No shortcut to national dialogue, Sudanese civil society insists

sudan darfurA national dialogue to address Sudan’s endemic crises requires security and basic rights for all citizens, a lifting of the state of emergency and a cessation of hostilities, say Sudanese civil society groups

Eighteen NGOs issued a statement on Thursday demanding that the national dialogue, proposed by President Omar Al Bashir earlier this year, should be inclusive of civil society.

Hafez Mahmoud, Director of the Sudanese Justice Africa, one of the signatories of the statement, told Radio Dabanga that the dialogue process should not be limited to political parties. “They lack the participation of society.”

Other signatories of the statement are the Darfur Bar Association of lawyers, the centre of Alkhatim Adlan for Enlightenment and Human Development, Nuba Relief and Rehabilitation, and Sudan Democracy First.

“We welcome calls for a national dialogue in Sudan, but we are deeply concerned as active civil society organisations that current plans for dialogue fall short of the minimum required,” the statement said:

A common approach to addressing grievances across our country is desperately needed. A de facto one party system has confiscated democratic freedoms and sought to silence dissenting voices even from within its own ranks. Piecemeal approaches to peace have failed, with the Darfur conflict now in its eleventh year and fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continuing unabated.  

Full enjoyment of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, association and assembly, along with a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access are required before any meaningful dialogue can start.

“In my many travels to Sudan over the years, I have been inspired by the resilience, courage and vision of civil society leaders and activists,” said Ambassador Princeton Lyman, the former US Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan.

“I am impressed by the commitment of these non-partisan Sudanese citizens to advancing the interests of their country through open public consultations on creative proposals to resolve long-standing national problems,” which is why he is especially “concerned that the government has recently been increasingly engaged in a ‘crackdown’ on civil society organizations and leaders,” he wrote for Al-Jazeera.

The dialogue must be inclusive of all stakeholders and not restricted to political parties and alliances within them,” the NGOs added:

The process must not be elitist, limited to like-minded political parties and lack the participation of and accountability to society at large. This will require public access to credible and independent information on the dialogue and the space to debate and reach consensus. The ultimate failure of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was its lack of ownership by the Sudanese people. This time around, representatives of victims of Sudan’s many wars, civil society, youth, women’s groups, trades unions and intellectuals must be included, as well as political parties, and society at large.  The National Congress Party (NCP), National Consensus Forces (NCF), opposition groups, and Sudan Revolutionary Front must all participate.


Gambia’s women demand seat at the table

gambiawomenThe countdown to the Gambia’s 2016 general elections has begun with a rare move to bring together female politicians from across the divided political spectrum to ensure increased female representation, writes Saikou Jammeh.

This week, local women’s rights NGO Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (Gamcotrap) launched a campaign calling for political reforms to ensure the effective participation of women in all positions of political leadership.

“We are now saying that we want to fetch our own water and drink with men from the same well,” said Dr. Isatou Touray, executive director of Gamcotrap. The NGO has received support for the campaign from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

“What we’re doing has nothing to do with partisan politics,” says Touray. “It’s not about disempowering men. It’s about development, and it’s about gender politics.

“When we talk about gender politics, we’re talking about women from different political parties coming together to look at their issues and promote it, under one umbrella.”


Opportunities for Partnership – Supporting Free, Fair and Credible Elections in the DRC

Democratic_Republic_of_the_CongoFLAGMAPWhen I was appointed to be the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC, says Russ Feingold, I was necessarily consumed in the initial months by the M23 crisis and the Kampala Talks. But I have always been of the mind that the key to unlocking the vast potential of the Congolese people and their country, is the establishment of truly functioning democratic institutions, founded by and responsive to the Congolese people, he told a recent conference at the National Endowment for Democracy.

The Great Lakes region is vast, the issues are complex, and the players many.  While I was necessarily often consumed in the initial months by the M23 crisis and the Kampala Talks, I have always been of the mind that the key to unlocking the vast potential of the Congolese people and their country, is the establishment of truly functioning democratic institutions, founded by the Congolese people, responsive to the Congolese people, and ultimately responsible for the well-being of the Congolese people. 

