Democracy in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia that has struggled to maintain a robust democracy for nearly its entire history. For decades, military coups and civil war have made democracy difficult to implement in Cambodia. Generally, the international community has struggled to find a way to successfully institutionalize democracy within the country. Back in January 2019, U.S. congressman Ted Yoho introduced the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019 in order to deal with this problem. However, before delving into the details of the legislation, it is important to understand that democracy in Cambodia has a troubled history.  Furthermore, it is essential to understand how those troubles have prompted a response from U.S. lawmakers.

History of Democracy in Cambodia

Prime minister Hun Sen is a key piece in understanding why democracy has struggled to firmly take hold in Cambodia. He became prime minister of Cambodia in 1985. At the time, various armed factions had plunged the country into civil war.

In the early 1990s, a massive United Nations peacekeeping force attempted to disarm and bring ceasefire between the various factions, run national elections and promote democracy in Cambodia. Nearly 20,000 military, police and other personnel made up the force.

In 1991, the Paris Peace Accords officially brought the conflict to an end, which outlined basic protections for human rights. The agreement also promoted free and fair elections within the country.

The 1991 agreements led to the creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The UNTAC facilitated national elections in 1993. During these elections, guerillas carried out violent attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. The Hun Sen-led Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) engaged in a massive campaign of violent intimidation against people who might vote against them.

The royalist Funcinpec party won the majority of seats in the National Assembly. Norodom Ranariddh, the son of the former Cambodian King Sihanouk, led the party. Hun Sen and the CPP did not accept the results of the election. As such, they were able to force their way into a power-sharing agreement. This ultimately allowed Sen to serve as deputy prime minister alongside Ranariddh.

However, this agreement broke down in 1997 when Hun Sen seized power from Ranariddh in a coup. Cambodia then elected him prime minister in the following elections. The CPP would go on to win elections in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018. In order to preserve his grip on the country, Hun Sen has wielded increasingly autocratic power to crush the opposition. In 2017, authorities arrested the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the leading opposition party to the CPP, on trumped-up charges of treason. Two months later, the Supreme Court suspended the CNRP entirely. In the 2018 elections, which international observers considered illegitimate, the CPP won more than 100 of the 125 contested seats in the National Assembly.

The Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019

Following Hun Sen’s crackdown on dissent prior to the 2018 elections, U.S. lawmakers became increasingly vocal about promoting democracy in Cambodia. Ted Yoho has been chief among these lawmakers. He is a Republican congressman representing Florida’s 3rd congressional district.

Yoho introduced the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2018 during the 115th Congress. The bill managed to pass in the House, but the Senate did not pass it. Yoho re-introduced the bill during the 116th Congress as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. Five Democrats and four Republicans co-sponsored the bill.

According to its description on GovTrack, the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019 aims to “promote free and fair elections, political freedoms, and human rights in Cambodia.” Specifically, the bill would authorize the president to impose various sanctions on Cambodia’s security, military and government senior officials. It would also authorize sanctions on those who might be undermining democracy in Cambodia and controlled by said individuals. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act outlined these sanctions. It includes economic sanctions such as asset freezes and visa restrictions. Penalties for undermining democracy would be the same as those under the IEEPA, which can reach fines of up to $1 million.

There is a 4 percent chance that Cambodia will enact the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. This is an estimate according to Skopos Labs. However, Congressman Yoho is still confident about the bill’s prospects. In a phone interview with VOA Khmer, Yoho said, “We had a lot of bipartisan support last year and I think you’ll see the same amount this year…”

U.S. Support of Democracy in Cambodia

Overall, the fact that the legislation is drawing support from across party lines is an encouraging sign that the U.S. is willing to promote democracy in Cambodia. Additionally, there is a possibility that the U.S. could pressure the Hun Sen regime to put an end to its autocratic abuses of power.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Democracy in Nigeria
After 20 years, Democracy in Nigeria remains true to its goals of sustaining a strong political authority for socioeconomic growth. Home to Africa’s largest economy, 65 percent of Nigeria’s wealth derives from its oil and gas production. The country itself continues to recover from a recession in 2016. However, it also suffers from its recent unemployment rate increasing to 23.1 percent in 2017. A study from the World Data Lab revealed that an estimated 90 million Nigerian people continue to live in poverty.

