Network of Democracy Research Institutes Part One: The State of the Network; Part Two: The Quality of Democracy

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third Assembly
Network of Democracy Research Institutes
Part One: The State of the Network; Part Two: The Quality of Democracy

Part One: The State of the Network:

Moderator:
Marc F. Plattner – USA

Rapporteur:
Anja Håvedal – Sweden

Presenter:
Thomas W. Skladony – USA

The workshop began with an overview of the Network of Democracy Research Institutes (NDRI), which is a functional network of the World Movement for Democracy that is administered by the International Forum for International Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. The NDRI has grown from 29 member institutions in February 2003 to 48 in February 2004. This growth has led, in turn, to expansion of the content of Democracy Research News, the Network’s electronic newsletter, which will increase from a quarterly to a bi-monthly publication in 2004. In addition to the newsletter, the NDRI also circulates a weekly e-mail message, entitled “Worth Reading” that provides information about a recommended book, article, or other piece of research on democracy, and conducts various events and programs, such as roundtable discussions on the role of think tanks in new democracies and training workshops for senior managers and administrators of member institutes. It was noted that while the NDRI is well represented in most parts of the world—especially in Eastern and Central Europe—it only has three members in all of Latin America. Additional recruitment thus needs to be done in this region.

In the discussion that followed, NDRI members reported on new activities and asked for feedback on their research. One participant said that language barriers might be a reason why there were only three NDRI members from Latin America.

Recommendations:

Among the recommendations participants made for strengthening the Network were:

  • Circulating “Worth Reading” items in additional languages
  • Translating important works on democracy into major world languages
  • Translating selected NDRI publications from native languages into English
  • Developing more regional collaborative projects
  • Developing an Africa-wide democracy studies center with a library, seminar series, and fellowship opportunities.

Part Two: The Quality of Democracy:

Moderator:
Larry Diamond – USA

Rapporteur:
Anja Håvedal – Sweden

Presenters:
Robert Mattes – South Africa
Uri Dromi – Israel
Thawilwadee Bureekul – Thailand
Olga Gyárfášová – Slovakia

Observations and Challenges:

In the years following recent democratic transitions, scholars typically have begun developing and testing quantitative indicators of the quality of democracy, including some that may be used in cross-national research. Three NDRI institutes undertake such work. The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), the Israel Democracy Institute, and King Prajadhipok’s Institute (Thailand) conduct democracy audits in their respective countries by gathering empirical data and conducting public opinion surveys. Among the issues common to most countries that do such research are questions about popular control over government actors, the level of social and economic inequality, governmental stability, corruption, and the rule of law. Ol’ga Gyárfášová of the Institute for Public Affairs described the Global Report on the State of Society published by her organization, which includes some empirical data but consists primarily of descriptive, narrative essays on various aspects of social and political life. These essays, in her view, also provide important insights into the quality of democracy in Slovakia.

During the discussion, some workshop participants argued that qualitative country reports provide a rich context that purely quantitative studies do not. Others were skeptical that complex questions of the quality of democracy could be captured by an index or set of indicators. Nonetheless, others supported the development of such indexes and asked for advice on how to do so in their countries. Several participants asked about the practical difficulties of developing sets of questions that could be used worldwide, so that valid international comparisons could be made, and one participant recommended the creation of a standard measure that could locate every country in the world on a continuum of democratic quality.