The instability and underdevelopment that has plagued the DRC for too long has many causes, both regional and domestic in nature.  But only when the state is able to establish its authority across the entire country and through effective democratic processes harness the voices and energy of its people will the DRC realize its potential to be a leading nation on the African continent.

This conviction has in recent months caused me to focus intensely on the democratic process in Congo, particularly on the upcoming cycle of elections.   Between now and the end of 2016, the DRC faces the monumental task of holding local elections, delayed provincial elections and, finally, national elections in a vast country with little infrastructure.  The government has signaled its commitment to holding the first local elections in over 50 years – a staggering task that any fully developed country would find daunting – but one that is central to the DRC’s constitutional commitment to decentralize power.  I have made multiple trips now to discuss this process, with members of the Government, including the President of the national election commission, or CENI, Abbé Malu Malu, who I am very glad to see, is with us today, but also with the political opposition, civil society, and a cross-section of Congolese society from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi to Bukavu. 

Everywhere I traveled in the Congo, my interlocutors stressed that the upcoming elections are absolutely critical to the future of the DRC, a viewpoint with which I wholeheartedly agree.   Obviously, I am naturally drawn to elections and the electoral process given my past life in politics, but my interest in the elections process, and the criticality of the process at this point in Congolese history, is much more than that.  And this is why:  the DRC is at a crossroads, and these elections will in large part help determine on which road the country will travel in the future. 

The DRC has emerged from a period of conflict as devastating as the modern world has seen.  The country began this century left with few functioning institutions and a generation of citizens forced to scrape by and educate themselves as best they could in incredibly trying circumstances.  Make no mistake; the DRC has made important progress in the past decade.   Impressive economic growth rates give a glimpse of the potential of legitimate use of the country’s natural resources to enrich and sustain the people of the Congo.  But continued instability from armed groups, the lack of state authority, and inter-ethnic tensions mean the challenges for villages in Haut-Uele to Beni, North Kivu to Katanga to the seat of government in Kinshasa are immense.   

But these challenges must be met and overcome in the DRC’s journey to lasting stability and good governance.   After stewarding the DRC through a historic and tumultuous period of more than a decade, President Joseph Kabila faces the end of his constitutional term-limit.   The core test of any true democracy — the peaceful transfer of power –is before the DRC, its government and its people.    A democracy that does not know the regular and peaceful transfer of power is a democracy only in name.

When I speak to people in the DRC, yes, they often talk of stability and the need to end the cycle of violence, but often the first topic is not security, but elections.  Many do not buy the argument that stability must come first, then elections.   Nor do they buy the argument that indirect elections are necessary because of budget or security constraints.  They understand the flaws of the prior elections and are demanding a credible and transparent process. 

It is thus difficult to overstate how essential successful elections will be to the immediate and long-term future of the DRC.  But what will success look like?  What are the essential tasks of the CENI, of the government and its institutions, political actors and indeed of the citizens of the DRC?  And of particular interest to me, how can the United States and the international community support those essential tasks to assist the country and its people to realize the promise of democracy. 

Before examining these important questions, it is worth a brief review of the past election cycles in DRC, in 2006 and 2011, both of which left the Congolese people wanting, but for different reasons.  

In 2006, the country held its first democratic national elections in more than 40 years.  More than 70 percent of registered voters participated in the first round of elections, and more than 65 percent in the second round.   Voters elected Joseph Kabila president and gave his AMP coalition a majority of legislative seats in elections that international observers considered credible.  The elections were not without irregularities, episodes of violence, and even repugnant media broadcasts inciting ethnic hatred, which have no place in an election campaign, or in Congo period.   However, a broad range of observers including the Carter Center, the African Union and the European Union praised the conduct of the 2006 elections.   The Carter Center said the elections were “very well executed” and while noting some deficiencies in voting and ballot collection procedures, as well as instances of manipulation of the electoral process, said that they appeared “isolated and unlikely to affect the overall success of the vote.” 

Indeed, after four decades of a complete absence of democratic elections, a country emerging from a brutal period of war managed to conduct elections on par with some of the better electoral processes on the continent.  However, the 2006 elections were funded and run largely by the UN and the international community.  So while 2006 proved that elections could be held in the DRC, they did not answer the question of whether the government and people of the Congo could hold similarly credible elections.

