Integrating Afrodescendants in Colombia’s Post-Conflict Democracy

Since the 1980s, an armed conflict between the Colombian military, leftist rebels, and right-wing paramilitary groups has forcibly displaced tens of thousands of Colombians, resulting in one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world.  Disproportionately affected by the conflict have been Colombia’s Afro-descendant communities, most of whom live along the country’s western coast.  As the Colombian government and FARC rebels gather to discuss a longstanding peace, leaders must take steps to reintegrate displaced civilians within their traditional communities and safeguard their civil, political, and socioeconomic rights. 

The International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy

cordially invites you to a presentation entitled

“From Internal Displacement to Inclusive Democracy:

The Afro-Colombian Experience”


Marino Córdoba Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy

with comments by

Zakiya Carr Johnson

Director, Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inclusion Unit

U.S. Department of State

moderated by

Carl Gershman

President, National Endowment for Democracy

In his presentation, Marino Córdoba will share his experiences as an Afro-Colombian community leader who was displaced multiple times and who has led numerous campaigns over the past decade advocating for the civil and collective land rights of Colombia’s Afro-descendant peoples.  He will also share his ideas on how best to integrate Afro-Colombians and deepen their participation in Colombia’s post-conflict democracy.  In sharing his story, Mr. Córdoba hopes to foster a broader understanding of the challenges faced by displaced Afro-Colombians and how to overcome them, suggesting lessons for other Afro-descendant communities in the region.  His presentation will be followed by comments from Zakiya Carr-Johnson.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:00–4:30 p.m. 1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004 Telephone: 202-378-9675

RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Thursday, September 18 at

Livestream of the event will be available here.

Twitter: Follow @ThinkDemocracy and use #NEDEvents to join the conversation.

Cambodia: end political prosecution of labor unionists

cambodia acilsCambodian authorities should end the politically motivated prosecution of six trade unionists accused of involvement in violent incidents in January 2014, said Human Rights Watch:

Prosecutors have accused the prominent activists Pav Sina, Chea Mony, Art Thun, Rong Chhun, Mam Nhim, and Yang Sophon of aggravated violence and destruction, threats of destruction, and obstruction of traffic during violent confrontations between protesting workers and factory and government security forces in the Veng Sreng area of Phnom Penh between December 25, 2013, and January 3, 2014. The accused face up to 14 years in prison.

“Cambodian authorities are pursuing trumped-up charges against labor activists in an apparent attempt to get them to abandon demands for better pay and conditions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is just the latest government effort to scare activists and the political opposition into dropping plans to use protests to advance their causes.”

Labour rights groups yesterday said they were shocked at the timing of the charges against Sina, the Phnom Penh Post, reports.

“It’s amazing. I can only assume there’s been a miscommunication [in the judicial system],” said Dave Welsh, country manager for the Solidarity Center, [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy]. “If this is the direction [the government] is taking, it’s the worst possible thing they can do. We seemed to have moved past this.”

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said he believed the timing was “intentional”. “The court is being used again as the minimum wage deadline nears.”

A recent Solidarity Center report, “CAMBODIA: Vocal Coalition Makes Legal History,” shows how citizen pressure prompted the government to significantly revise terms of the legislation from an initial version proposed by authorities in early 2011. Cambodia’s newly formed independent labor movement, together with human rights non-governmental organizations, provided an unprecedented legal critique of the draft labor law through a process that offers a model for those in countries around the world.

Cambodian workers have made increased wages a central demand of an expanding series of strikes that reached a crescendo in December 2013, Human Rights Watch adds:

The government warned then that it would no longer tolerate widespread industrial unrest. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a ban on all demonstrations, including rallies by the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party and civil society gatherings. On January 2, 2014, the army, police, and gendarme units enforced this policy with excessive and unnecessary lethal force. They opened fire with assault rifles and other firearms at demonstrators over two days, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens of others.

“Hun Sen has yet again promised big reforms and claims he has suddenly become aware of the need to resolve long-festering socioeconomic disputes, yet the courts he controls are still being used to persecute activists,” Adams said. “Cambodia’s donors should make it clear that they will not accept another round of politically motivated prosecutions and demand that these cases be dropped.”


Ethiopia: development and security require free expression

birtukanLess than three months before President Barack Obama highlighted the importance of a free press at the US-Africa Leaders Summit, three independent journalists and six bloggers were arrested and eventually charged under Ethiopia’s widely-criticized 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The journalists were known to write on a wide range of topics, including corruption, writes Birtukan Mideksa, a former federal judge, political leader, and prisoner of conscience in Ethiopia.