Government Efforts to Reduce the Wealth Gap

Fortunately, the Nigerian government’s implementation of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill seeks to change these conditions. The bill functions as an investment to promote Nigeria as a future leader in the oil production industry. Research from the International Monetary Fund indicates that between 2019 and 2020 Nigeria’s economy should grow by at least 2.2 percent.

Amid strides towards economic development, many Nigerian people find it hard to put their trust into newly-elected leaders. After gaining independence from the British in 1960, Nigeria’s government endured corruption from previous leaders that led to polarization both politically and economically.

Nigerian legislators earn the most globally, with salaries starting at $48 million a year for senators. With the average Nigerian salary at $1,294, most Nigerians feel disconnected from their leaders because of this wealth gap. In most cases, optimal advocacy for Nigerian citizens translates to decentralizing power to more local government representatives. Consequently, this would ensure more groups of people receive equal access to policy implementation. The decentralization of government in Nigeria corresponding with democracy in Nigeria elevates the power of the population.

Reelection of President Buhari

The current democratic government, known as the Fourth Republic, attempts to restore hope to the Nigerian people. In February 2019, Nigeria re-elected its President, Muhammadu Buhari, for a second term. Only 28 million of the 80 million registered voters in Nigeria voted in the election. The majority of the four million votes that allowed President Buhari to win the election emerged from his popularity with the poor population in the north.

Democracy in Nigeria succeeds in giving a voice to the voiceless, as opposed to utilizing mass poverty to exclude impoverished people from the political process. In the end, the essence of democracy encompasses a nation that can elect its own representatives.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) helps to:

  • Establish civic organizations.
  • Strengthen political leadership.
  • Promote accountability and openness in governments around the world.

For over 35 years, NDI has partnered with more than 156 countries to advance democratic progress globally. By getting citizens to recognize elections as a fundamental human right, the NDI strengthens the political power of that country, which solidifies the idea of accountable democratic governance. The NDI also understands the importance of inclusion in policymaking and works to increase democratic participation from marginalized groups by addressing laws that target them.

As a result of this organization, Nigerians with visual impairments had the opportunity to vote for the first time in the 2019 election. Democracy in Nigeria exemplifies that growing global efforts to impose effective societal change starts with a government that truly reflects and endorses the interest of its citizens.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Ten Features of the Parliamentary System

Despite the fact that numerous nations around the world follow the parliamentary system of government, many Americans do not understand what it is. The parliamentary system is a democratic government. In this government, a coalition of political parties with the greatest representation in Parliament form the nation’s governing body. Below are ten features of the parliamentary system that describe this popular form of democracy.