Then came 2011:  Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on November 28, but the results were delayed more than a week in the case of the presidential race, and more than a month for the Parliament.  Several international observer missions judged that the results of the elections “lacked credibility,” due largely to irregularities and a lack of transparency in the vote tabulation process.   Our own take was that the overall process was “seriously flawed.”  While election day was generally peaceful, it was chaotic and disorganized at numerous polling stations throughout the country.  Many individuals could not find their names on voting lists and therefore could not vote.  Midway through election day, the CENI publicly announced those “omitted” individuals could vote in the stations in which they registered, regardless of whether their names appeared on the rolls.  This capped a voter registration process that had been completed four months earlier, but which the Carter Center and other observers claimed was flawed.  The campaign season and election day itself was marked by violence including riots, brutal security force reactions, and the death of at least 18 people.  After election day, thousands of ballots were left out in the rain, lost, or left uncounted. 

Going into 2011, many expected the elections to mirror and build on the positives of the 2006 election.  Five years later, the international community had expectations that the government had absorbed the lessons, training, and support provided for the 2006 process and understood and prepared for the logistical challenges of holding elections.  It soon became apparent, however, that neither the DRC nor the international community prepared well enough in advance of election day.  While the international community was prepared to assist, and did, it was not sufficient to overcome the faults and weaknesses of the national process.  2011 caused many to doubt whether democratic elections could be held in the DRC without the international community essentially running the operation.   While I understand where this skepticism comes from, I do not buy into it.   The DRC can absolutely hold free, fair, transparent, and credible elections, if the government, the political opposition, civil society, the voters, and, yes, the international community, commit to a collaborative partnership now to address the technical and logistical challenges to the electoral process.  

With past as prologue, there are a few key qualities of the upcoming elections which I believe must be met, and which the international community has a major stake in ensuring:

First and foremost, these elections must be held on time, with preparations beginning early.  With the electoral roadmap yet to be finalized, any delays from the 2015/2016 timeframe for local, provincial, and national elections are a cause of major concern.  This means that the critical preparatory work which the CENI has begun must be explained clearly and in detail to the public and the international community which is being asked to support this vital first stage.  Inadequate preparations in voting lists, tabulation plans, communications plans, judicial challenges, security, and certification of results can doom even the most orderly election day.  The government must have a clear plan of what is needed, when it is needed, and who will meet these needs now in order to successfully engage the international community’s support.  In the United States, where elections are an engrained undertaking, we still begin planning for the next elections almost as soon as the last election is held – and we can still be caught by surprise. 

Second, the elections, and the run-up to elections, must be free of electoral violence and intimidation, fair and transparent.  Political parties, including opposition parties, and civil society are important and necessary actors in any democracy and must be allowed to participate fully in the planning and conduct of elections, free from harassment and intimidation.   An independent and unbiased media is critical as well.  Observers should be permitted full access to the elections process at all levels and from the beginning of preparations, including vetting and auditing of voter lists.   A vital component of a free and fair process is the judiciary.  Magistrates who will be charged with settling election disputes must be independent and respect the neutrality of the elections process.  They should be properly trained and able to conduct their work absent intimidation or interference.  This sort of training is part of the preparation process, and it needs to be done early so that judges will be ready, beginning with the pre-election period to resolve any disputes about candidate registration and voter lists.  

A fundamental aspect of free and fair elections is respecting the right to vote.  I am deeply concerned by reports that the DRC voting rolls may not be updated in time for the 2015 local elections, which would result in people being denied the right to vote, including those who came of voting age since 2011.  I understand there are budgetary concerns at play, but there is no justification for denying citizens the right to vote – a right that goes to the very heart and soul of democracy.  If the voter rolls are not updated, these next elections may lose some of their credibility before a single vote is cast.

In ensuring fair elections, media plays a critical role and must also remain impartial.  All parties should have equal access to state-owned media, and government employees must embrace the principles of neutrality.  One of the most harmful aspects of previous elections was the use of hate speech in an effort to foster ethnic tensions and persuade voters.   There must be real sanctions for this type of abuse of the media, and a strong, independent media council to guard against abuse.  Journalists should be free to report on the planning and conduct of the elections free from harassment and intimidation.

