Toward a new transatlantic partnership for liberal democracy?

The first foreign trip of a newly appointed U.S. secretary of state carries a particular message, foreign policy analyst Ulrich Speck writes for Carnegie Europe. John Kerry’s visit to Europe suggests that we may be witnessing the birth of a new transatlantic partnership.

In his State of the Union speech, Obama endorsed the project of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a new alliance which would be built not on Cold War romanticism, but on tangible economic and strategic interests.

… If both sides manage to overcome the many obstacles to the TTIP, the pact could restore the normative power of what geostrategists like Thomas P.M. Barnett have branded “the core:” Europe and the United States as the heartlands of liberal democracy.

A successful transatlantic marketplace would confirm the superiority of economic and political liberalism as an organizing principle for modern societies.

The strategic challenge for Americans and Europeans in the twenty-first century is to find ways to share wealth and power without sacrificing the principles that have made the accumulation of wealth and power possible: the institutions of market economy and liberal democracy. The TTIP could, if properly handled, become a key element in this transfer of power.

Ulrich Speck is a foreign policy analyst in Heidelberg, Germany. He is an associate fellow at Spanish think tank FRIDE, senior analyst at Wikistrat, and editor of the Global Europe Morning Brief. RTWT

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Tunisia’s Blessings and Arab Spring Lessons

Geography teaches much about Tunisia, says Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor.

It is the Arab country closest to the heart of Europe, jutting out toward Sicily at the central Mediterranean’s narrowest point.

Whereas in states that have been, in terms of geography, more artificially conceived –Syria and Iraq, for example — stability has been guaranteed for decades by suffocating military dictatorships, Tunisia’s post-colonial political history has been more subtle. Like Egypt, Tunisia is not geographically artificial and therefore did not require an extremist ideology to hold it together — the case with Syria, Iraq and neighboring Libya. But unlike Egypt, another age-old cluster of civilization, Tunisia has not had a robust military establishment to provide order.

Because it was more European, and because post-World War II political leader, Habib Bourguiba himself was sufficiently enlightened, the Tunisian military was kept small and a lot of money was instead spent on items like primary school education and rural women’s literacy. When Zine El Abidine Ben Ali replaced Bourguiba in 1987, his rule was backed more by the internal security services than by the comparatively weak military. Now that Ben Ali has been toppled, the internal security services are simply not sufficiently widespread to provide order in an emergency, and the military has no real tradition of doing such a thing. Tunisia, more than most Arab societies, therefore, is dependent on political consensus for its stability.

While the Islamist tendencies tend to come from the interior, the situation is far more complicated than that. For example, the shantytowns on the outskirts of Tunis have, over the decades, been prone not to the Islamic traditionalism of a historic pilgrimage city like Kairouan in central Tunisia, but to the radical strains of political Islam, which actually challenge tradition. For it isn’t only geographical differences that plague Tunisian politics, but a phenomenon like urbanization that has created an Islamist-trending underclass that feels alienated from the secular elites who are more firmly established in the coastal cities.

Tunisia is, ironically, too civilized to support the kind of authoritarian military-security establishment that provides order, and yet too politically underdeveloped for stable, efficient democratic politics. Thus, Tunisia will probably stumble onward for some years with weak governments, frequent demonstrations and strikes, and a weak security environment in its interior reaches. This will dramatically hurt tourism, which for decades was a mainstay of the economy. Tunisia will not have a new form of authoritarianism imposed upon it — a risk in other Arab states. Tunisians are, I believe, too sophisticated for that.

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, and author of the bestselling new book The Revenge of Geography. Reprinted with permission.

This extract is taken from a longer article at RealClearWorld. RTWT

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Human Rights Challenges in China

March 5th marks the beginning of the 12th National People’s Congress, where Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is expected to assume full power as President and head of the Central Military Commission. Ahead of the congress, influential activists and scholars have signed open letters urging the government to implement political reforms, including ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While citizens in China are increasingly vocal in criticizing injustice and asserting their rights, the Communist Party continues to resort to extensive repression to maintain its hold on power. What are the main challenges for human rights in China today? What are the prospects for change under China’s new leaders? And how can Europe and the United States encourage greater respect for human rights in China?

Freedom House and ChinaAid cordially invite you to a discussion on

Human Rights Challenges in China

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
10:30 a.m.  – 12:00 p.m.
Room 210, Cannon House Office Building
Capitol Hill, Washington DC

Introductory Remarks By:

David J. Kramer, President of Freedom House
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee

Featured Speakers:

Chen Guangcheng (right), human rights activist
Geng He, wife of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng

Commentary By: Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for Democracy and Human Rights


For more information, please email 

ChinaAid is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy

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You Say You Want a Revolution … Then What?

A fascinating first-person account by veteran journalist and media trainer Carolyn Robinson chronicles her experiences training broadcast journalists in Libya after the  death of leader Moammar Qaddafi. Robinson outlines some of the challenges she faced in managing two USAID/OTI grants for Internews in the early days after the revolution, and how her team adopted novel approaches to overcome the difficulties they faced on the ground. She outlines not so much about what can and should be done for media development in Libya today, but about how to structure training in chaotic post-conflict environments.

