United Nations Development Programme
G lo b a l P r o g r a m m e e o n d e m o c r at i c g o v e r n a n c e A s s e s s m e n t s
Project Review Governance Assessment: How Democratic is Democracy in Chile?
Introduction This report offers an overview of the UNDP-sponsored project that aims at producing a democracy audit in Chile and that is formally entitled “Governance Assessment: How Democratic is Democracy in Chile?” The report is based on a review of a comprehensive set of documents related to the project, though not the democracy audit itself. It also draws on interviews, carried in Santiago, Chile in September 2011, with members of the various groups involved with the project (see Annex I). The work on a democracy audit in Chile has been underway for over two years. And it deserves to be seen largely as a bold and successful project. But the key product, the democracy audit itself, is provisionally due for release in March 2012. Thus, this evaluation must be considered as somewhat preliminary.
The Role of the Consortium of Chilean Think Tanks The decision to embark on a democracy audit of Chile started with a response to the call for proposals from the Oslo Governance Center by the director of democratic governance in the UNDP Chile office, Marcela Ríos Tobar. Subsequently, an agreement was signed between the UNDP Chile office and the center-left coalition government of Michelle Bachelet in early 2009. Yet the most distinctive factor of the Chilean democracy audit and a key to its viability and success is, undoubtedly, the makeup of the project partners. The local partner in the Chilean democracy audit is a consortium of four think tanks with some distinctive characteristics. Two of these think tanks (CIEPLAN, Proyectamérica) are closely linked to the center-left coalition that governed Chile from 1990 to 2010. In turn, the other two think tanks have strong connections with Chile’s business class (the case of CEP) and the right-wing coalition that has governed Chile since 2010 (the case of Libertad & Desarrollo). Moreover, all four think tanks are quite well established and have considerable prominence on the political scene and in Chilean society. Thus, the makeup of this consortium ensures that the local partner span practically the entire political spectrum, have strong links with the political establishment, and have substantial public visibility. This feature of the Chilean democracy audit is critical. On the one hand, it means that the democracy audit is not seen as a partisan project. This has been critical to the continued official endorsement of the audit project, even as power has changed hands. Indeed, even though the political situation has changed since the project got underway—a right-wing coalition, led by Sebastián Piñera, assumed the presidency in March 2010—the government continues to support the project. And it is highly likely that progress in the work on the democracy audit would have been gravely affected if think tanks linked with the then opposition right-wing parties had not been included in the democracy audit from the outset. On the other hand, it means that party leaders do not dismiss the democracy audit as merely an academic exercise, a clear possibility if the main partners were local universities. That is, because party leaders see the democracy audit as a product of their think tanks, the buy in by the political establishment is greatly facilitated. 2 Project Review: Chile
The viability of such a choice of local partners is due to certain features of Chilean society. The willingness of the local partners to work together—and the interaction among these four think tanks deserves to be characterized as fairly fluid—is due in part to the shared academic background of many of the members of these think tanks, something that is related to the fact that Chile is a fairly small country that revolves around one main city – Santiago – and a country in which the elites come from a fairly similar socio-economic background and attend the same schools and universities. But also important to note is that an important precedent for the work on the democracy audit was the work that the UNDP carried out with these four think tanks in the two years prior to the initiation of the democracy audit. This joint effort, financed by UNDEF (the United National Democracy Fund), led to the publication of four books on the electoral and party system, and on young political activists. Thus, this initial exercise helped to build a sense of trust among the four think tanks involved in Chile’s democracy audit and make their work on the democracy audit less of a leap to the unknown. In short, one of the basic features of the Chilean democracy audit, and it is fair to say a key reason for the viability of a government endorsed democracy audit, is i) the presence of fairly well established think tanks that ii) have strong political connections, iii) cover the entire political spectrum, and iv) are willing and able to work together.
The UNDP’s Role As central as the consortium of four think tanks is to the viability of Chile’s democracy audit, the role of the UNDP must also be highlighted. Without the UNDP, it is likely that the four think tanks would not have been able to see a long-term project to fruition. Indeed, one of the strengths of these think tanks—their close connection with the government and parties in parliament—is also a weakness, in that it contributes to the instability of the personnel involved in the democracy audit. Specifically, following the 2009-2010 elections and the change in parties in power, two members of the think tanks working on the democracy audit left to occupy positions in the government and the Senate. And new members of these think tanks occupied their place. In all, only one of the original members from the four think tanks continues to be active in the project. Thus, the UNDP has played a critical role in keeping the momentum of the project and ensuring the continuity of the work program. Relatedly, the members of the consortium of think tanks tend to get absorbed in day-to-day demands and are largely focused on quite short-term, conjunctural political debates. Thus, these think tanks do not usually step back to consider democracy in broad terms and to discuss longer terms trends related to the health of democ1. Arturo Fontaine, Cristián Larroulet, José Antonio Viera-Gallo and Ignacio Walker (eds.), Modernización del régimen electoral chileno (Santiago, Chile: PNUD, CEP, Libertad y Desarrollo, Proyectamérica and Cieplan, 2007); Arturo Fontaine, Cristián Larroulet, Jorge Navarrete and Ignacio Walker (eds.), Reforma de los partidos políticos en Chile (Santiago, Chile: PNUD, CEP, Libertad y Desarrollo, Proyectamérica and Cieplan, 2008); Arturo Fontaine, Cristián Larroulet, Jorge Navarrete and Ignacio Walker (eds.), Reforma del Sistema Electoral Chileno (Santiago, Chile: PNUD, CEP, Libertad y Desarrollo, Proyectamérica and Cieplan, 2009); Vicente Espinoza E. and Sebastián Madrid P., Trayectoria y eficacia política de los militantes en juventudes políticas. Estudio de la élite política emergente (Santiago, Chile: PNUD, CEP, Libertad y Desarrollo, Proyectamérica, Cieplan, Instituto de Estudios Avanzados and Universidad de Santiago de Chile, 2010).