Ten Features of the Parliamentary System

  1. The first of the ten features of the parliamentary system of government is the supremacy of its legislative branch. This is its defining feature. The legislative branch conducts its business through a unicameral (one house) or bicameral (two houses) Parliament. This group is composed of representatives or members that are elected by citizens of the country. The primary job of members of Parliament is to create and pass laws.
  2. The parliamentary system of government, unlike the presidential system, creates a divide between the roles of Head of Government and Head of State. Rather than citizens, members of Parliament elect the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government. The Prime Minister oversees Parliament. This creates an overlap between the legislative and executive branches of government. The Head of State in a parliamentary systam is largely a symbolic role. Hereditary monarchs typically have this role reserved.
  3. The Prime Minister has no official term length. Thus, so long as Parliament is satisfied, the Prime Minister remains in position. Should it ever be called for, members of parliament will use a majority vote known as a “vote of no-confidence” in order to remove a Prime Minister from office.
  4. Majority vote of Parliament passes laws. Then, they are then signed into legislation by the Prime Minister, who does not have veto power. This is contrary to the presidential system. In the case of disagreement, the Prime Minister can return a bill to Parliament. However, a majority vote by Parliament can veto that return.
  5. In most parliamentary systems of government, there is a Supreme Court that can declare a law as unconstitutional. This would be done if it were to pose violations against the nation’s constitution. However, some countries, such as Great Britain and New Zealand, lack provisions for judicial review. In these countries, the only check against the legislature is the results of the next election season.
  6. Though uncommon, some parliamentary systems have an elected president who exercises foreign powers. An example of some foreign powers would be national defense and military command. The elected president exercises these powers. Some countries that follow this system are Lithuania, Bangladesh and France.
  7. Though members of Parliament hold their positions in office by each election season, they can be turned out of office. If one respective party loses majority holdover members of Parliament, they can be removed. Other members of Parliament, as well as the Prime Minister, are then able to vote out a member of Parliament. A no-confidence vote accomplishes this.
  8. Parliamentary systems lack what presidential systems call “Checks and Balances.” Therefore, the parliamentary system tends to be more efficient. This is because political gridlocks cannot delay them.
  9. A parliamentary system of government consists of members serving various political parties. Therefore, coalitions are a very popular type of agreement in parliamentary governments. Members of opposing political parties will often form a coalition, otherwise known as a temporary union. This alliance utilizes its combined resources to accomplish a common goal.
  10. Depending on the rules of voting within a country, the political representation within members of Parliament may consist of one party. It may also be proportionally representative of the nation. If a country follows a “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) principle, Parliament will most likely consist of one or two majority political parties. An FPTP is a principle in which candidates with the most ballots win a seat. However, some countries follow a rule of proportional representation. This means that the political makeup of Parliament members is appropriate to that of the nation.

With so many types of government around the world, it can be difficult to understand how each works. These are ten features of the parliamentary system that can help citizens around the world have a better understanding of this popular form of government.

-Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Global MetricsWhile there are many websites that offer a detailed analysis of the problems facing the world’s poor and their solutions, a deeper understanding of global metrics and indexes will help curious supporters conduct their own research and make informed decisions on the economic, political and social statuses of impoverished countries around the world. Often times, a combination of multiple indicators from multiple governmental and NGO bodies is necessary to form a full picture of a country’s attitudes towards impoverished populations, the economy and governance.

The Three Main Global Metrics

To understand the economy of a country, researchers will look at global metrics such as gross domestic product (GDP), Gini index and the unemployment rate. The GDP is a broad metric measuring the total value of goods produced in the domestic market of the economy. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) cites the GDP as “the most popular indicator of [a] nation’s overall economic health.” What the BEA fails to mention is that GDP ignores wealth inequality, quality of life and overall happiness of the labor force.

The Gini index, on the other hand, measures only income inequality. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines the Gini index as “the extent to which income…among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution.” Scores closer to 100 indicate a more unequal society while a score closer to zero indicates a more equal society.

The unemployment rate measures more than just the amount of population able to work but not working. More specifically, it measures the number of people in the labor force looking for a job but who remain unemployed. These three indicators working together can paint a more accurate picture than one alone, but without indicators of political and social health, the overall analysis of a country remains foggy.

Other Important Global Metrics

To better understand the political situation of a country, readers can consult indexes and indicators from a multitude of NGO and governmental watchdogs.

  1. Freedom House creates a comprehensive guide to the status of democracy in each country yearly. Freedom House breaks down its analysis into three categories: “freedom rating, political rights and civil liberties.” Along with these three categories, Freedom House also offers an overview of the key issues facing a countries democracy or lack thereof.
  2. The Economist also offers a comprehensive Democracy Index, which takes into account five categories. These include the “electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation and political culture.” Freedom House ranks countries from free to not free whereas The Economist ranks each country in a list that helps give global context to each situation.
  3. The U.N.’s Human Development Index (HDI) measures indicators of social happiness to round out the political and economic indicators and give a completely holistic view of a country. HDI takes into account a number of complex factors but, in short, it consists of “a summary of average achievements in key dimensions of human development [such as] a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and [having] a decent standard of living.” With a broad scope, HDI can look at metrics that other indexes cannot, such as education and life expectancy. Along with HDI, the World Happiness Report (WHR) offers a holistic analysis of how politics, economics and other indicators of happiness can shed light on a particular country or region. The WHR reports that they “focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and governmental policies” that change reports of happiness.