The bloggers, for their part, were part of group called “Zone 9,” which had a large following on social media and were known for their campaign to promote the rights provided under Ethiopia’s constitution. They were all arrested shortly after Zone 9 posted an announcement on Facebook indicating that the group would begin blogging again after a seven month hiatus.

The six bloggers and three journalists were held without any formal charges against them for over two and a half months and were finally charged on July 18. In response, 41 NGOs sent a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn calling on his government to immediately release the detainees and revise the law. The U.S. government has also condemned such an abuse of anti-terror legislation. Secretary Kerry publicly expressed his concern about the arrests during a visit to Addis Ababa just days after they were detained. He specifically mentioned blogger Natnail Feleke, with whom he had met on a previous visit, and adamantly insisted that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation should not be used as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.

Unfortunately, what happened to these independent journalists and bloggers is neither new nor surprising.

On September 14, 2011, Eskinder Nega, a prominent journalist and human rights defender, was arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Ten months later, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. While the Ethiopian government asserts that Mr. Nega’s prosecution is unrelated to his work as a journalist, an independent inquiry found otherwise. In Opinion No. 62/2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held that Mr. Nega’s imprisonment violated Ethiopia’s obligations under international law. …..

Other international bodies have also criticized the use of anti-terror laws against journalist, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and five United Nations special procedure mandate holders.  During Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review earlier this year, a number of countries, including the United States, raised similar concerns. Most recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, denounced the arrests of journalists and bloggers declaring that “the fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organizations. And working with foreign human rights organisations cannot be considered a crime.”


Birtukan Mideksa is former federal judge, political leader, and prisoner of conscience in Ethiopia. She has held fellowships with the National Endowment for Democracy and Harvard University and is a member of Freedom Now’s Board of Advisors.

Back to basics: still not the end of history

NED-220x53When Ronald Reagan gave his famous Westminster Speech in 1982 the world was a lot less free than it was today. That speech led to the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy and the four democracy “institutes”: the National Democratic Institute, the Solidarity Center, CIPE (the Center for International Private Enterprise), and the International Republican Institute. Clearly, America has a role to play in midwifing freedom in the world — we have done so in dozens of countries — and these democracy institutes are key assets in this very long term project, analyst Daniel Runde writes for Foreign

Bad guys exist and they share “best practices” about stopping freedom movements such as cutting off the internet, infiltrating democracy groups, and using violence against legitimate opposition. Unfortunately for America and seekers of freedom, the bad guys have gotten better.

The other big challenge has been what Ken Wollack, the respected leader of the National Democratic Institute, calls “delivering on democracy.” America and its allies have had a number of setbacks in immature democracies including Ukraine because democratically elected leaders (remember the Orange Revolution) did not follow through on their promises, failed to deliver public services in effective ways or engaged in corruption. Freedom House, a well-respected democracy promotion group, calls the situation a “democracy recession.” IRI and other NED groups have been working on this problem of delivering on democracy by improving good governance.


Twenty-five years after Francis Fukuyama’s landmark essay, liberal democracy’s defenders need to go back to the basics, according to Timothy Stanley and Alexander Lee:

But most disturbingly, the connection between capitalism, democracy, and liberalism upon which Fukuyama’s argument depended has itself been broken, they write for the

In short, a liberal politics must be a moral politics. Liberalism will not work if too much emphasis is placed on total human autonomy at the expense of all others, nor if it is obsessed with materialism and consumerism. In contrast to the Fukuyama model of yoking liberal values to economic self-interest—a combination that, when given free rein, has often damaged society at large in recent years—a model that emphasizes human dignity allows for a more positive, relevant kind of politics that constantly struggles to assert itself. Instead of encouraging us to rest easy in the assurance that liberalism will certainly triumph, a conception of liberty based on human dignity recognizes that there is nothing inevitable about its success. While each of us may wish to be free as an individual, it shows that individual freedom is dependent on us all being free; and that means that we all have to cling to our shared humanity, our shared dignity.



Putin’s ‘good cop claim rings hollow’ as NATO plans new bases

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko promised on Wednesday to work on a ceasefire plan to end the separatist conflict in the east of the country following talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the FT reports:

After two hours of bilateral talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the leaders gave no details of what the plan might look like and there was no indication on how the pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine might respond.

The positive spin from Russia and Ukraine doesn’t amount to much, according to Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Center for International Political Economy in Brussels. All the talks produced was an agreement to hold more meetings, he told Bloomberg.

“The Kremlin’s long-term strategy is to destabilize Ukraine — not to take over its territory but to keep it weak,” Erixon said by phone. “The notion that you reach a compromise deal with Putin through more talks, well, I just don’t see that.”