Third, the elections must take place in a climate of security.  The 2011 elections were marred by reports of violence that killed at least thirty-three people and kept voters from the polls across the country.  The security forces, particularly the national police, must be trained appropriately, and ensure that there is not a repeat of this type of violence.  Security is not just about physical safety; it’s also about voters feeling safe to vote for whomever they want.  If a voter feels intimidated and forced to vote for a certain candidate, even if he or she is physically unharmed during the process, the election lacks credibility.

Fourth, there should be strict adherence to the Constitution, including the provision limiting the term of the President.  As President Obama said, the African continent needs strong institutions, not strong men.  I have stressed the importance of term-limits since I began working on the Senate Foreign Relations Africa sub-Committee, and in those two decades have seen countries which have respected term limits blossom into open, productive, and prosperous democracies.  Even countries where war and coups were the norm, like Sierra Leone, have turned around and seen peaceful changes of government at the ballot box.  

A president’s legacy is not determined by his or her time in office, but rather by what they accomplish while they are there.  Look at Nelson Mandela, or George Washington in this country.  These presidents would have certainly been re-elected had they run again, but both chose to step down.  Their legacies are none the worse for wear because of it; if anything, their legacies were solidified by their decisions to give their countries their first peaceful transfers of power in new eras of democracy.  And both men are considered the fathers of their countries to this day.

But we too often see the opposite, countries where Presidents cling to power and increasingly limit the essential human rights of their people, and consequently the potential of these people and their countries, which is only realized through strong democracy.  I want to emphasize that this is not a distinction I make only in the context of the DRC.  Other countries in the region, Rwanda, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, will have elections in the coming years, and the principle of executive term-limits will be essential in all.

Finally, there must be absolute respect for the outcome of elections.  This goes part and parcel with the peaceful transfer of power.  It is not enough to simply hold elections and then disregard the outcome, which we have sadly seen happen on the continent.  The burden is not just on the government or the CENI however; opposition, civil society and donors all have a duty to ensure that credible observation structures operate to ensure independent verification of the polls.  Candidates at all levels, security services, political actors and the voters themselves, must accept the outcome of the elections and support the will of the people.  I can tell you from experience that supporting democracy does not mean that you will always enjoy the outcome on election day.

Now it is not sufficient for me to articulate the conditions by which the world will judge Congo’s elections successful, without also discussing what we, the international community and the United States, are ready to do to assist in supporting this outcome.  We have seen the difference a strong partnership with the Congolese government and its electoral institutions makes in this regard.  In 2006, the electoral process was robustly accompanied by international partners, and was largely successful.  However, 2006 should not be the model for elections in the DRC.   The future of elections in the DRC must be elections owned, operated, and overseen by the country itself.   The international community absolutely has a role, but it must be a supporting role.  

The role of the international community has been and can be varied and broad, from the heavy lift of MONUSCO helicopters ferrying ballot boxes, to the election day monitoring of polling stations.  Earlier this month, at a meeting of the International Contact Group on the Great Lakes, we discussed elections at length, and I was glad to hear of the increasingly frequent and detailed collaboration among the donor community in Kinshasa, MONUSCO, and the CENI, along with other stakeholders.  Such transparent and consistent cooperation is essential in ensuring that problems are dealt with early, and that there is a continuous feedback loop between donors, election officials, the Government, civil society and political parties.

The United States must look at the areas where it can add particular value to the process, and working with the Congolese and our embassy in Kinshasa, we plan to focus our resources in several key areas:

First, strong civic and voter education activities conducted by Congolese civil society organizations will build a base of informed voters who have knowledgeable expectations of the rights and responsibilities of government, the candidates, and the voters themselves in conducting credible elections and mitigating conflict during the campaign season.  These activities can also seek to strengthen existing linkages between civil-society organizations and the CENI, in order to strengthen the latter’s accountability, independence, and transparency to the public.

