Thursday, January 18, 2007

Targeting democracy education

Last spring I was in D.C. for some discussion on what I would be doing, post-college, and I was privileged to speak to some people at a few democratization places about what, exactly, their organizations do. One of them is the National Democratic Institute. It's a group funded by donors and (in large part) by the National Endowment for Democracy. Essentially, their job is to advise national political players on how democracy functions, educate citizens on democracy if called for, help establish strong political parties, etc., etc.

Don't take my word for it; from their website:
NDI provides practical assistance to civic and political leaders advancing democratic values, practices and institutions. NDI works with democrats in every region of the world to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and to promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.
I believe in this mission; I believe in democracy. The far left would accuse them of imperialism, or whatever tired old phrase they can bring out. I don't believe the NDI people are guilty of any sort of hubris or inflation of self-importance. This is not forcing democracy; this is education in creating institutions.

One of the conversation topics when I was there was the cost and danger of working in Iraq. Security consumes a huge part of the budget of any organization in Iraq because they are, of course, all targets. One unfortunate young woman has lost her life in a pretty brutal attack (possibly with rocket-propelled grenades) that also killed three bodyguards. She'd been in Baghdad longer than she'd been with NDI, according to the NYT article, so she was certainly accustomed to the dangers. Apparently she'd just left the headquarters of a Sunni party a few minutes earlier (the article seems to imply it was the Iraqi Islamic Party). Obviously (why do I say it?) this was deliberate.

This may be just another "drop in the bucket," considering 34,000 civilian deaths last year. But it's a death that resonates in a way with me personally, and my condolences go to the family of Ms. Parhamovich.

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