Arab world where the spirit of rebellion continues to smolder.
Jon Temin explains why Sudan's governance problems are too deep to be cured by concessions to breakaway regions.
Guest blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad casts a critical eye on Mideast potentates who are using blasphemy laws to silence critics.
Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez analyzes the factors influencing Venezuelans' decisions to emigrate after the Hugo Chávez victory in this month's presidential election.
Katrina Lantos Swett and Robert P. George make the case for keeping post-revolutionary constitutions in the Arab World free of blasphemy laws.
Jackee Batanda observes plans by the Ugandan security forces to crack down on the country's social media.
And Endy Bayuni writes about the political strategy behind Indonesia's creeping liberalization of laws on capital punishment.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
In a new paper from the Brookings Doha Center, Salman Shaikh proposes a path forward toward a solution to Syria's deepening crisis.
The Inter American Press Association warns of a rising threat to press freedom from authoritarian governments and violence across Latin America.
Democracy Digest analyzes a political assassination in Tunisia that could have a profound effect on the course of the revolution.
As talk grows of a possible military intervention in Mali, the Council on Foreign Relations offers a useful backgrounder on Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. (The photo above shows Tuareg fighters in northern Mali.)
An intriguing blog post from The Economist describes the crucial differences in local government around India.
Ivan Krastev reflects on the importance of trust in democracies in a recent TED talk.
Courtesy of The Atlantic.com, Russian dissident Sergei Udaltsov live-tweets his detention.
And finally, be sure to check out this thought-provoking obituary of Cambodia's King Sihanouk, who died this week at age 89.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that child marriage is bad. Yes, it's just wrong, on the simple moral level when an 11-year-old is pushed into marrying someone four or five times her age. But the practice causes plenty of harder-edged problems too -- ranging from early pregnancy (the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide) to lost education opportunities and the psychological burdens of running a household from an early age. It's commendable that there are so many organizations, both at the global and grassroots levels, that are committed to stopping child marriage. But now, thanks to the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, you can too! Here's the hashtag: #DayoftheGirl. Problem solved.
SAM PANTHAKY/Stringer/AFP/Getty Images
Reporting from Caracas, Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez explores scenarios after this Sunday’s presidential vote in Venezuela. The main question: Will Hugo Chávez give up power if he loses?
Christian Caryl tells the story of an elementary school teacher in Sudan who faces execution because she had the courage to stand up to the regime. And Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch presents a gallery of similarly courageous but little-known activists from around the world.
On the scene in Tbilisi, James Kirchick reports on the surprising aftermath of Georgia's parliamentary election -- especially President Mikheil Saakashvili's remarkable acceptance of his own defeat. And Kirchick's dispatch from election day provides a vivid account of the tensions and hopes leading up to the vote.
In an excerpt from his new book, economist Justin Yifu Lin compares the experiences of transition economies and offers a few useful rules of thumb for reformers.
Christopher Stephen, on the scene in Benghazi, describes a local backlash against the militants who killed a popular U.S. ambassador.
In the run-up to Venezuela's epochal election, Juan Nagel reports on the shifting balance of forces, while Francisco Toro takes a closer look at whether Hugo Chávez has improved the life of the country's poor.
Reflecting on Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to the United States, Min Zin takes her to task for neglecting to mention the country's continuing civil war.
Endy Bayuni reports on the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission's effort to take on one of the country's most graft-ridden institutions: the police.
Mohamed El Dahshan investigates the absurdities of Egypt's campaign against blasphemy.
And Jackee Batanda recounts the curious tale of a run-in between U.S. diplomats and a Ugandan general.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
A paper from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance provides an in-depth look at Venezuela's presidential election.
In a provocative op-ed, MIT scholar Brian Haggerty argues that those who argue for a "limited" intervention in Syria are likely to be proven wrong by conditions on the ground.
The International Crisis Group offers a handy backgrounder on Malaysia, where a long-anticipated general election may soon shake up the political landscape.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume explains why he expects little from the new anti-corruption party just launched in India.
The Jamestown Foundation's Igor Rotar worries that the explosive situation in Central Asia's restive Ferghana Valley is likely to aggravate instability throughout the region.
A new book from Democracy Lab contributor Francisco Martin-Rayo tells of his travels through the terrorist recruiting grounds of Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.
And finally, Jadaliyya offers a withering review of The Daily Show appearance of Jordan's King Abdullah II, who, they say, is incorrectly portrayed as a reformist "constitutional monarch." You be the judge: You can find Part I of the interview here.
The Daily Show
Christian Caryl reports on the Salafi movement, which has been implicated in many of this week's protests around the Middle East.
Rohan, an emaciated nine-year-old, lies coughing in his father's arms. "He has tuberculosis," the man tells me. "But I cannot afford the medications." Behind the pair stands Lakshmi, a slight young woman who cradles a pale, listless baby. Has her child had her vaccinations? "No," the mother says. "We began but they became too expensive." Both families have waited hours in line for a two-minute appointment with a doctor at a free healthcare camp.
Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images
Patrick Bodenham meets some of Burma's child soldiers, and examines why the government has failed to follow through on its pledge to end the problem. Christian Caryl explains why the predicament of Burma's Rohingya is becoming a new global cause célèbre for Muslims.
In an overview of recent papers on transition economics, Peter Passell explores the dynamics behind issues ranging from girls' schools to clean cooking stoves.
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.
A new official report declaring the purge of communists in the 1960s in Indonesia to be a crime against humanity may be a historic milestone, but the muted public reaction suggests that this tragic episode has almost been wiped from the nation's collective memory.
On Monday, the National Commission on Human Rights, an independent state body, released its findings from a four-year investigation. The commission concludes that the army-led campaign amounted to a gross violation of human rights. It urged the government to prosecute the perpetrators and compensate victims and survivors. It also called upon President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue a public apology.