Overall Data Collection

A good place to start for general research into specific countries is the CIA World Factbook. The Factbook includes a summary of the country in question and will provide global metrics mentioned such as GDP, ethnic groups, population growth rate, government type and even electricity access. Global metrics are relatively intuitive, but using only one will offer a narrow view into a specific sector of a countries society.

For instance, according to the CIA World Factbook, the real GDP growth rate of Ethiopia is the fifth highest in the world in 2017, but 29.6 percent of the Ethiopian population lived below the poverty line and the unemployment rate was ranked 180 out of 218 countries studied. Just looking at the real GDP growth rate would lead to the assumption that the economy of Ethiopia thrives and that all members of society benefit from the expansion. However, other global metrics tell a different more concerning story.

Freedom House, along with its democracy in the world report, also operates a number of programs around the world in the interest of freedom. Freedom House’s “Latin America Program” seeks to help “citizens defend their rights against government abuses in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Freedom House has similar programs in both Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that work towards the political rights of citizens through improving factors such as the rule of law and civic knowledge and engagement. In this way, Freedom House goes beyond just identifying factors that exacerbate global poverty. It goes a step further and also implements programs to fight it.

Having a well-informed viewpoint on the factors that allow for systemic ills in nations across the world helps supporters make informed decisions about how to combat global poverty whether through advocacy, donation or personal action. Some NGOs go beyond observing and documenting poverty to implementing plans to combat it. Whichever approach is used, global metrics help people to stay informed from many different approaches to help enact change.

Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

After several subsequent electoral successes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have been accused of corrupt activity by the European Union and opposition parties in Hungary. Today, Hungary is ranked as 64 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption, ranking it “among the most corrupt Member States” in the EU. In the text below are 10 facts about corruption in Hungary.

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

  1. Orbán, along with the Christian Democratic People’s Party, holds a super-majority of 66 percent in Parliament, which allows them to amend the country’s constitution. To date, several amendments have passed that cement the power of Fidesz. Most notably, changes made to the electoral process reduce the chances of opposition parties winning seats. A new amendment modified the process so that 93 of the 199 seats are awarded proportionally based on the percentage of votes a party receives in the national election. The remaining 106 seats are won by receiving a plurality of votes in a local election, meaning that Fidesz can get 40 percent of the vote and still win the seat. Because opposition parties are divided, it is difficult for them to win these local elections.
  2. In March, the European People’s Party discussed suspending the Fidesz party from its bloc in the European Parliament amidst corruption allegations. This is not the first time that Orbán has been threatened with expulsion. However, no actions were taken at that time.
  3. Hungary regularly engages in unannounced “negotiated procedures,” which allow the government to strike a deal without going through an open competition. This has led some to accuse the government of mishandling EU funds. The 2014-2020 EU budget allocates €28 billion to Hungary, but critics worry that much of it will end up in the hands of Orbán’s family, friends and party loyalists. Adding to their concern, the prime minister’s office has sole authority in determining disbursement of funds. Elios Innovatív, owned by Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, had won a €40 million contract with the government in 2015. Lőrinc Mészáros, a longtime political ally of Orbán’s, has seen his wealth triple since Orbán’s election. He has become the second richest man in Hungary, owning 203 companies and receiving 83 percent of his companies’ profits from EU funds.
  4. From 2013 to 2019, Hungary’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped from 56 to 87 in the world. The dramatic shift occurred when 476 private media companies simultaneously transferred ownership, without compensation, to the Central European Press and Media Foundation. Allies of the Prime Minister head the company, including István Varga, a former Fidesz member of Parliament, and István Bajkai, Orbán’s personal lawyer.
  5. The Fidesz Party declined to sign an agreement that would allow Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest. The university will now be forced to move its campus to Austria. CEU has several anti-corruption research arms, including the Anti-Corruption Research Group and the Center for Integrity in Business and Government. At multiple points, their reports were critical of the Fidesz government and accused it of corrupt activity. For example, one CEU research report wrote that the party engaged in “a constitutional coup d’état against an established democracy.”
  6. Through gerrymandering, Fidesz effectively limits opposition party participation. Gerrymandering ensures victory in what would otherwise be competitive districts. One study found that an opposition party needs to receive around 300,000 more votes than the Fidesz party needs in order to win a majority in the parliament.
  7. A 2016 poll reported that two-thirds of Hungarians regard their government as corrupt with 60 percent believing that corruption in Hungary goes to the top levels of government, including Orbán. This reflects a strong need for change, but the power accumulated through corruption has allowed Fidesz to continue to govern.
  8. Amid growing corruption concerns, an opposition politician named Akos Hadhazy gathered 680,000 signatures demanding that Hungary join the EU’s new anti-corruption arm, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hadhazy specifies many of these 10 facts about corruption in Hungary, but he is especially concerned about the use of EU funds. Thus far, Fidesz refuses to join, citing concerns about overreach from Brussels. Hadhazy said, “Now it’s up to EU institutions to increase pressure on the Hungarian government unless they want European taxpayers to finance a regime that openly works against the EU.”
  9. Transparency International Hungary (TIH), an anti-corruption NGO, considers young people to be essential to combating corruption. According to TIH, 90 percent of Hungarians ages 15-29 believe that corruption is present in their politics. However, they also find that only 25 percent of young people believe that reporting government corruption will be taken seriously. TIH hopes to mobilize the youth in their fight against corruption.
  10. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides free legal assistance to detainees, victims of police brutality and jailed protestors or activists. The group helped more than 1,400 people in 2018. From 2008 to 2018, it trained more than 4,000 lawyers, judges and states officers. The NGO describes itself as “one of the few remaining voices that publicly oppose attacks on civil society and the further democratic backsliding of Hungary.” Hungarian tax laws allow its citizens to donate 1 percent of their income tax to a nonprofit of their choosing. NGOs, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, encourage donations in order to continue their work. Through this, Hungarians may express their support for organizations working to combat corruption in their country.