NATO’s secretary general announced that the alliance will deploy forces at new bases (Guardian) in eastern Europe for the first time as it responds to the Ukraine crisis, a move that will likely trigger a strong reaction from Moscow, says the Council on Foreign Relations:

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko agreed during talks in Minsk (NYT) on Wednesday with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he will work on a cease-fire plan (FT) to end the separatist conflict in the east of the country, although he gave no details of what the plan may entail. Separatist rebels shelled a town in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday (AP), raising fears of a counter-offensive on government-controlled areas of the region.

ukrainesolidarnoscStanford University’s Michael A. McFaul, President Obama’s former ambassador to Moscow, said Mr. Putin had frequently shifted between more pragmatic calculations and a nostalgia-tinged commitment to reviving Russian power, particularly over former Soviet territories like Ukraine.

“Putin has always had dual impulses, lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union but also recognizing that Russia has to integrate in the wider world,” Mr. McFaul told the New York Times in a telephone interview.

What’s the end game for Putin here? PBS asked Steve Sestanovich, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow (above):

There’s a range of possibilities. He could be looking at a kind of permanent ferment in Eastern Ukraine, something like the support that Russia’s given over many years to separatists in Moldova, in Georgia and elsewhere. That’s not a really good outcome because it doesn’t get him off the hook with The West, it means a lot of these sanctions will probably stay in place for a long time.

A better outcome would be one in which he gets some kind of concessions from Poroshenko about the structure of Ukrainian politics, some kind of acknowledgement that there has to be decentralization. Poroshenko has offered all of that, but he hasn’t offered to do it in a way that looks enough to Putin like a real victory.

Putin ‘gone too far to back down’?

“Moscow’s policy towards Ukraine in the past year has been a disaster in its own terms, giving Ukrainian identity and self-respect a boost as never seen before. Mr Putin is counting on other world leaders staring aghast at this brutal intra-Slav trial of strength, and deciding to stay well clear of it,” says Charles Crawford, formerly British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw, and a founder member of The Ambassador Partnership:

The eternal problem for diplomacy in situations like this is trying to talk about a deal on the level of pragmatic principle while both sides strain to create new facts on the ground. Any outcome that freezes the military situation in eastern Ukraine as it is today amounts to a win for the Kremlin: all Ukrainian territory not controlled by Kiev turns into “something other” and becomes the basis for eventual separatist claims.

“However, President Putin in turns knows that any outcome that allows Kiev to reassert control over all its territory other than Crimea is a Kremlin defeat,” he writes for the London Telegraph. “President Putin has not stepped into open illegal warfare just to lose.”

Putin’s ultimate goal – to bring Ukraine under Russian influence – “has moved further from his reach,” said Sestanovich, a National Endowment for Democracy board member.

And right now, he has to decide whether he is ready to settle for a lesser goal, because he has lost the opportunity to dominate Ukraine in the way that he once aimed for,” he told Deutsche Welle. “Now he has to decide whether he is prepared to live with a Ukraine that has significant institutional ties to the West.

CFR Analysis

“In looking to negotiations to end the crisis in Ukraine, the West should first make clear what steps NATO and the EU will undertake to support Ukraine and, if required, how sanctions on Russia will be intensified if it is unwilling to reach a fair settlement. Without this clarity, Putin may be reluctant to accept that the endgame has begun,” writes the National Interest.

“Ukraine doesn’t belong to NATO, so the alliance is not obligated by treaty to deploy ground troops or air support. NATO could provide weapons, but the fight would be the Ukrainians to win,” writes David Francis for Foreign Policy.

“Russia’s conflict with the West over Ukraine will grow more dangerous. Tougher US and European sanctions won’t change Russia’s approach to Ukraine, because President Vladimir Putin is determined that this country will remain in Russia’s orbit and eventually become the crucial addition to his “Eurasian Union”, an economic alliance that now includes Kazakhstan and Belarus,” writes Ian Bremmer for the Straits Times.

Track II initiative

In the interest of promoting greater dialogue between Americans and Russians about the crisis, the Carnegie Endowment’s Andrew Weiss recently joined a group of senior experts and former officials at a meeting in Finland. The preliminary results of this Track II initiative—specifically, a framework for a possible high-level discussion about a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine—are published online today by the Atlantic and by Kommersant in Russia.

The joint document emphasizes that both Russia and Ukraine will need to make significant compromises to ensure a lasting peace. Among other things, it calls for a UN-authorized peacekeeping mission under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a redoubled effort to halt the illegal transfer of military equipment and personnel across the Russian-Ukrainian border, and agreed limits on the concentration of Russian and Ukrainian troops along the border.