Carol Goldstein/Keystone/Getty Images
Three Princeton researchers (Morgan Greene, Jonathan Friedman, and Richard Bennet) tell the story of how post-Yugoslavia Kosovo (with some help from the international community) managed to pull off a remarkable feat of state-building.
Endy Bayuni explains why Indonesians disagree about the start of Ramadan, and what it says about the country's climate of religious toleration.
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/GettyImages
The majority of Muslims in Indonesia will begin fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Saturday, following the date ordained by the government. But a handful will start observing the holiday today. (The photo above shows Indonesians getting in last-minute shopping before Ramadan begins.)
Both Indonesian and foreign observers are baffled by how Muslims in this country are always fighting, at times quite passionately, over when Ramadan begins and ends. It is not unusual to find families divided by this debate. Once Ramadan begins, the fights cease and everyone goes about their lives (and their faith) as usual. Until the next year, that is.
Papuans love to call their homeland the Land of Peace not for nothing. It's not so much a utopian dream but it is a message they have been trying to convey for decades to the world, and most particularly to the Indonesian government: That whatever solutions anyone proposes to the complex problems facing Papua, they have to be non-violent.
Papua, unfortunately, is anything but peaceful. And as violence begets more violence, the territory furthest east in the Indonesian archipelago could soon spiral out of control.
Sectarian violence in the western region of Burma that shares a long border with Bangladesh has now claimed at least 25 lives since Friday. President Thein Sein has declared an emergency in Arakan State, where a feud between ethnic Arakan Buddhists against stateless Rohingya Muslims has spiraled into full-blown communal violence. The looting, arson, and mob clashes are spreading fast.
Although a predominantly Buddhist state, Arakan is home to a large number of Muslims, including the estimated 800,000 Rohingya, who are regarded by the Burmese government as stateless illegal aliens. The United Nations has described them as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. However, many Burmese call them "Bengalis," or even use a racial slur, kalar, a derogatory term for foreigners, especially those of Indian appearance.
Ye Aung Thu/AFP/GettyImages
Author Will Dobson, publisher of the new book The Dictator's Learning Curve, talks to Christian Caryl about why the despots aren't as dumb as you think.
Thomas Miller learns why Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy believes he can bring the Arab Spring to Southeast Asia.
Robert Looney explores Saudi Arabia's efforts to wean itself off of dependence on oil - perhaps giving hope to other commodity-driven economies.
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
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
This week, the residents of Wukan, the village in China's Guangdong province that witnessed bold anti-corruption protests back in December, went to the polls in an exceptional first step towards electing their local leaders (see photo above). Meanwhile, a Western journalism watchdog group concludes that Chinese journalists have a surprisingly high impact on government policy -- even though the government is far from loosening its grip on dissent.
For the first time, the finance minister of Burma (Myanmar) revealed the country's external debt: a cool $11 billion. That news came as the government unveiled its next budget, which includes significant rises in spending on education and health even as the military appears set to retain a large share. Cambodia's war crimes tribunal sentenced "Duch," the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison chief, to life in prison. Meanwhile, Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appears set to return home from exile.
In South Sudan, journalists are still waiting for a long overdue media bill to receive final government ratification. In the meantime, security forces continue to harass and arrest journalists with impunity.
In Senegal, the opposition took to the streets to protest against the constitutional court's decision to allow President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term. Violence escalated on Monday when two protesters were shot dead and dozens injured.
Rioters clashed with security forces in Algeria amid a growing number of strikes and protests. Meanwhile, the leader of the main Islamist opposition party warned of unrest if the upcoming parliamentary elections in May are rigged.
Tunisia forges ahead with its own democratic transition as it struggles to balance the competing demands of democracy and religion. The government, meanwhile, is touting its attractions as an investment destination. Yemen confirmed its intention to set up a stock market.
Fourteen jailed Bahraini dissidents started a hunger strike and Kuwaitis voted for their fourth parliament in six years. Iraq's Sunni leaders ended their boycott of parliament to protest the government's alleged crackdown on Sunni politicians, although most commentators agreed that the crisis was far from over.
Two Egyptians were shot dead by the police and hundreds were injured in protests demanding accountability from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt's ruling military junta, over the deadly football riots on Wednesday night. A prominent commentator wrote that these events have the potential to sway both the Muslim Brotherhood and the country's vast "silent majority" against SCAF even as they highlight the urgent need for police reform and civilian oversight of the security services.
Egypt's electoral commission announced the results of the first round of voting for the Shura Council (the upper house of Parliament). The overwhelming victory for Islamist parties was consistent with the earlier results of elections for the lower house (although voter turnout was radically lower).
Violence continues unabated in Syria. In New York, diplomats spent the week revising a UN Security Council draft resolution to get Russia on board. Western governments and Arab states continued to discuss options for the possible exile of Bashar al-Assad. A conference in Iran aimed at rebranding the Arab uprisings as an "Islamic Awakening" backfired, in part because no one from Syria's opposition was invited to the event.
Protests continued in Russia. One influential group of Western analysts conclude that Putin will weather the storm and win the elections. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, however, predicts an Arab Spring-like revolution that will topple the Russian government.
At a Communist Party conference last weekend, Cuban President Raul Castro launched a wide-scale anti-corruption campaign and floated the idea of term limits for high ranking officials, including himself. (He added, however, that a multi-party system is not in the books.) Meanwhile, a report revealed that Cubans paid nearly 20% more for their food in 2011.
A Haitian judge sparked outcry from human rights organizations by recommending that the infamous former Haitian dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier face trial for corruption rather than abuses of human rights.
Finally, the New York Review of Books launched a blog mini-series about the fate of democracy in different parts of the world.
-- by Chloé de Préneuf
Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.