According to the World Bank, Hungary has a poverty rate of about 15 percent, meaning almost 1.5 million Hungarians live in poverty. These 10 facts about corruption in Hungary threaten academia, the media, NGOs and several democratic institutions. This, in turn, threatens the well-being of Hungarian civil society, which is trying its best to create a more equitable and just Hungary.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

President Barack Obama Nelson Mandela
On July 18, 2018, Nelson Mandela Day, former U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech in honor of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and his legacy that continues in today’s world. The day marked 100 years since his birth and led to Obama speaking about the progress made in that time span. Despite the many people still oppressed by corrupt political systems, Obama suggested tactics that could promote a bright future.

Nelson Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela Day was made official on November 10, 2009. The United Nations General Assembly declared that the humanitarian’s birthday, July 18, would be internationally recognized to honor his achievements and philosophy. The General Assembly deemed it necessary to acknowledge Mandela’s peaceful methods of conflict resolution every year.

Mandela witnessed South Africa’s former apartheid take away human rights from the black race. This led to his advocacy work for blacks and impoverished communities along with his subsequent role of the first democratically-elected president of South Africa.

Key Points in Obama’s Speech

In his speech, Obama made parallels between the political turmoil in Mandela’s lifetime and that which still exists today. He said that advancements in technology, poverty reduction, health and international trade have led to more peace. However, there’s a danger in prioritizing innovation and business interests over human needs. New machines can increase efficiency and production, but this hurts the common worker by eliminating jobs. If political leaders worked to raise people out of poverty, it would promote democracy in their government.

Obama went on to stress the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Advancements in the economy just provide those in power the chance to widen the disparity between themselves and the poor. People living in the top one percent do not need every penny they have to spend on luxuries since they have an excess of money. Even a small amount of that excess could help people in need. In other words, people do not have to commit themselves to a life of poverty in order to help lift others out of poverty.

Since his speech was in honor of Nelson Mandela Day, he brought up the philosophies Mandela wanted to see in future generations. When he became president, his declarations were not drafted for the sole use of South Africa. He believed in human rights for people all over the world.

