Democratic Advocates Study the Transition Process through IRI’s Rising Stars Program

Democracy activists and government leaders from ten closed and transitioning countries came together to learn about the Czech Republic’s democratic transition including economic transition, the constitutional reform process, the role of the media and ways to address crimes of the past regime. 

During the two-week exchange program, participants discussed the topics of democratic transition with academics, civil society leaders, former ministers and other government officials from the post-communist Czech government.  The program is part of the IRI’s Rising Stars and was co-hosted with CEVRO – Liberal Conservative Academy, a Czech think tank. 

In addition to learning from the Czech Republic’s democratic transition process, participants engaged with each other and shared their experiences fighting to strengthen democracy.  Discussing shared challenges and successes of working to promote or strengthen democracy and the parallels as well as comparing differences between their countries, participants built connections and were inspired by democracy activists from other parts of the world. 

One participant noted, “Now I know everywhere in the world you can find people ready to fight for democracy.” 

Connecting these and other examples of the successful Czech transition to democracy to their own countries, participants developed action plans that outlined how they would apply the lessons they had learned during the program to their work. 

A major theme of the program was the economic transition of the Czech Republic from a communist regime to a free market economy.  Miroslav Kalousek, a member of Parliament and former minister of finance, spoke to participants about how the Czech government leveraged the political transition momentum to institute widespread economic reforms that aimed to create macroeconomic balance and liberalize the economy. 

The delegation also traveled to Pilsen, the fourth most populous city in the Czech Republic, to understand how local governments pursued economic growth in the post-transition period.  There they learned specific best practices for economic development at the local level such as Business Innovation Centers.  As economic development was identified as a key challenge in participants’ countries, this initiative was particularly relevant, and one participant even began to develop a plan on how similar business innovation centers could be created in his country.

This program was part of IRI’s Rising Stars program, which was launched in 2007 to equip leaders in closed societies and transitioning democracies with knowledge and skills for effective democratic governance.  Through the program, IRI has worked with hundreds of emerging leaders around the world, helping prepare them for the difficult challenges of leading a democratic transition.

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