Publications

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How terrible is it to be born a girl?

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on CNN.com, May 30, 2014

How terrible is it to be born a girl in the world today? The almost daily headlines about another cruel act of violence and discrimination against women — from the kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls in Nigeria last month, to the latest gruesome stoning of a woman in Pakistan — provide plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about women’s equality and safety in today’s world.

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Beating Boko Haram: Why It Attacks Schools — And How to Fight Back

by Isobel Coleman and Sigrid von Wendel
This article originally appeared on ForeignAffairs.com, May 10, 2014

The abduction last month of 276 schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has become international news. In a video that surfaced this week, Boko Haram’s leader issued a chilling message in which he called the girls “slaves” and threatened to “sell them in the market.” Soon after, a social media campaign called #BringBackOurGirls went viral. And this week, First Lady Michele Obama even tweeted a photo of herself holding a sign with the campaign’s hashtag. Governments around the world, including those of the United States and China, have offered to help track down the terrorists.

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Egypt’s deeply flawed draft constitution

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on CNN.com, December 5, 2013

Egypt’s constitutional assembly pulled an all-nighter last week to hastily approve a controversial draft of a new constitution. However, the constitutional battle is far from over. Yesterday, protests rocked the country, and a crowd of some 100,000 people staged a so-called “last warning” demonstration near the presidential palace against President Morsy’s heavy-handed tactics. In addition, hundreds of journalists marched on Tahrir and at least a dozen of the country’s independent newspapers did not publish to protest against Morsy’s “dictatorship.”

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Drafting Discord: Why Egypt’s next constitution won’t fulfill the democratic dreams of the revolution.

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on ForeignPolicy.com, December 2, 2013

In the midst of violence and counter-revolution, Egypt’s military-backed government is about to present a new constitution to the people — the country’s second in a year. On Dec. 1, a 50-member committee, tasked by the government with making “revisions” to the 2012 constitution, voted on the final draft and will submit it to President Adly Mansour this week for ratification. Later this month or next, the Egyptian people will be asked, again, to approve the constitution in a referendum.

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Will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood survive?

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on CNN.com, July 5, 2013

In a stunning reversal of fortunes, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy was deposed by a military coup just one year after being sworn in as president. The Egyptian protesters who took to the streets by the millions over the past several days to demand Morsy’s resignation were jubilant as news spread Wednesday that their goal had been met: Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed government was gone, along with its creeping authoritarianism and mismanagement.

The leaders of the protest movement are insisting that what happened was not a military coup, but rather a remarkably peaceful demonstration of the will of the people to achieve the original goals of the revolution: bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity.

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Egypt’s Protests: Three Things to Know

by Isobel Coleman
This video originally appeared on CFR.org, July 2, 2013

Isobel Coleman, CFR’s senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, highlights three things to know about the political upheaval in Egypt. Watch the video here.

Inclusive Economic Growth and Brazil’s Protests

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, June 20, 2013

Brazil’s weeklong protests, which have brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets across the country, have scored their first victory: officials in the major cities of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to rescind the 20 cent bus fare hike that sparked the protests in the first place. But this conciliatory move, far from placating the crowds, seems to have energized their demands. Large marches are planned for today with demands now focused on better education and health care and greater efforts to tackle corruption.

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A User’s Guide to Democratic Transitions

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy, June 18, 2013

Let’s face it: Democracy is struggling. Sure, it surged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, reaching a high-water mark in the first years of the 21st century with various inspirational “colored” revolutions. But then democratic gains in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America stalled, or even deteriorated, as fragile democracies struggled under the enormous challenge of governance. The expensive U.S. failures to impose democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t helped. Today, many countries that once seemed budding with democratic promise now appear mired in political infighting, beset by power grabs by ousted elites, or trapped in downward spirals of poverty and unemployment. And the seemingly inexorable rise of autocratic China, in sharp contrast with gridlocked western democracies, has some wondering whether democracy is even worth pursuing.

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Youth Unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, June 13, 2013

As the graph makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.”

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Rached Ghannouchi and Tunisia’s Transition

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, June 5, 2013

Last week, my colleague Ed Husain and I hosted a meeting with Rached Ghannouchi—the cofounder and president of Tunisia’s Islamist Nahda party—at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The audio is available here.

In January 2011, after more than twenty years in exile, Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia to lead Nahda’s revolutionary rise. Nahda went on to win some 40 percent of seats in Tunisia’s transitional parliament. Ghannouchi–who speaks passionately about the compatibility of Islam, democracy, and modernity–is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading Islamic thinkers. At CFR, his comments focused on his efforts to end Tunisia’s more than half century of political polarization by forging a coalition between moderate Islamists and secularists; the economic challenges facing the country’s transition, particularly with respect to stubbornly high unemployment; his hopes that Tunisia, as the first true Arab democracy, will serve as a model for other Muslim-majority countries; and the threat to freedom and democracy posed by violent extremism in Tunisia.

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