News and Notes

Issue Date April 2018
Volume 29
Issue 2
Page Numbers 188-190
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Forum Report on “Sharp Power”

A new report by NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies has drawn considerable media and scholarly attention since its December 2017 release. “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence” considers China’s and Russia’s efforts to exert influence and shape public opinion in young democracies. Coeditors Christopher Walker, Jessica Ludwig, and Shanthi Kalathil have discussed the report’s findings at a range of conferences, including those described below. For more information on the report and related commentary, visit: www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report.

On February 7, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) organized a panel discussion in Miami on “Chinese and Russian Sharp Power in the Americas.” Eric Farnsworth of AS/COA moderated the discussion, which featured Frank O. Mora of Florida International University and Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig of NED. For a video recording of the discussion, visit: www.as-coa.org/watchlisten/video-chinese-and-russian-sharp-power-americas.

On February 26, the Prague-based Forum 2000 hosted a panel discussion at the Senate of the Czech Republic entitled “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence.” Forum 2000 Director Jakub Klepal and Senator Tomáš Czernin offered introductory remarks. There followed a discussion among Czech sinologist Martin Hala and three contributors to the NED report: Spanish journalist Juan Pablo Cardenal, Slovak political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov, and Polish researcher Jacek Kucharczyk. Shanthi Kalathil of NED moderated.

Hong Kong Democracy Activists Released

On February 6, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal overturned a lower-court decision mandating prison terms for prodemocracy [End Page 188] youth activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow. The five-judge panel found that the Court of Appeal had erred in retroactively applying new public-disorder rules, but indicated support for the application in the future of tougher regulations on “unlawful assemblies involving violence.”

A magistrate court had originally sentenced Wong and Law to community service and Chow to a suspended jail term for their involvement in a September 2014 demonstration that led to the so-called Umbrella Movement. Prosecutors then appealed the decision, and in August 2017 the Hong Kong Court of Appeal sentenced the activists to months-long prison terms.

Wong continues to face a three-month prison sentence from a separate case, in which he was found guilty of failing to abandon a protest site during the final days of the Umbrella Movement. Wong’s appeal is pending.

Wong, Law, and Chow have risen to international prominence for their involvement in demonstrations supporting democracy and Hong Kong’s political autonomy from Beijing. On January 31, twelve members of the U.S. Congress nominated Umbrella Movement activists (including Wong, Law, and Chow) for the Nobel Peace Prize, commending their efforts to “bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong.”

To view the nomination letter, visit: www.cecc.gov/media-center/press-releases/bipartisan-group-of-lawmakers-nominates-hong-kong%E2%80%99s-pro-democracy.

Democracy and Development in West Africa

On January 16–17, the World Movement for Democracy, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a two-day conference on “Governance, Democracy, and Business” in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. More than 150 West African participants convened to discuss advancing democracy and good governance through collaboration among civil society, government, and the private sector.

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré delivered the keynote address. Also in attendance were Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou. The conference concluded with the issuance of the Ougadougou Declaration, a six-point statement affirming democracy as the “best guarantee for individual freedom essential for economic and social development.” To view the Declaration in full, visit: www.tralac.org/news/article/12606-governance-democracy-and-business-ouagadougou-declaration.html.

Geneva Summit for Human Rights

On February 20, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights awarded its 2018 Courage Award to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition activist and journalist. Kara-Murza is coordinator of [End Page 189] Open Russia and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation. In 2015 and 2017, he was the target of poisoning attempts suspected to have been orchestrated by the Russian government.

Also during the conference, women’s rights activist Julienne Lusenge from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was awarded the 2018 Women’s Rights Award. Lusenge is president of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development, a network of forty women’s rights organizations in the DRC’s eastern provinces that assists survivors of sexual violence and promotes women’s participation in politics and the workforce.

Honoring Boris Nemtsov

At a public ceremony on February 27, the Washington, D.C., City Council unveiled a sign renaming the street close to the Russian Embassy “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” in recognition of the late Russian politician and opposition leader. The designation, unanimously approved by the City Council, marked the third anniversary of Nemtsov’s assassination outside the Kremlin. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Vladimir Kara-Murza delivered remarks.

NED’s International Forum

The Forum hosted several events featuring Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows:

On January 10, Maxine Tanya Hamada, former executive director of the Philippine-based Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy (iLEAD), delivered a presentation entitled “From Crisis to Governance: Reclaiming the Philippines’ Democracy Narrative.” Brian Joseph of NED moderated.

On January 17, Nana Ama Agyemang Asante, cohost of the Accra-based public-interest radio program “Citi Breakfast Show,” delivered a talk entitled “Beyond Successful Elections: An Evaluation of Ghana’s ‘Shiny’ Democracy.” Dave Peterson of NED offered comments.

On January 30, Oludotun Babayemi, cofounder of the Abuja-based Connected Development, delivered a presentation entitled “Decaying Institutions: How Corruption Undermines Democracy in Nigeria.” Debra LaPrevotte of The Sentry offered comments, while Christopher O’Connor of NED moderated.

On February 14, Hungarian political economist and activist Gabor Scheiring offered a talk entitled “The Roots of Illiberalism in Hungary and Central Europe.” Christopher Walker of NED offered comments.

In March, the Forum welcomed a new group of Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows: María Baron (Argentina), Alex Magaisa (Zimbabwe), Passy Mubalama (Democratic Republic of Congo), Nadeem Paracha (Pakistan), Dimitrina Petrova (Bulgaria), Lilia Shevtsova (Russia), and Alberto Vergara (Peru).[End Page 190]

Copyright © 2018 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press