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Good Governance in Times of Crisis: A Comparative Perspective

Third Conference on Democratic Institution Building of the Institute for Public Management and Community Service of Florida International University

January 20-22, 2016  Miami, Florida, USA

NISPAcee President, Marius Profiroiu and Executive Director, Ludmila Gajdosova were among those invited to share the experiences of the NISPAcee region with 23 Cuban civil society activists at the Third Conference on Democratic Institution Building in Miami, Florida. Other distinguished panelists from Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa and the United States all participated and shared their experiences and perspectives regarding the building of democratic institutions and the promotion of good governance.
 
 
The conference was organized by the Center for Democracy and Good Governance of the Institute for Public Management and Community Service of Florida International University (FIU) and received support from the government of the State of Florida. The initiative was led by Institute Director, Allan Rosenbaum and Assistant Director, Cristina Rodriguez-Acosta. Conference participants were also welcomed by Meredith Newman, FIU’s Vice Provost for Global and Faculty Relations.

One of the goals of the conference was to provide an opportunity for the 23 Cuban civil society participants to exchange ideas and experiences in the building and strengthening of good governance with individuals from throughout the world who had had extensive experience in these matters. Thus, the conference looked at the role played by national, regional and local governments, including members of legislative bodies, the executive branch and political parties and strategies for the strengthening of good governance. Particular attention was given to the role of civil society in the building of democratic institutions. The 23 Cuban civil society activists had the opportunity to learn about both political transitions and the building of good governance in the aftermath of those transitions.
 
 

The experiences of the NISPAcee region were at the center of the opening plenary session on "Consolidating and Strengthening Governmental Institutions.” Georgi Bliznashki, Professor of Law at the University of Sofia and former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, who had served in the Bulgarian and European Parliaments, and Emil Boc, former Prime Minister of Romania and now Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Romania joined former Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle in discussing the complex task of building democratic institutions during the course of significant political transitions. Their personal experiences in the building of good governance were of particular interest to the Cuban civil society activists. Such topics as the development of an effective constitution and the building of a relevant legal framework for a democratic, market economy, as well as the development of a democratic culture were discussed.

Of particular interest to the Cuban participants was the very frank discussion provided by the former Prime Ministers of the mistakes which had been made by various countries engaged in political transition. The need to foster democratic leaders, promote democratic values and discourage the misuse of power were topics that generated a great deal of discussion and interchange among conference participants. Other important topics that were discussed included the need for fair elections, the timing and sequencing of governmental reforms, the ensuring of equal opportunity for all citizens and all political parties, and the importance of access by voters to needed information. The two former Prime Ministers, and the former President, all agreed upon the need for a strong civil service, a strong civil society and a free press as central to democratic institution building.

NISPAcee President, Marius Profiroiu, reinforced many of the ideas discussed by the two former Prime Ministers with a presentation on his experience as former Secretary of State for Public Administration Reform in Romania during the years from 2002-2005. He also discussed the potentially important role of foreign advisors and assistance in the processes of democratic transitions. He did, however, also point out the very great necessity of coordinating all such assistance with the country in which the processes of democratic transitions are underway.
 
 

Polya Katsamunska, another active NISPAcee participant, who is Vice Dean of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of National and World Economy, Sofia, Bulgaria, chaired a session on "Strengthening Governmental Institutions for the Achievement of Good Governance.” NISPAcee Executive Director, Ludmila Gajdosova, also participated in this session and shared the experience of NISPAcee’s nearly 25 years of work in promoting and strengthening effective democratic governance in the region. She noted that many of the countries in the region were still working hard to develop effective democratic governance and expressed concern regarding tendencies towards backsliding in the building of democratic institutions.
 
 
 
Both Professor Katsamunska and Executive Director Gajdosova emphasized that despite the considerable progress made, the Central and Eastern European region is still facing a lot of challenges in the building of effective democratic governance. It was noted that serious research needs to be undertaken to explore and better understand the various problems inherent in the institutionalization of good governance. Particular attention was given to the issue of the passive attitudes of many of the region’s citizens which appear to have been inherited from the days of the Communist regimes. This inheritance results in limited attention given to important political and governmental issues and a resultant lack of citizen participation.

Another consequence of this inheritance is the sometimes lack of political cooperation and the all too often limited citizen involvement in the processes of policy making. This in turn helps to create an environment in which politicians work for their own interests rather than the interests of their country with a resulting misuse of power for the purposes of corruption and nepotism. However, in spite of these problems, it was concluded that while there are issues of implementation, nevertheless, the Central and Eastern European region had witnessed the development of important democratic institutions and the building of critical elements of the necessary legal framework.  It was also noted that organizations like NISPAcee, through their work on various projects and activities, both independently and in cooperation with such partners as the United Nations and the OECD, will continue to work to build democratic institutions characterized by good governance.
 
While the Cuban civil society activists were particularly interested in the Central and Eastern European experience, they were also very interested in the insights that could be drawn from the Latin American and African experiences which were also detailed on various panels at the conference. All of the participants agreed that the formal presentations and the very extensive discussions and interactions which were part of each panel session tremendously enriched their knowledge and experience of democratic institution building in a manner that they could use in their daily work and life in their home country. The participants were all very thankful to the organizers of the event, especially Professor Rosenbaum who had played a major role in the preparation of the conference program. In addition, he and his wife Judy invited the sixty conference participants to their home for a very delightful evening. This created a very good opportunity for the building of partnerships and friendships among the participants in order to encourage their future collaboration in the strengthening of good governance worldwide.

The program of the entire conference.
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