Programs in South Asia

Despite relatively open electoral systems and high levels of public participation, emerging democracies in South Asia have struggled to consolidate. Institutional flaws, weak governance, and entrenched interests have prevented democracy from delivering for all citizens.

Across the region, CIPE is working with business and civil society leaders, journalists, academics, and reform-minded officials to effect needed change in a range programmatic areas. CIPE partners are providing reliable information to citizens on public policy issues, encouraging policy dialogue, building the capacity of business associations, and leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. Projects include strengthening mechanisms of public and corporate governance to help stem corruption, empowering women through business associations, and bringing together new and independent voices to key policy debates in the region’s consolidating democracies.

Nepal: Engaging the Business Community to Improve Democratic Governance

Nepal has not held local elections for nearly 15 years, due to the long-delayed process of finalizing the country’s constitution after a decade of civil war. Without local elected bodies, governance has been weak, accountability is low, and average citizens have not fully benefited from peace and democracy. These issues were underscored by the ineffective government response to a devastating 2015 earthquake. The disaster also dealt a serious blow to Nepal’s weak economy, which is overly reliant on tourism. In response to these challenges, CIPE has been working for the last five years with Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation, which has grown from a youth entrepreneurship training organization to become the country’s leading independent think tank.

With CIPE support, Samriddhi is providing fresh ideas to improve governance, boost accountability, reduce bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, and introduce much-needed reforms to build a more conducive regulatory climate for entrepreneurship. Samriddhi has found a way to bring together voices from across Nepal’s political spectrum for honest and productive dialogue about ways to rebuild the economy. In this way, Samriddhi is building greater support for democratic policymaking.

Regional: Promoting Women's Economic Participation through Advocacy

Many women in South Asia face a range of formal legal barriers, as well as restrictive social and cultural norms, that limit their full economic and civic participation. Often, the region’s women entrepreneurs are relegated to the informal sector, due to laws that make it difficult for them to obtain finance, own or use property as collateral, or have access to markets. In response, CIPE is building the capacity of women’s chambers of commerce and business associations to be a stronger voice in demanding more supportive policies to create a level playing field for businesswomen. In 2013, building on prior work with women’s chambers in Bangladesh and Pakistan, CIPE launched a network of South Asian women’s business associations, which has grown to include 11 organizations from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Women business leaders from Bhutan and Afghanistan have also taken part in the training and networking sessions under this program.

To date, CIPE has organized eight workshops, where participants shared best practices, exchanged information, and received in-depth training on governance, financial and staff management, communications, membership development, and advocacy. In 2015, CIPE provided these organizations with the chance to put their skills into practice, through small grants to support targeted advocacy initiatives in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan, with mentorship from partners in Bangladesh and India.

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