Second, CENI’s capacity must be adequate to fulfill its essential role in organizing and overseeing the elections process.  The UN Needs Assessment Mission, CENI, and the DRC Government all have acknowledged that significant gaps in CENI’s logistical, technological, and subject matter expertise exist, limiting its ability to organize three separate elections across such a vast country with little infrastructure and poor communications networks, and within a three year time-frame.  CENI officials require training and technical assistance to prepare them to manage and fulfill the variety of tasks needed for managing the electoral roll, transporting elections materials to polling stations, tabulating votes, reporting results, and other responsibilities to ensure a clean, fair and transparent election.

Third, election observation by local organizations strengthens domestic institutional and technical capacity to conduct credible election and campaign monitoring.  The deployment of domestic observers with advanced elections observation techniques serves an important role in increasing the credibility of the process.

Last but not least, as I mentioned, the national police must provide neutral and effective elections security.  Training is a key part of this.  Police must be adequately trained in such areas as the non-political role of security forces in elections, protection of polling sites, human rights, and crowd control.  A train-the-trainer and mentoring approach, to expand the capabilities of the police and ensure widespread dissemination of the training curriculum, and to ensure that such training can continue after the election to promote long-term and sustainable reform, may be the most viable means to ensure sufficient training given the size of the country and the number of officers to train.

While the international community has a role to play in Congolese elections, in the key areas I’ve outlined above and beyond, the transition from full international leadership of elections to a process solely owned and operated by the DRC is a transition that eventually must and should happen.  The Congolese people must aspire and plan for the day when credible elections in the Congo are a given and the international community is merely a bystander.

But as critical as elections are, they are only a step on the path to lasting good governance.  Once the ballots are in and the winners announced, the difficult work of governing begins.  At the local level, this will occur in a way never before seen in Congo.  The potential benefits are huge: democracy at the village level, tied to the state, able to carry out the people’s will and provide leadership to resolve conflicts before they spiral out-of-control, and help address the root causes of conflict and instability.  However, the holding of local elections will be fraught with risk, as various economic, ethnic, and political jockeying takes place in the run-up to local elections, and in the after-math as institutions and individuals adjust to this new level of democratic governance and oversight.  Local governance is a new responsibility for all Congolese to learn and one that requires a thorough understanding of the local governments’ authorities and limitations, as well as the role and responsibilities of citizens in governance. 

It is essential that the shift from national or provincial power to local authority be managed in a transparent manner, and that politicians not use the language of hate and resort to violence to pursue their agendas.  It is also essential that local governments be granted the resources necessary to conduct their work, and the government begins now to implement the 2006 Constitutional mandate for decentralization, under which 40% of revenues goes to provincial governments and local authorities.   Progress on democratization will open up promising approaches in other important areas as well, such as Security Sector Reform.  That said, progress on Security Sector Reform helps underpin democratic development and these important processes must run concurrently.

These are just a few of the many challenges ahead, but our focus here today is the first and necessary step of elections.  

DRC is at a crossroads, this is clear.   One road leads to closed political space, further disenfranchisement of the population, a failure to harness the natural gifts and potential of the Congo and its people.  At worse, this path would lead to more of the devastating conflict and instability that has scarred the DRC for too long.  The other path leads to a much brighter future, and one that I am confident is within the grasp of the Congolese people if all members of government and society work together.  This other path leads to functioning government at all levels, the enfranchisement of this population, a bold new future based on the citizen’s voice, and the benefits that are sure to come to a country that has earned and lived up to its name as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.    

Special Envoy Feingold gave this Keynote Address at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Conference on “Opportunities for Partnership in Supporting Free, Fair and Credible Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” March 20, 2014.

NED welcomes Spring 2014 fellows

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is pleased to announce its Spring 2014 cohort of Reagan-Fascell and Hurford Youth Fellows. In residence are leading democracy activists, practitioners, journalists, and scholars from Brazil, Chad, China, Ethiopia, Georgia, Pakistan, and Ukraine. A list of the 2013–2014 Fellows and their bios can be found here.

Named in honor of NED’s two principal founders, former president Ronald Reagan and the late congressman Dante Fascell, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program seeks to increase the knowledge, enrich the skills, broaden the perspectives, and boost the morale of some of the world’s most committed and courageous democracy activists and scholars.  Based at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, NED’s research and publications arm, in Washington, D.C., the program has enabled over 200 fellows from more than 80 countries to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change.