Obama outlined what a democracy needs in order to be successful, including open-minded people and transparency. Decision makers must be receptive to opposing viewpoints. Even though a country might uphold a democratic system, that doesn’t mean those in power always base their actions on that philosophy. Instead of spreading lies and propaganda that only serve their personal interests, political leaders must be honest with their citizens.

Continuing the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Organizations based in South Africa are continuing work beyond Nelson Mandela Day. Rebecca’s Well is an organization that supports women on their journeys to become contributing members of society by offering to help fund their education and by providing counseling services after a divorce. Much like the activism done by Mandela, these actions ensure that a marginalized group of people receive a fair chance of fulfilling their potential.

In terms of Obama’s message about global progress, the New Voices Fellowship casts the spotlight on innovative minds from developing countries. The most effective way to help tackle poverty is by consulting with those experiencing it. With that in mind, the organization proposes solutions for how to generate income, increase access to medical services and invent technology that helps the lives of people in need.

Obama said that no one, not even Mandela during his presidency, is immune to the dangerous lure of power. Mandela recognized that truth, which is why he brought democracy to South Africa. Governments need to be reminded of it to ensure that people are free to express their opinions about how their government is being run. Citizens have power too.

Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

facts about human rights in TaiwanIn August 2018, Taiwan was selected to host the Human Rights Forum. The Forum, according to the New York Times, is run by the New York-based Human Rights Foundation and has been held in Oslo every year since 2009. The Human Rights Foundation’s chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein explained that the forum’s goal is to inform activists around the world about Taiwan’s transition to democracy, which is an example of democracy in a Chinese society. As international human rights organizations recognize Taiwan’s unique position in Asia as an advocate for human rights and democracy, it is important to highlight several key facts about human rights in Taiwan.

Judiciary reform

According to the Taiwan 2017 Human Rights Report, there are no acknowledged instances of torture carried out against accused persons. Furthermore, to address issues of overcrowding in prisons, in June 2017, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice gave prison inmates the right to maintain jobs outside the prison. The report indicated that 19 inmates had minimum monthly salaries of 690 U.S. dollars of which 60 percent was used as restitution to crime victims. Even more encouraging is that detention centers allowed both government and non-governmental inspections of the prisons. It is also important to note that prisoners have rights to legal counseling.

Also, arrests of individuals require warrants or summons. The report emphasized that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Regarding civil issues, an “impartial judiciary” is provided.

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech and the press are observed in Taiwan, especially involving internet access. Taiwan also does not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.

In April 2018, the New York Times noted that Reporters Without Borders are going to open their first Asian bureau in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital. They decided to do so after considering, but rejecting Hong Kong. Taiwan’s selection over Hong Kong is tied with increasing pressure from the Government of China to Hong Kong, allowing Taiwan to surpass Hong Kong as the synonym for free speech in Asia.

Voting rights and protection of sexual assault victims

While Taiwan currently does not offer refugees protection, it does allow its citizens to migrate within its borders, emigrate from, and travel internationally. Such policies are not necessarily permanent, however, as Taiwan offers citizens the rights to elect government leaders through “secret ballot.” Suffrage is given to all citizens, including women.

Taiwan law prohibits rape, especially spousal rape, and domestic violence, but it is important to note that these crimes are often not reported. In addition, rape survivors are given protection in a way that they can endure their trials away from the public eye and the law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges. This provision is one of the key facts about human rights in Taiwan, as charges for sexual assault can still be carried out, regardless of the social pressures that discourage victims to report. Also, the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act allows the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other practices to protect victims during questioning and trial.

In recent years, Taiwan became the front-runner of human rights in Asia, as seen through its shift toward judiciary reform, freedom of expression and increased protections for sexual assault victims. These key facts about human rights in Taiwan merit activists’ decision to host the upcoming Human Rights Forum and showcase Taiwan’s accomplishments and the path towards achieving even better results in the future

Christine Leung
Photo: Google

Bulgaria

Whenever Bulgaria is mentioned in the media, coverage is generally skewed towards poverty and corruption, depicting it as one of the EU’s most troubled members. However, a closer look at the facts and figures of life in Bulgaria proves that how the media misrepresents Bulgaria does not entirely reflect reality.

