- News and Notes
Civic Educators Meet in Buenos Aires
On September 29–October 2, more than 250 participants from 19 countries in North and South America as well as 20 other countries worldwide gathered in Buenos Aires to attend CIVITAS Panamericano, a meeting devoted to promoting democracy in Latin America through civic education. The conference was sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank and a number of nongovernmental organizations, including Conciencia (an Argentine women’s civic organization), the American Federation of Teachers, and the Center for Civic Education.
The conference participants— primarily educators, community activists, journalists, and government officials—discussed how to strengthen democracy in the region by educating both young people and adults in the principles of democratic citizenship. The program included several “thematic sessions,” as well as workshops devoted to developing specific action plans for each country. Topics explored included “Teaching About Democratic Elections,” “Building Consensus Through Inter-organizational Cooperation,” and “The Role of the Media in Building a Civil Society.”
The conference followed in the footsteps of previous USIA-sponsored meetings in Prague and in Bosnia that resulted in the creation of Civnet, an Internet site dedicated to the exchange of information and resources related to civic education (it may be accessed at http://www.civnet.org).
In Remembrance of Claude Ake
Claude Ake, a leading African scholar and democratic activist, died in a plane crash in his native Nigeria on November 7. At the time of his death, he was a visiting professor of political science at Yale University.
An original thinker, a prolific [End Page 187] writer, and a man of uncompromising integrity, Ake was at the center of the fight for democracy, human rights, and social justice in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Although his views evolved from the ideology reflected in such early radical works as Revolutionary Pressures in Africa (1968), Ake was throughout his life a searing critic of authoritarianism, political violence and repression, and corruption. He also challenged the superficial nature of many electoral regimes in Africa.
He was Nigeria’s most prominent political scientist and its most eloquent advocate for the creation of a “public realm” of accountable, responsible governance. His final book was Democracy and Development in Africa (1996), available from the Brookings Institution.
He was 57 at the time of his death, and is survived by a wife and two sons. A memorial ceremony was held on November 23 in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association.
Report on NED’s International Forum
On September 20, the International Forum and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace cosponsored a day-long conference entitled “Five Years Into the Transition: Where Is Russia Headed?” The meeting included presentations and commentary by leading Russian and American experts on four principal topics: the balance of power among political institutions following the recent elections in Russia; the transition to capitalism; Russian federalism; and Russian foreign policy and the impact of the international community on Russia. Grigory Yavlinsky, a member of the State Duma and a 1996 candidate for the presidency of Russia, was the featured luncheon speaker. (An essay based on Yavlinsky’s address appears above on pp. 3–11.) More than 50 scholars and policy makers joined the presenters for the day’s discussions. The Forum and the Carnegie Endowment will jointly publish a report on the conference.
On November 18–19, the Forum held a major international conference in Washington, D.C., on “Political Parties and Democracy” that brought together some of the world’s foremost scholars in the areas of parties and electoral systems. The conference, organized by the Forum codirectors and Richard Gunther of Ohio State University, included sessions on the rise and decline of parties, electoral reform and party systems, the construction of new party systems, and erosion and change in the party systems of more established democracies. Among those presenting papers were Hans Daalder (University of Leiden), Seymour Martin Lipset (George Mason University), Juan Linz (Yale University), Giovanni Sartori (Columbia University), Leonardo Morlino (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Junko Kato (University of Tokyo), Herbert Kitschelt (Duke University), Yun-han Chu (National Taiwan University), Michael [End Page...