CDDRL Director's Message July 2009

July 2009 - It gives me great pleasure to write this message to you as the new Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). Seven years ago, CDDRL was founded with a mandate to explain how countries develop politically and economically-or fail to do so. In this relatively brief period of time, we have accumulated a strong record of innovative scholarship that crosses disciplinary and geographic boundaries. CDDRL conferences and research projects have examined such timely subjects as governance and sovereignty in failing states; the management of oil revenues in oil-producing states; the troubled effort to build democracy in Iraq; the comparative lessons of transitions from communism; the divergent approaches to democracy promotion of the United States and Europe; the full range of international influences on democratization; international efforts to promote the rule of law; the global expansion of human rights norms and institutions; the comparative dimensions of the quality of democracy; the potential implications of Taiwan's democratic development for mainland China; and the potential for innovative flows of public information to improve accountability and representation in emerging democracies.

With the recent reorganization and expansion of our programs and faculty, we are now poised to achieve much more. During this past academic year, we have established new a research program on human rights, and the evolving normative standards, domestic practices, and regional and international institutions for their protection; on poverty, inequality, and democracy, and in particular the links between policies, institutions and poverty reduction; and on "liberation technology" (the way information technology is being used to defend human rights, improve governance, monitor elections, empower the poor, foster micro-enterprise, promote public health, and pursue other social goods). We are also pleased that the Program on Global Justice, led by Joshua Cohen, has become part of CDDRL. It links philosophical work on justice, fairness, democracy, and legitimacy with empirical research and reflective practice on issues of human rights, global governance, and access to basic resources. Thus it intersects with many of the above programs.

We are fortunate to have been able to add in this past year ten new faculty associates of CDDRL in the fields of law, philosophy, political science, economics, and computer science, while promoting Kathryn Stoner-Weiss to the post of deputy director of the center. In the summer of 2010, our ranks will be substantially enriched with the addition of Francis Fukuyama, one of the world's leading scholars of political development and state building, who will become the first Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford, of which CDDRL is a constituent unit. In the next two to three years, CDDRL will be able to add yet another distinguished senior fellow as the result of a generous gift from Phil and Jennifer Satre. A growing number of research centers around the world study the interactions between democracy and development. But CDDRL stands out not only in the quality of our researchers-and of our University-but also in that our programs are highly interdisciplinary and bridge the divide between academic research and policy analysis. These are connections we are also constantly trying to forge in our teaching (including our recently established Senior Honor's program), and in our highly popular Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program, which brings more than 25 mid-career professionals from countries in political and economic transition to CDDRL every summer for an intensive three-program of seminars and discussions.

Our Research Mission

The ongoing deadly crisis of the state in Pakistan, the brutal suppression of a movement for democratic change in Iran, the narco-traffickers' siege of Mexico's legal and state institutions, the recent military coup in Honduras, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and the economic ruin of a once-prosperous Zimbabwe remind even the casual observer of what is at stake in the issues we deal with every day at CDDRL. It is natural to view these crises as distinct in causation and location. But increasingly, governance provides a unifying framework for analyzing the varied challenges that confront political and economic development and the quest for social justice and human rights around the world.

Bad governance kills. When rulers are mainly preoccupied with accumulating personal wealth and hanging on to power, they do not make the investments in public health, sanitation, transportation and education. As a result, in the world's poorest and most atrociously governed countries, a fifth of all children die before their fifth birthday and most girls in particular go uneducated. In the wake of rotten governance, states disintegrate, warlords mobilize, and civil wars ensue. When corrupt ruling parties steal elections and outraged communities rise up in violent outrage, as happened in Kenya in December 2007, "ancient tribal animosities" may be blamed, but the real cause is the desecration of the rule of law.

It is often assumed that extreme poverty, which engulfs more than a billion people in the world today, results from a lack of resources, or unfavorable geography, or the legacy of Western colonialism. But the countries that remain trapped in extreme poverty with no sign of progress share a core governance problem: Leaders lack a sense of developmental purpose, and the country lacks the institutional means to change or discipline its leaders. When political leaders are committed mainly to acquiring private goods for themselves and their families and "club goods" for their business cronies and party and military loyalists, no society can prosper. 

