A New Start for Sri Lanka: Implementing Reform

By Milos Purkovic

The new Sri Lanka President Mithripala Sirisena has a tough job ahead. Having defeated the Mahinda Rajapaksa in a dramatic snap election in January, the former cabinet member now has the task of leading one of South Asia’s most corrupt countries; Sri Lanka has long struggled with governance and investment climate and continues to sit at the lower half of the World Bank’s Doing Business index. However, Sirisena’s 100-day reform program provides an opportunity to address these issues by emphasizing good governance and rule of law, investing in basic public institutions, judicial reform, and catalyzing press freedom.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Sirisena

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Mithripala Sirisena

As a first step, on January 21 the new parliament introduced legislation to repeal a 2010 constitutional amendment which discontinued the Constitutional Council, empowered the president to dismiss or appoint members of the judiciary, and allowed for a third presidential term.  The 2010 amendment was widely viewed as the previous administration’s attempt to consolidate power, and The United Nations Human Rights Committee had made numerous requests to repeal the amendment since its passage. The new legislation will likely reinstate the Constitutional Council meant to safeguard the Constitution, set a two-time term limit, and introduce checks and balances to the executive. Continue reading

Weekend in Democracy: Election Takeaways from Ukraine, Brazil, Tunisia, and Uruguay

This weekend was an active one for voters around the world– citizens across Ukraine, Brazil, Tunisia, and Uruguay went to the polls on Sunday, and now have newly elected governments.  These elections drew keen interest from international observers, and as we face down crisis and uncertainty around the world, are certain to have global implications.  Here’s what you need to know from the weekend’s democratic exercises:

Ukrainian President Poroshenko with Secretary of State John Kerry this June

Ukrainian President Poroshenko with Secretary of State John Kerry this June.  Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State

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Long Road Ahead for the Trade Facilitation Agenda

By Julia Marvin

WTO members met in Geneva on July 31 to implement a historic WTO trade agreement that incorporated special provisions for developing countries, allowing for the staggered implementation of trade standards and tailored technical assistance to meet these standards. Of course, this did not happen as India chose to block the WTO consensus needed to implement the agreement unless its food security issues are addressed.

India’s decision to stall out Bali progress has raised concerns that the WTO will not be able to implement the Bali agreement at all. A coalition of 25 developing and developed countries, including Australia, Thailand, and Canada, has asked India to reconsider but so far India’s position has proven intractable.

Cargo inspection a the Port of Jakarta

Cargo inspection a the Port of Jakarta

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