The Unraveling of the Balkans Peace Agreements

The Unraveling of the Balkans Peace Agreements. Council on Foreign Relations. Daniel P. Serwer. November 8, 2017.

The risk of renewed violence and political instability is growing in the Balkans. The decade of progress in postconflict reconciliation and economic recovery after the U.S.-led interventions of the 1990s has stalled and has now, in some areas, even gone into reverse. The international agreements that brought peace to the region, based on the principle that preexisting borders should not be moved to accommodate ethnic differences, are fraying and could unravel with unwelcome consequences for the United States. These could include radicalization of Balkan Muslims, increased Russian troublemaking on the borders of or even inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—for example, in Albania, Croatia, or Montenegro—and a new refugee crisis for European allies. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Did Technology Kill the Truth?

Did Technology Kill the Truth? Brookings Institution. Tom Wheeler. November 14, 2017

We carry in our pockets and purses the greatest democratizing tool ever developed. Never before has civilization possessed such an instrument of free expression.

Yet, that unparalleled technology has also become a tool to undermine truth and trust. The glue that holds institutions and governments together has been thinned and weakened by the unrestrained capabilities of technology exploited for commercial gain. The result has been to de-democratize the internet. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. D. Andrew Austin, Kenneth R. Thomas. November 2, 2017

The statutory debt limit, currently suspended through December 8, 2017, provides Congress a means of controlling federal borrowing. As the date when that suspension will lapse approaches, discussions about the role of the debt limit among the media, researchers, and Members of Congress promise to become more frequent. In recent discussions, misleading or less than fully accurate claims have, at times, surfaced. This report provides clarifications on five common debt limit contentions.

Some of those points in need of clarification relate to the congressional power of the purse, which stems from three closely related constitutional provisions that charge Congress with deciding how the federal government spends, taxes, and borrows.

[PDF format, 15 pages, 576.01 KB].

Civic Engagement: How Can Digital Technologies Underpin Citizen-Powered Democracy

Civic Engagement: How Can Digital Technologies Underpin Citizen-Powered Democracy. RAND Corporation. Talitha Dubow et al. October 11, 2017

The report gives an overview of the discussions held as part of an expert consultation on how digital technologies can be used to support citizen-powered democracy. It summarises what participating experts considered the current situation to be, overviews the key benefits and challenges associated with the use of digital technologies in our democracy, and elaborates further on potential strategies for overcoming these challenges. The report also focuses on collective aspirations for the future, and presents the consultation group’s vision of what a digitally-supported citizen-powered democracy might look like, and what the characteristics of such a democracy would be. These include: strengthened transparency and trust in democratic processes; an improved informational environment for civic and political decision-making; and the existence of well-networked, empowered communities. Emerging ideas for what kinds of digital tools might support this vision are described, which includes ideas for the analysis, synthesis and presentation of data. Finally, the report concludes with some overarching reflections on the consultation discussions, focusing in particular on the role of different actors and stakeholders in contributing to this vision. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 25 pages, 296.93 KB].

Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy

Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy. Pew Research Center. Richard Wike et al. October 16, 2017.

A deepening anxiety about the future of democracy around the world has spread over the past few years. Emboldened autocrats and rising populists have shaken assumptions about the future trajectory of liberal democracy, both in nations where it has yet to flourish and countries where it seemed strongly entrenched. Scholars have documented a global “democratic recession,” and some now warn that even long-established “consolidated” democracies could lose their commitment to freedom and slip toward more authoritarian politics.

A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey finds there are reasons for calm as well as concern when it comes to democracy’s future. More than half in each of the nations polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country. Yet, in all countries, pro-democracy attitudes coexist, to varying degrees, with openness to nondemocratic forms of governance, including rule by experts, a strong leader or the military. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 43 pages, 593.52 KB].

Civil Society at a Crossroads: Exploring Sustainable Operating Models

Civil Society at a Crossroads: Exploring Sustainable Operating Models. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Shannon N. Green. October 12, 2017

Around the world, civil society is at a crossroads. Buffeted on one side by questions about their relevance, legitimacy, and accountability from governments and their beneficiaries, civil society organizations (CSOs) face pressure to demonstrate their value to and connection with local communities. On the other side, civil society is having to adjust to a rapidly deteriorating legal and operational environment, as countless governments pursue regulatory, administrative, and extra-legal strategies to impede their work. Nonstate actors also pose a threat to the sector, attacking human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists, environmentalists, and labor unionists in unprecedented numbers. Simultaneously, CSOs are encountering major disruptions to their revenue streams because of changing donor priorities and government restrictions on foreign funding, and to their business model from emerging forms of civic activism. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages, 1.46 MB].

Measuring the Health of the Liberal International Order

Measuring the Health of the Liberal International Order. RAND Corporation. Michael J. Mazarr et al. September 5, 2017.

As part of a larger study on the future of the post-World War II liberal international order, RAND researchers analyze the health of the existing order and offer implications for future U.S. policy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 229 pages, 1.41 MB].