In collaboration with the World Movement for Democracy, the Forum continues co-sponsorship of the Hurford Youth Fellows Program.  Funded by the Hurford Foundation and based at the secretariat of the World Movement, the Hurford program seeks to build the leadership skills, enhance the organizational talents, and harness the potential of young democracy advocates from around the world. 

The International Forum offers a collegial environment for fellows to take a step back from the pressures of their daily work; reflect on their experiences; conduct research and writing; compare notes with counterparts; consider lessons learned; and build ties that contribute to the development of a global network of democracy advocates.  In support of international exchange, the Forum hosts an active calendar of events and facilitates connections between fellows and the academic, civic, media, and policy communities in Washington, D.C., and beyond.


“Access to Justice and Democracy in Central Africa: The Case of Chad”

Delphine DjiraibeMs. Delphine Djiraibe is a senior human rights lawyer and chief attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, a NED grantee organization based in N’djamena that she founded in 2006 to provide Chad’s poor with access to justice and hold the Chadian government and extractive industries accountable for harm caused to local populations and the environment.  In 1991, she co-founded the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights and has succeeded in helping victims of former dictator Hissen Habre bring him to justice.  Ms. Djiraibe also serves as president of the Peace and Reconciliation Initiative’s Comité de Suivi de l’Appel à la Paix et à la Réconciliation, whose objective is to encourage dialogue among political actors, strengthen democratic practices, and promote the rule of law.  For her extraordinary efforts in protecting human rights and preserving the environment, she received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2004.  During her fellowship, she is exploring issues of transitional justice in comparative context, focusing on the Hissen Habre trial and researching mechanisms to improve equal access to justice in Chad.

“Inflation, Inequality, and Democracy: Stabilization and Its Crucial Role in the Democratization of Brazil” 

Maria Clara R. M. do PradoMs. Maria Clara R. M. do Prado is a seasoned journalist, editor, and foreign correspondent covering social, economic, and financial issues across Brazil. She currently serves as a columnist for Brazil’s major economic newspaper, Valor Econômico, and is preparing to launch a news analysis blog.  In 1994, she was invited to work as communications coordinator for the economic team that drafted Brazil’s Real Plan, the stabilization project responsible for putting an end to hyperinflation.  She is the author of A Real História do Real (2005, in Portuguese), a book about the formulation and implementation of the Real Plan.  For her sound reporting on monetary stabilization plans, the Board of Brazilian Economists named her “Economic Journalist of the Year” in 2006.  During her fellowship, she is exploring how distributive economic policies have led to the emergence of a “new” middle class in Brazil and investigating how this development may foster a more inclusive democracy.

“Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition: Opposition Politics and the Role of the Diaspora”

Merera Gudina JefiDr. Merera Gudina Jefi is associate professor of political science and international relations at Addis Ababa University, where he previously served as chair of the department of political science and member of the academic commission of the College of Social Sciences.  He is a former member of the Ethiopian Parliament (2005–2010) and is currently leading two opposition groups, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK).  He is the author of two books on political developments in Ethiopia—Ethiopia: From Autocracy to ‘Revolutionary Democracy’: 1960s–2011 (2011) and Ethiopia: Competing Ethnic Nationalisms and the Quest for Democracy: 1960–2000 (2003)—as well as several articles in academic journals, including the African Journal of Political Science, the Journal of East African Studies, and the Horn of Africa Journal. He has been interviewed on CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera for his perspectives on political trends in Ethiopia.  During his fellowship, Dr. Jefi is exploring opposition politics, political polarization, and the role of the Ethiopian diaspora in facilitating democratization in Ethiopia.

