Professor Donald Horowitz appointed to Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion

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Donald Horowitz, James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science, has been appointed to the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion. The Committee, which held its inaugural meeting on November 6 in Washington, D.C., includes 15 academics and leaders of institutions and organizations who work globally in democratization, electoral system reform, constitution-building, and the promotion of human rights and civil society, among other areas.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice established the Committee to provide her and the administrator of the Agency for International Development (USAID) with advice on issues related to democracy promotion in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy and foreign assistance, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of State.  In her remarks to the Committee at its inaugural meeting, Secretary Rice noted that helping to create “well governed, democratic states,” throughout the world is an important part of the agenda for the next generation. “[I]t would be very useful to have a standing group that would help us to think about the issues of democracy promotion, to from time to time give us constructive criticism on what it is that we’re doing, as well as constructive suggestions about what more we might do.”

Horowitz has written extensively on the problems of divided societies and issues related to constitution building. His books include The Deadly Ethnic Riot (2001), Ethnic Groups in Conflict (1985; 2d ed. 2000), and A Democratic South Africa? Constitutional Engineering in a Divided Society (1991), and he has also published an extensive study of Islamic law and the theory of legal change. He has consulted widely on institutions and policies that might be adopted to promote democracy and reduce ethnic strife in such areas as Russia, Romania, Nigeria, Tatarstan, Fiji, and Northern Ireland.

“There are a lot of different questions that are embraced within the rubric of [promoting and advancing democracy,]” said Horowitz of his membership in the Committee. “How do you catch or prevent a regime from backsliding in its democratization, as appears to be occurring in Russia? How do you propel a regime from one stage to the next [in the process of democratization]? How do you create a new democratic regime when it’s clear the authoritarians have fallen, as occurred in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto? How do you produce a deal between the former antagonists in a civil war, which is the Sudanese situation?”

In his remarks at the November 6 meeting, Horowitz discussed the implications of empirical research that seems to positively correlate such factors as U.S. financial aid and social, educational, and trade exchanges, as well as democratic neighbors, with the positive advancement of democracy.

“One strategy is to go to ‘promising locations,’ areas where there are already some democratic countries,” said Horowitz, pointing to Southeast Asia as one such region. “It seems important to encourage privatization, so that a middle class grows up independently of government, as a middle class is strongly associated with democracy.  It’s also important to offer electoral system advice, because if a country has the wrong system, you get the wrong results. And we can’t be dogmatic about the constitutional process or use ethnocentrically American models in constitutional design.”