NGOs losing ground in Sisi’s Egypt

Egypts-Abdul-Fatah-al-Sisi-672x372NGOs in Egypt did not expect to have fewer freedoms under Sisi’s presidency. But regressive laws and regulations governing them are now being reinforced, says Cairo University researcher Ola Kubbara.

The status of NGOs has not been changed since Abdel Fatah al-Sisi became president in June 2014, she writes for Open Democracy:

In addition to the recent crackdown on human rights and political activists, journalists, bloggers and others, the current government has not taken any steps towards more rights and freedoms for civil society organisations. Many hoped that the government would by now have realised that the democratic process can never be completed or sustained solely by changing the top authorities without developing and altering the bottom institutions and organisations.

“If NGOs are left in peace by the authorities to conduct their social and political activities, in the long run they will help to develop a politically and socially conscious society,” Kubbara writes. “However, if the authorities constantly intervene in their affairs, and always try to contain and limit their activities and conduct, they will never be able to complete their missions and long-term goals.”

RTWT Ola Kubbara is a PhD candidate in the Euro-Mediterranean studies programme at Cairo University, Faculty of Economics and Political Science. She works on German political foundations and their democracy assistance in Egypt.

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‘Foreign forces’ claim rejected by Hong Kong protesters

china hk march july 2014Hong Kong’s Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has further flamed protesters’ anger by claiming that the protests are being orchestrated by “foreign forces,” an assertion frequently put forward by China’s state media since the protests began, China Digital Times reports:

 “There is obviously participation by people, organizations from outside of Hong Kong,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in an interview Sunday on Asia Television Ltd. “And this is not the only time they do it. And this is not an exception, either.”

This marks the first time Leung has invoked rhetoric common in China’s state-owned media that foreigners are to blame for interfering in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs.

“My concern is it excuses the government from resolving the problems by blaming it on the outside,” David Zweig, a political science professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said in an interview. “The foreign intervention issue is that it allows China to say there are no domestic issues and then they don’t have to pay attention to social problems, some of which are caused by the political structure.”

In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Daybreak Asia, the National Endowment’s for Democracy’s Louisa Greve exposes the absurdity of accusations that the NED is responsible for fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.

Such allegations have surfaced before, she says, as it’s not unusual for government’s lacking democratic legitimacy to blame foreigners when their own citizens are demanding democratic reform and asserting their rights. Furthermore, she noted, the supposed revelations of NED’s assistance to Hong Kong civil society groups consist of details openly available on NED’s own website.  Further details available on this VOA podcast available later today.

Hong Kong officials have begun talks with leaders of the four-week-old protest movement to negotiate an end to the demonstrations, and have offered possible concessions, Foreign reports. ….In his comments before the talks, Leung warned that free elections could foster a dangerous kind of populism, empowering the poor and the working class. …The student leaders at the talks argued that the government needed to make clear commitments by putting forth a “realistic and feasible” roadmap and timetable for democratic reforms.

Protest organizers and Beijing are both losing control of the situation in Hong Kong. What compromises can each side make in order to resolve the chaos? asks China Labour Bulletin’s Han Dongfang.

Regardless of how the two sides move on from here, one thing is already very clear: the people of Hong Kong have shown that they are willing and able to take action on their own, he writes for Open Democracy:

They do not need to beg for help from the international community (which has already disappointed so many Hong Kong people) in order to resolve their dispute with Beijing. After all, it does not really matter what the president of the United States or the British prime minister says about Hong Kong—Beijing will not necessarily pay any attention to them. But Beijing does have to pay attention to the people of Hong Kong. If it does not, their voices will only grow louder and louder.

Han Dongfang has advocated for workers’ rights in China for more than two decades, starting with his work setting up the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. In 1994, he established the China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization working to defend workers’ rights across China. He has won numerous international awards, including the 1993 Democracy Award from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.

