“Countries at the Crossroads”
Political Turmoil and Receding Reform: Democratic Governance in Uncertain Times
By Saran Traore, Research Analyst, the Friends of Congo
Thursday, April 6th, 2010 was a remarkable and exciting day at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC for Freedom House as it hosted the release of the fifth edition of “Countries at the Crossroads.” The Countries at the Crossroads series are an annual assessment of government performance in 70 strategically important countries worldwide that are at a critical crossroad in determining their political future. This edition covered 32 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Methodology behind these findings was founded by prominent scholars and analysts who are considered experts in the regions covered in the study.
The four main areas of performance that Freedom House considers to be the basis of analyzing the state of democratic governance in a country are as follows; Accountability and Public Voice, Civil liberties, Rule of Law, and Anti-corruption and Transparency. Each country is graded on a scale of 0-7. Congo's scores in each of these dimensions are as follows; In Accountability and Public Voice, Congo has an average score of 1.53, with the higher score in the category of 5.34 belonging to Ghana. Civil liberties, Congo has an average of 1.98, Ghana with the highest of 5.33. In the category of Rule of Law, Congo has a 1.15, Ghana yet again having the highest of 4.64. Finally for Anti-Corruption and Transparency, Congo scores a 1.06, while South Africa has the highest of 3.90. These average scores are a compilation of all 32 countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Haiti in the Western Hemisphere. The findings also determined Ghana and South Africa as established democracies and found Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania in fragile democratic processes. On the lower spectrum of progress, they found Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda in faltering reforms and Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe as power concentrators. The last category that Congo falls in is simply explaining that undemocratic governance predominates and prospects for democratic gains are “dim.” Although “dim,” this does not imply impossibility of making progress to get Congo on a democratic path. As these numbers and findings may seem disheartening, it should be a motivator and emphasize the importance of the work that we all, stakeholders, are dedicated to in the Congo.
Although these indicators are mostly used by agencies such as the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Account to determine aid recipients, The goal of Freedom House and Jake Dizard, the managing editor of Countries at the Crossroads, is that these findings can be used by policy makers and leaders of these countries as a guide to remedy many of the issues hindering the growth democratic governance.
Thursday's event was a full house of different organizations and a very rich panel of experts to discuss the regional governance challenges in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The panelist included Joel Barkan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kevin Casas-Zamora with the Brookings Institute, and Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations, just to name a few. The presentations by each expert on each region was extremely fascinating, especially Joel Barkan's take on the state of democracy in Africa. Although the focus of the presentation was on Kenya and Uganda, many of his analysis was applicable to other African states such as the Congo. He spoke of checks and balances in government, Rule of Law and the election process being gradually disregarded in many developing countries. So in order to change political infrastructure, it must be done in the wake of elections. The full report and scoring of the countries analyzed is on the Freedom House website along with greater detail about the methodology of the entire project. You can also get the full transcript of Thursdays event at the Brookings institute web address.