Sustainable economic development requires governments that focus on generating public goods to improve education, health care, sanitation, roads, and other infrastructure. It also requires a rule of law, so that people can invest, produce, and trade with confidence in the security of their property rights. It helps a lot as well if people have a means to discipline their leaders and check the abuse of power. Over time, democracy has proven to be the best means of generating such discipline, by enabling people to choose and replace their leaders in free, fair, and competitive elections, and by enabling a vigilant press and a vibrant civil society to expose and challenge government wrongdoing. 

For people to be able to challenge political injustice and venality at all levels of society-local as well as national-their human rights must be protected. Or to put it differently, the political rights to speak, publish, organize, and assemble, and to enjoy due process of law, are vital to advancing such economic and social rights as dignified working conditions, basic education, gender equality, and a clean environment. 

The issues we work on at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law are thus densely intertwined. Economic development depends heavily on good governance. Just and sustainable development-which not only generates wealth but distributes it with some degree of fairness-requires a capable state that can make and execute policies with some measure of knowledge, coherence, and broadly respected authority. And it requires a lawful and transparent state, in which basic rights are secure, laws are known and neutrally enforced, and corruption is controlled.

Democracy (with truly free and fair elections) gives leaders incentives to generate public goods, or face punishment at the polls from their constituents. But it only does so effectively under certain conditions. To the extent the political marketplace works well, with free and full flows of information-so that people know how their leaders are performing-democracy does a better job of promoting development. To the extent that democracy is buttressed by strong institutions of "horizontal accountability"-an independent judiciary, and a vigorous parliament, audit agency and counter-corruption commission-it yokes leaders' own personal political interests to the advancement of the public good.

There is also a strong reverse causal nexus. Where democracy is shallow and abusive-delivering mainly riches for rulers rather than a better life for the people- we know that it will lose legitimacy and won't last long. More than any other type of political system, democracy requires for its stability a popular belief in its legitimacy. Where the people believe instead that they are being robbed and defrauded by their elected leaders, they will lose faith in the system and fall prey to the appeals of generals, populist demagogues, religious fundamentalists, or ideological insurgencies that promise a fairer deal.

Our Hopes and Thanks

The links between democracy, governance, economic growth, rule of law, poverty, inequality, and human rights are only some of the crucial developmental issues that we seek to investigate in our programs at CDDRL. With the participation of some of the most outstanding scholars in the world working on these problems; the growing engagement of outstanding graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford; the annual infusion of talent from distinguished visiting scholars and a highly promising and productive group of pre- and post-doctoral fellows each year; and the further enriching interaction with an extraordinary group of international practitioners in the Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program, we believe CDDRL is having a unique, lasting impact on the worlds of scholarship, policy, and practice. 

I would like to thank the many people and institutions who have helped to enable our founding period of growth and accomplishment. The Hewlett Foundation for its ongoing core support of our activities; the Smith Richardson Foundation for its grant support of our program "Evaluating International Influences on Democratization;" the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco for support of our Taiwan Democracy Project; Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini for their endowment gift that created a vital new senior fellowship in development; Phil and Jennifer Satre for their new endowment gift that will enable the appointment of another new senior fellow; Sako and Bill Fisher for their endowment gift that has enabled us to launch a truly first-rate undergraduate honors program; and Bill and Phyllis Draper and Ingrid Hills for their generous and visionary support of our Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program. In addition, Hamid and Tina Moghadam have also provided generous support enabling us to engage first-rate Stanford faculty and experts throughout the development field as instructors in Summer Fellows program. Finally, we thank all the other donors who provide annual and discretionary gifts to support the center.

I invite you to look carefully through our website and Center Overview for more information on our many research programs, fellowship opportunities, and publications.


- Larry Diamond

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