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Dirty entanglements: corruption, crime, and terrorism

corruption crime terrorismThe entangled threat of crime, corruption, and terrorism remain important security challenges in the twenty-first century. In her new book, Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism, Louise Shelley, argues that their continued spread can be traced to economic and demographic inequalities, the rise of ethnic and sectarian violence, climate change, the growth of technology, and the past failure of international institutions to respond to these challenges when they first emerged.

Join Carnegie for a discussion with the Louise Shelley. Carnegie’s Milan Vaishnav will act as discussant, and Moisés Naím [a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy] will moderate.

Louise I. Shelley is a professor at George Mason University. She founded the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at the George Mason School of Public Policy and currently serves as its director. Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


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Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Model for Emerging Democracies?

bosnia 1ZASTAVA-BIH-1-604x270Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Islamic heritage has been evolving for over five centuries. The phenomenon of Bosnian Muslims as heirs of specific religious and cultural tradition – often called “autochthonous European Muslims”– has not been sufficiently studied and researched. At the same time, different interpretations of issues linked to Bosnian Muslims are multiplying on agendas of various interests groups, from experts in the field, to nongovernmental actors, other religious communities, domestic decisions makers, and political centers of powers within European and overseas capitals. This lecture will review some of the crucial processes unfolding within past two decades among Bosnian Muslims and whether they can serve as a model for the emerging democracies of the MENA region.

 The Emerging Democracies Institute and the Advisory Council for BiH

 cordially invite you to a public lecture: 

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Model for Emerging Democracies? 


Dr. Dino Abazovic

Professor, University of Sarajevo

introductory remarks by

 Ajla Delkic

Executive Director, Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina     

Monday, October 27, 2014

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.


Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina 1510 H Street, NW Suite 900 Washington, D.C. 20005


Dino Abazović is an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He has also worked as the Director of the Human Rights Center of the University of Sarajevo and as the Academic Coordinator of the Religious Studies Program of the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies at University of Sarajevo. He has published a number of chapters and papers in English and the South-Slavic languages, including three books in Bosnian (“Bosnian Muslims Between Secularisation and Desecularisation”, 2012; “Religion in Transition: Essays on Religion and Politics”, 2010, “For God and Nation: Sociological approach to Religious Nationalism”, 2006).  He has also co-authored a book with Jelena Radojković and Milan Vukomanović (Religions of the World: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, 2007), and edited five books (with Mitja Velikonja, Post-Yugoslavia: New Cultural and Political Perspectives, 2014; with Stefan Hammer, Bosnia and Herzegovina Fifteen Years after Dayton: Political and Legal Aspects of Democratic Consolidation in Post-Conflict Period, 2011; with Zilka Spahić – Šiljak, Monotheistic Trialogue: Introduction in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, 2009; with Ivan Cvitković, Religion and European Integrations, 2006; and with Branko Todorović, Confronting with the Past – Consequences for the Future, 2005). In 2012 Abazović was awarded a research fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS). He is a non-resident fellow at the Emerging Democracies Institute in Washington, DC. He lives and works in Sarajevo.

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Tyrants vs. The Republic of Imagination

Nafisi0photoAzar Nafisi is best known for her 2003 bestseller, “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” in which she wove together reading and memoir and produced a compelling argument about the role of literature in repressive societies as an exercise in freedom and self-realization — especially, but not solely — for women, author Jane Smiley writes for the Washington Post.

In her new book, “The Republic of Imagination,” Nafisi [a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy]….

….asks whether reading in the United States — where no books are banned by the federal government (although some are censored by school districts and libraries) and the greatest threat to culture is indifference — is an equally political act…..

Nafisi discusses conformity and questions the apparent indifference of American politicians (especially those on the right, but also those on the left) to the development of critical thinking skills, curiosity and empathy. Noting that it is writers, musicians, teachers and artists who are imprisoned by totalitarian regimes, she asks, “Why do tyrants understand the dangers of a democratic imagination more than our policymakers appreciate its necessity?”


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