Julie Fisher – Importing Democracy

importing democracyIn Importing Democracy, Julie Fisher explores how democracy is developing in South Africa, Tajikistan, and Argentina. She uses Robert Dahl‘s definition of democracy including three dimensions – political opposition, public participation, and law-based civil liberty. Fisher’s focus is on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contributing to these dimensions, instead of governmental initiatives, like the United States invasion of Iraq and failed export of democracy to that country. The historical, political, and economic context of each country is described. General contours of civil society, then the role of democratization NGOs in promoting both loyal opposition and law-based civil liberties are addressed. Following the nine country chapters, the book concludes with a comparative overview and implications for international policy.

Each of the three countries have a different starting point, set of democratization forces, and outlook. South Africa is promising. Many Tajik NGOs are weak, but there is evidence that they do well when they concentrate on Tajikistan’s strongest local democratic traditions and institutions. Although Argentina is lacking words for accountability, much less legal accountability, democratization NGOs help strengthen government institutions at both the local and national levels. The author is open-minded and critical of the influences of AIDS and poverty, ad Peronism. The fate of democratization ultimately depends on the state, on civil society, and on the relationship between them.

The many names and examples in the book will not be remembered by heart, the main findings, conclusions and recommendations are far more important. The book provides insight in the inner workings and practical consequences of the active role NGOs play in further democratization of countries.

About the author

Julie Fisher is passionate about democracy, linked as it is to improved economic performance, increased equality, political stability, good governance and the avoidance of war. However, democratization is also, according to Julie, a long, hard slog. In her latest book, Importing Democracy: The Role of NGOs in South Africa, Tajikistan and Argentina, she shows how democratization NGOs…an ignored global trend and take on this giant challenge, not just in the three countries where she conducted over 100 interviews, but in other countries as well. Before joining the Kettering Foundation, Fisher was a Scholar in Residence at the Program on Non-Profit Organizations at Yale University and a lecturer in the Biology Department for a course on World Population. She previously taught comparative politics and a course called. The Politics of Third World Development; at Connecticut College. As a specialist on nongovernmental organizations and microenterprise development, she has been a consultant to numerous international agencies, including CIVICUS, Technoserve, CARE, Trickle Up, Lutheran World Relief and Save the Children. She is the author of The Road from Rio: Sustainable Development and the Nongovernmental Movement in the Third World (Praeger: 1993) and Nongovernments: NGOs and the Political Development of the Third World (Kumarian: 1997). Her first book was translated into Spanish and published by the Fondo de Cultura Económico in 1993. The second was translated into Chinese and published by Tsinghua University in 2002. Fisher has been a member of the Advisory Board for the Civil Society Series published by the New England University Press. She often reviews articles for the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and Voluntas. She was a speaker at Working Abroad: Opportunities in the Nonprofit World. July 7-8, 2011, University of Colorado Denver, on The Work of Americans Abroad. Fisher received her B.A. in international studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. The author and her husband, a retired historian specializing in Russia, live in Maine.