Following the death of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi in the revolution of 2011, Internews became one of the first international media development groups to offer assistance in Libya.

USAID and its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), along with an implementing partner, moved quickly to make funds available for this project. This speedy start enabled Internews to generate goodwill, strong credibility, and considerable trust with its local partners.

The program sprang out of an Internews media assessment mission in Libya during the height of the conflict in May-June 2011, followed by a second fact-finding mission in October 2011 shortly after Qaddafi’s death.

I spent four months as program director for Internews in Libya, from January to May 2012. Our small field team of four, including our two Libyan assistants, our resident journalism adviser from Gaza, and myself, an American, faced a short timeframe, external operational delays, a very turbulent media scene, and a highly uncertain security situation. Despite these challenges, we organized five embedded trainings, nine open workshops, and two content analyses, most of which took place over a two-month span in March and April.

Obstacles and Challenges

Our four-month project faced a host of challenges: a constantly shifting media landscape, which made training, assessing media needs, and measuring local media content difficult; finding the right local partners; contending with security concerns and ever-changing visa requirements; operating in a cash-only economy; reporting to multiple funders; and trying to coordinate donor efforts.

Shifting Media Landscape

How to train journalists at local outlets in a constantly changing media environment? That was the chief dilemma we faced throughout our projects in Libya. New private radio stations popped up and vanished like quick-blooming flowers. Entrepreneurs pitched many proposals for new TV stations. Print media went on overdrive after the revolution, with dozens of new titles appearing weekly at newsstands, but with costs of publication usually exceeding income, sustainability was always a big question mark.

Before the revolution, all print and broadcast media in Libya were under state control, including the national TV and radio network with branches in several cities. By the time we arrived just a few months after Qaddafi’s death, there were hundreds of new print publications along with several private radio and TV stations, mostly centered in Tripoli and Benghazi but also in Misrata, the third-largest city, and smaller towns throughout the country. The state broadcasting system was still operating, but its channels had splintered into several semi-autonomous outlets that were still defining their management structure and mission purpose in the new free Libya.

Just to complicate things, many media outlets had the same or similar names…..

Libya is a unique example of a country in transition. I have worked in other post-conflict nations, including Tunisia and East Timor, and each country brings its own fresh, individual challenges. Perhaps the only common denominators are confusion and turbulence.

I thought about this one day in Tripoli as I watched hundreds of swallows zooming around wildly as usual outside my hotel windows. It dawned on me that over several months, I had never seen these birds flock together in any organized fashion. They just flew around separately making fast, random swoops and always seemed excited. The poor creatures were probably shell-shocked from all the constant gunfire and shooting into the air. Whatever the cause, it seemed to be a metaphor for the whole country. If the birds can’t even group together post revolution, how much should we expect from a traumatized human population?

The first small steps of training and development in post-conflict environments may not necessarily produce dazzling results on paper, but when these are coupled with speed and flexibility in addressing real needs of local journalists instead of our own predetermined agendas, the reward is a strong relationship between local journalists and international media developers that can pay off handsomely for all in the long run.

This is a brief extract from a special report published by The Center for International Media Assistance, an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy. CIMA works to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of independent media development throughout the world.


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Polish NGOs will help new EU endowment for democracy

A European initiative to fund pro-democracy groups was introduced to Polish activists this week by its new director, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Jerzy Pomianowski (left), UPI reports:

Pomianowski, appointed by the European Union last month to lead the new European Endowment for Democracy, told a gathering of Polish pro-democracy non-governmental organizations in Warsaw Tuesday they will play a big role in determining how the EED spends its money in promoting political freedom and human rights in the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe.

The European Union and its member states launched the political project in October as a private foundation under Belgian law and three months later awarded it an $8.1 million grant. Several other EU members along with Switzerland have pledged up to an additional $10.5 million for its activities.

“Polish NGOs are a natural base for EED’s future activities on account of their experience relating to the Polish systemic transformation and their support for democratic changes in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood, especially in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova,” he said. “The EED will certainly tap into their expertise.”

The recently-formed foundation is modeled on the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

Polish NGOs such as the Solidarity Fund PL, assists states “undergoing transformation in the direction of market economy and private entrepreneurship,” will help determine the endowment’s priorities, Pomianowski said.

The new fund, he said, will “provide donations to entities that have been somewhat forgotten or underestimated by other entities that support democratic change in the world, in the form of funding that is key to securing the start-up of an organization or just a group of persons interested in democratic transformation.”

The EED will focus on “unregistered groups” in countries such as Belarus, because the EU currently has “limited funding options for unregistered political groups, or civic groups that have a political goal. Relatively little attention is devoted to these emerging leaders,” said Pomianowski.

“If they haven’t been around long enough to actually achieve success, they escape observation and the possibility of support. This is an area where the fund may be able to provide flexible financial support mechanisms.”

“That is exactly what N.E.D. did with Solidarity under Communism and continues to do so with other pro-democracy individuals and groups throughout the world,” said NED president Carl Gershman.

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