Bulgaria and the EU

Bulgaria is the poorest member of the EU. This fact has not escaped the notice of the rest of Europe, and Bulgaria’s media representation has suffered for it. A 1984 study performed by Weaver and shows that the poorer a country is, the less coverage it is likely to gain in any given news outlet, and the more negative that coverage is liable to be. In contrast, richer countries such as the U.S. are much more likely to receive positive media attention, overshadowing poorer nations like Bulgaria.

Bulgaria in the Media

When the media mentions Bulgaria, it paints it as a corrupt Eastern European country that the rest of the EU wants nothing to do with. Media biases against Bulgaria frequently stem from the fact that Bulgaria was once part of the Soviet Bloc. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bulgarians struggled to adjust to the fact that their country was no longer Communist, and it was not uncommon for Bulgarians to migrate west to try for a fresh start. However, they were often met with fear from their new neighbors, mostly due to their status as ex-Communists whose government was still somewhat corrupt and were subsequently dehumanized by many Western European nations. For example, Bulgaria has repeatedly been denied admission to the Schengen Zone, which would permit Bulgarians to work and travel freely in fellow Schengen countries within the EU. This, combined with the country’s comparatively low GDP, has led to media depictions in which they are given the same derogatory treatment that migrants are typically given by news outlets.

Bulgaria and the Rest of the World

How the media misrepresents Bulgaria becomes apparent when examining the economic and political conditions in Bulgaria. For starters, Bulgaria’s GDP is currently $18,900, having risen from $8.400 in 1991. Although this is, in fact, fairly low by EU standards, it is not low when thought of in the context of the rest of the world. The world is split into four income groups, ranging from Group One (extreme poverty) to Group Four (the U.S. standard). Bulgaria falls into Group Three (upper middle income); most of its people can afford decent beds, bikes, and maybe cheap cars, but not annual vacations or spacious houses. The average person is getting about 6570 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 48 percent of them have Internet access, and 99.4 percent have access to clean drinking water. In fact, as of 2014, no one in Bulgaria is living in extreme poverty. Meanwhile, the rest of the EU’s citizens are scattered throughout Groups 3 and 4.

Corruption in Bulgaria is also not as abundant as the media portrays it. For example, the Inequality Index (Gini) rated Bulgaria around 40, which is in the middle of the scale. Their first elections took place in 1990, and their current democracy score is 9 out of 10.

Overall, things are looking much better in Bulgaria than the media lets on. While the media would let its consumers believe that Bulgaria is a hopeless case of corruption and poverty, it is actually a free nation with a thriving economy. If one looks hard enough, one will find that how the media misrepresents Bulgaria is a true misrepresentation and nothing more.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

 

Girls' Education in Vietnam
Since its formation in 1987, the U.S. diplomatic relationship with Mongolia has remained incredibly strong in the areas of development, security, and trade. Mongolia sits in an interesting geopolitical position due to its shared borders with China and Russia. As China and Russia continue to act as rivals to U.S. military and economic policy, Mongolia becomes more significant component to U.S. foreign policy in Asia and Eastern Europe. Although total foreign assistance to Mongolia is relatively small, the U.S. has benefited greatly from ensuring a future of peace and democratic idealism in Mongolia. 

A Democratic Mongolia

Mongolia has often referred to the U.S. as its most important “third neighbor.” At first glance, the value of providing foreign assistance might seem elusive. In comparison to the Russian and Chinese titans, Mongolia’s value may seem inconsequential. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As popular support for democratic institutions begins to increase in tempo, Mongolia serves as a beacon of light for democratic values in the region. Since 1990, the year in which Mongolia formally became a democratic country, over 10 elections has occurred on the legislative and presidential level. The continued success Mongolians have seen in democratic institutions has bolstered the over-arching U.S. mission of spreading democratic ideals across the globe. This is one major way in how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia. 