“Promoting Participatory Democracy in Brazil through Public Policy and Budget Monitoring”

Renato LanfranchiMr. Renato Lanfranchi is a human rights activist working in Brazil since 1991.  For the past five years, he has served as coordinator of the Oscar Romero Centre for Human Rights (CEDHOR), an NGO based in João Pessoa, in the northeastern state of Paraíba, which promotes human rights awareness, monitors public policy, and provides legal defense for victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and police brutality.  Among his activities, Mr. Lanfranchi runs human rights education programs and encourages community participation in public policy and budget monitoring.  In 2011, he co-founded the Public Policy and Budget Observatory in Santa Rita, which fights against misuse of public money and neglect in basic services.  He is also a founding member of the Herbert de Sousa Centre for the Defense of Life, based in Fortaleza, and co-founder of the Sapopemba Human Rights Center, based in São Paulo.  During his fellowship, he is exploring how local budget-monitoring mechanisms can promote democratic participation and accountability in Brazil.

“Documenting Democracy and Extremism in Pakistan through Political Cartoons” 

Sabir NazarMr. Sabir Nazar is an editorial cartoonist with the Express Tribune, Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated newspaper, partnered with the International Herald Tribune, and the Friday Times, Pakistan’s first independent weekly paper.  He is also a regular contributor to popular magazines such as Newsweek Pakistan and the Herald.  Over the course of his career, he has produced over 5,000 illustrations, depicting a broad spectrum of political events and social issues, including human rights violations, women’s voter rights, madrassa reforms, sectarian strife, and extremism.  In addition, he illustrates cartoons, posters, and publications for a number of human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Center for Civic Education, UNDP, Action Aid, the Alliance against Sexual Harassment, OXFAM, the Democratic Commission for Human Development, and the Omar Asghar Khan Foundation.  In 2009, Mr. Nazar received an “Editor’s Pick” award from Himal Southasian, a Kathmandu-based magazine that covers political and economic trends in South Asia.  During his fellowship, he is developing content for a book that will showcase the power of images and portray the political history of Pakistan through cartoons. 

“Judicial Independence & Impartiality: Important Groundwork for Building a Democratic State”

Ekaterine PopkhadzeMs. Ekaterine Popkhadze is executive director of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), a leading Tbilisi-based civil society organization that receives support from NED and NDI to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law in Georgia.  A passionate legal advocate with more than twelve years’ experience championing the rights of vulnerable groups, Ms. Popkhadze has been active in representing GYLA in cases of strategic importance for the country, including freedom of information, freedom of expression and assembly, and election-related disputes. She has taught courses in labor and administrative law at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi and has authored and edited several publications on judicial issues in Georgia. During her fellowship, she is working on a comparative analysis of the judicial systems in the United States and Georgia, drawing lessons from the U.S. system that may be applicable in her home country. 

“Enhancing Youth Influence over State Decision-Making by Increasing the Power of the Public Sector”

Anna TovstukhaMs. Anna Tovstukha is vice coordinator of the Center for Social Partnership, a regional NGO that promotes cooperation between civil society and local government for the betterment of society. She has served as head of the youth organization Student Brotherhood of the Sumy region and as coordinator of the public movement CHESNO.  She has been active in local governance as a member of the Sumy region’s Youth Public Council.  During her fellowship, Ms. Tovstukha is focusing on the influence of youth over political decision-making processes. 

“Exploring the Path to Democracy in China”

Guozhen XiaoMs. Guozhen Xiao is a leading human rights lawyer, most recently with the Beijing-based Huahuang Law Firm, where she represented civil rights activists, petitioners, and prisoners of conscience targeted by the Chinese authorities.  She is an active participant in the New Citizens’ Movement, a network of civil rights activists who work to promote constitutionalism.  She has also volunteered with Gongmin, a banned organization that brings together lawyers and scholars calling for the rule of law and greater constitutional protections in China.   As a member of the Independent Chinese Centre of PEN International, she has written several articles on constitutionalism and human rights in China.  In 2012, she was named one of 25 Notable Rights Defenders in Mainland China by, an overseas Chinese-language website that covers Chinese political news and reports on human rights abuses.  During her fellowship, Ms. Xiao is researching comparative constitutionalism and identifying ways to promote rule of law in China.   

For media inquiries, please contact Jane Riley Jacobsen at or at (202) 378-9700.  To apply for a Reagan-Fascell Fellowship, click here.  To apply for a Hurford Youth Fellowship, email  For more information on fellowship opportunities at the National Endowment for Democracy, visit