Project on Democratic Transitions Foreign Policy Research Institute
March 16, 2015
Dear Friends of PDT,
Year nine of the Project on Democratic Transitions (PDT) proved highly productive and moved us towards culmination of a full decade of research and policy analysis. Although the project began in 2005 as a study of lessons learned from the post-communist transitions, it has grown to encompass the comparative analysis of democratization movements worldwide and of the broader geopolitical dynamics that affect them.
The most notable event of 2014 was our highly successful, day-long democracy conference in Washington DC, co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center. It featured presentations by NED president Carl Gershman and eminent democratization scholar Larry Diamond, interacting with numerous younger scholars and practitioners. The event drew an elite, standing-room-only turnout and produced a rich and probing dialogue. We delved deeply into the current challenges facing U.S. democracy promotion, as well as the cases for and against democracy support as a major feature of U.S. policy.
The conference was also web cast and is available online, as is a written summary. We are now in the process of further refining the main conference findings with a view towards publication in the form of an e-book.
Other PDT highlights for 2014 included public presentations by PDT scholars, plus numerous publications, including several on the emerging Ukraine crisis and its broader implications. In addition to the ten E-Notes and six Geopoliticus blog posts published through FPRI channels, PDT scholars published several dozen articles and briefs in other high-quality venues such as Foreign Policy, The American Interest and others. A full list of publications by PDT scholars is included below.
My sincere thanks to our team of pro bono scholars, and to our financial and other supporters, for so strongly enhancing the Project’s growth and productivity in 2014. We look forward to building on these solid foundations, and to further broadening and deepening the scope of our work in the current year.
Adrian A. Basora (U.S. Ambassador, Ret.)
Director, Project on Democratic Transitions
In September 2014 we welcomed two new associate scholars to the team. Chris Miller is a Ph.D. graduate from Yale. In 2012-2014, he worked as a visiting researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center while on an Alfa Fellowship and taught history at the New Economic School, an elite university in Moscow. He is currently completing a book manuscript on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Aleksandr Fisher is a former summer intern at PDT, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science from the George Washington University.
PDT continues to engage 12 scholars and three research assistants within its team. These scholars bring impressive academic and professional experience to PDT. Their regional specialties include the Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Collectively they have over 35 years of experience managing democracy and governance programs at organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the Eurasia Foundation. PDT scholars are sought out for their expertise and have spoken at a variety of think tanks and other events in the US and abroad and have commented on television and other media. Our team members’ analyses and commentaries have also been featured in a variety of publications such as Foreign Policy, The American Interest and TheNational Interest.
Earlier this year our senior fellows were featured at two separate FPRI events. In February, as part of FPRI’s Study Group on America and the West, Dr. Nino Japaridze presented her research on the topic of Political Culture Change and the Media and discussed new approaches to democracy promotion that would make better use of these tools. And in March, as a part of FPRI’s Geopolitics with Granieri series, Dr. Sarah Bush discussed the Role of Women in Politics in the New Middle East.
On October 20, 2014 we partnered with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute to organize a day-long conference in Washington, DC. entitled “Does Democracy Matter?” Our goal was to thoroughly revisit the case for democracy support abroad and to review the efficacy of our current tools. [See image: Second discussion panel at the democracy conference. Left to right: Dr. Sarah Bush, Dr. Tsveta Petrova, Dr. Michal Koran, Melinda Haring]
The mixed record of attempted democratic transitions in the former Soviet Union, our negative experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the failures of the Arab Spring have led many to question the efficacy of democracy promotion. Some argue that current Western democracy support is ineffective at best and at times counterproductive. American domestic support for democracy assistance, is thus very much in question, and there is increasing focus on more limited and “pragmatic” short-term interests. The ongoing crises in Ukraine and in Syria/Iraq have further heightened this debate.
More than 130 experts, practitioners, journalists and students packed the WWC auditorium, while hundreds of others watched the live stream on C-SPAN and participated in a vigorous debate on Twitter throughout the conference. The conference hashtag – #democracymatters – was one of the most popular hashtags of the day.
The event featured internationally-renowned democracy scholar Larry Diamond as keynote speaker. NED president Carl Gershman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at the United States Department of State Thomas Melia led off the discussions. Our three panels, with alternative viewpoints provided both by senior democracy-assistance scholars and by younger scholars, included Amb. Adrian Basora, Nicholas Gvosdev, Melinda Haring, Sarah Bush, Michal Koran, Barak Hoffman, Tsveta Petrova, and Richard Kraemer. [See picture: Amb. Adrian Basora makes welcoming remarks at the democracy conference]
As a follow-on to this October event, we have developed a book proposal designed to build upon the ideas generated by the conference discussions and the “lessons learned” based on what in 2015 will be 10 years of PDT research and commentary on the issues of democratic transition.
Anti-Americanism, Authoritarian Politics, and Attitudes about Women’s Representation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Jordan. Sarah Sunn Bush (with Amaney A. Jamal). International Studies Quarterly, (2014) 1-12.
“Morality and Politics: Willy Brandt’s Two Trips to Poland” in “The Trouble with History. Morality, Revolution, and Counterrevolution,” Adam Michnik, translated by Agnieszka Marczyk, Yale University Press, May 2014.