The Education Vehicle

Within the same vein, English has been made mandatory in Mongolia’s educational system since 2005. Furthermore, Mongolia has committed roughly $600,000 to the Fulbright master’s program, which has greatly increased the total number of Mongolians studying in the United States. A newly launched program in 2017 gives Mongolian high school students the chance to study abroad in the U.S. Continued sponsorship and foreign aid in programs such as these not only gives Mongolians access to U.S. universities and schools but also helps carry the torch of U.S. democratic values to less accessible regions of the world. In this case, particularly Russia and China. 

Geopolitical Ally

In recent years, tensions between the U.S. and Russia have increased due to the Crimean crisis and civil war within Ukraine. The Russo-U.S. relationship has remained relatively frigid since these cataclysmic events. Mongolia’s shared border and partnership with the U.S. gives the latter country increased geopolitical proximity to the Kremlin. Within the realm of conflict, Mongolia also has deployed troops to support the U.S. effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. sponsored a program entitled “Khan Quest,” which was aimed at improving Mongolian military competency at home and abroad. Providing military support in Mongolia has allowed the U.S. a slight buffer to Russian influence in Asia. This is how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia. 

Aid

In 2015, the Mongolian economy grounded to a halt after a long period of growth and prosperity. Prior to the crash, U.S. exports to Mongolia totaled in around $650 million. The U.S. aid budget to Mongolia for FY19 is $1.75 million, all of which will be dedicated towards peace and security. As a target for U.S. exports, foreign assistance to Mongolia becomes increasingly important. Holding a strong partner in exports is another way in how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia.

– Colby McCoy
Photo: Flickr

Types of Government Systems
Aristotle was the first to define three principal types of government systems in the fourth century B.C. These consisted of monarchy, aristocracy and polity. Since then, many more have been formulated, but the main themes and ideas have remained. Today, the five most common government systems include democracy, republic, monarchy, communism and dictatorship. This list details what to know about each.

Five Types of Government Systems

  1. Democracy
    A democracy can be defined as a government system with supreme power placed in the hands of the people. It can be traced back to as early as the fifth century B.C. In fact, the word democracy is Greek for “people power”. While most use the United States as an example of a democratic government system, the United States actually has what is called a representative democracy. The difference lies in the method of civilian participation. In a direct democracy, every citizen is given an equal say in the government. In a representative democracy, citizens elect representatives who make the law. The difference is significant when put into action. Other examples of democratic states include Aruba, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
  2. Republic
    In a republic government system, the power also rests with the people, as they are in charge of electing or choosing the country’s leader, instead of the leader being appointed or inheriting power. Broadly defined, a republic is a government system without a monarch. A republic may be governed by a group of nobles, as long as there is not a single monarch. Some examples of countries with a republic government system include Argentina, Bolivia, Czech Republic and France.
  3. Monarchy
    In a monarchy, state power is held by a single family that inherits rule from one generation to the next. In a monarchy, an individual from the royal family holds the position of power until they die. Today, the majority of monarchy governments have transitioned to constitutional monarchies, where the monarch is head of state but only performs ceremonial roles and does not have state power. Only a few countries still have systems where the monarch retains control; these include Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland.
  4. Communism
    A communist government system is usually based on a particular ideology of communism taught by Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin. A single party or group of people usually runs communist states. In some cases, citizens of a communist state are given certain jobs or life duties in an effort to obtain collective citizenship for the state. Examples of communist states include China, Cuba and Vietnam.
  5. Dictatorship
    In a dictatorship, a single person, a dictator, has absolute power over the state. It is not necessarily ruled by a theology or belief. It is an authoritarian form of government where one person is in charge of enforcing and enacting the law. Aspects often include military organizational backing, unfair elections (if any) and various human rights violations. A dictator does not usually inherit their power like a monarch does; they either seize control of the state by force or through (usually unfair) elections. Dictators are not held accountable for their actions and thus are free to do as they please, including limiting citizens’ rights. Burundi, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and North Korea are contemporary examples of countries run by a dictator.

While these types of government systems all vary, they have at least one similarity: the allocation of power. Whether it be the allocation of power to a single person, a group of people, or evenly distributed to everyone, power is the shared theme of all types of government systems.

– Haley Hine
Photo: Flickr