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racy. Indeed, a democracy audit is the kind of project that these think tanks do not usually work on and it is important to recognize that the idea to conduct a democracy audit came from the UNDP. The way the project has advanced over a period of more than two years has also been shaped in important ways by the UNDP. The members of the think tanks unanimously point out that the UNDP has been seen as an impartial actor and served, very usefully, as an umpire. (The UNDPâ€™s image of impartiality also helps to give the government an added layer of trust in the project.) The UNDP has played a crucial role in facilitating the constructive discussion among members of the four think tanks and in ensuring that discussions do not just keep going on and on but rather end with some resolution. At the same time, it should be noted that the UNDP placed some substantive issues on the agenda that otherwise may not have been addressed (e.g. minority rights, womenâ€™s rights) and that these suggestions were well received by the members of the think tanks. Finally, the resources that the UNDP gathered for the project were critical to its viability. Several members of the think tanks mentioned that donor countries do not consider Chile as a high priority country. Moreover, resources for the purpose of research with a practical intent, as is the case of the democracy audit, are not easy to come by. Thus, a project of this size would simply not have been possible without the important amount of external support that the UNDP was able to garner.
Division of Labor Between the Chilean Think Tanks and the UNDP In addition to bringing different things to the project due to their distinctive characteristics, the consortium of four think tanks and the UNDP have played different roles in the project as it has advanced from stage to stage. Indeed, it is possible to distinguish three relative distinct stages in the work on the democracy audit in Chile in which the division in labor between the think tanks and the UNDP has been quite different. During an initial stage of the project, the think tanks were the ones responsible for making the key decisions and the UNDP was largely a facilitator. The think tanks decided how to adapt the International IDEA framework (an issue discussed in more detailed below). They made decisions on a questionnaire and then one of the partners (the CEP) was responsible for gathering the survey data. They decided that other inputs were desirable and began to conduct the research to produce papers a set of selected topics: defense, decentralization, the quorums required for passing different bills in the parliament, and the role of the Constitutional Court. In short, in line with the principle of local ownership, the local partners very clearly set the agenda and made all of the substantive decisions. During this initial stage, the interaction among the four think tanks deserves to be characterized as positive. In spite of the political differences among four think tanks, none vetoed the inclusion of any topic. Moreover, if there was an important difference of views on some issue, it was resolved that whoever dissented with a certain argument could write up a dissenting view to record their view.
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During the second stage of the project, focused on the initial write-up of the democracy audit, the UNDP took the lead. Indeed, the UNDP has assumed full responsibility for pulling together various inputs and preparing a full draft of the final report. One key consequence of this decision is that the UNDP made the decision to highlight the diagnostic aspect of the democracy audit and to play down the recommendation for reforms included in the democracy audit. The third stage, which should start shortly, concerns the discussion of the full draft of the report and subsequently the dissemination of the democracy audit. This is a critical stage, in which the role of the think tanks will surely be as central as it was during the first stage. At this stage there might also be some changes in the composition of the consortium, given that the government of PiĂąera has expressed an interest in having at the very least two new think tanks join the consortium.
The International IDEA Framework The central work product of the project is a democracy audit that has taken the International IDEA democracy assessment framework as a key point of reference. The question of the framework to be used in a democracy audit is fundamental. And the Chilean experience shows that using the International IDEA framework has benefits and costs. On the positive side, the reliance on an established framework solves a key problem. Discussions in Chile, and more broadly Latin America, about the meaning of democracy quickly reveal important differences of views. Thus, members of the think tanks in Chile considered that taking the International IDEA framework as a starting point was helpful, in that it prevented a can of worms from being opened. Essentially, the members of the think tanks decided that since the idea was not to define democracy and then assess Chile in terms of this definition, conflictual issues (e.g. should social rights be seen as part of democracy?) could be sidestepped (there was enough agreement that addressing social rights was important in itself even if they were not considered part of a definition of democracy). Moreover, the effort to adapt the International IDEA framework to the circumstances in Chile did not reveal any big problem. Since the framework is very broad, the members of the think tanks were able to pick and choose the issues they felt should be emphasized. And, it appears that no one thought that some issue they considered was crucial could not be found in the International IDEA framework. Finally, members of the think tanks found the guidance offered in the International IDEA framework (e.g. the reference to various sources of data and information) to be useful. In sum, the experience in Chile shows that it is viable to navigate a middle ground, starting with a pre-elaborated framework but adapting it to reflect national priorities and the national context. On the negative side, several problems were associated with the use of the International IDEA framework. Some members of the think tanks noted that the framework includes a list of topics that is simply too long to cover and that there simply is no way that all questions could be covered. In the case of Chile, even an entire dimensionâ€”on the international dimension of democracyâ€”was dropped from consideration. The framework was also seen as quite vague in
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parts, in that it uses a lot of adjectives that are hard to pin down (e.g How impartial and inclusive are the procedures for amending the constitution? How effectively are the basic necessities of life guaranteed, including adequate food, shelter and clean water?). Finally, the adoption of the International IDEA framework has some negative consequences for the write-up of the democracy audit report. In part because the framework is so broad and because it is essentially organized as a long list, the write-up of the democracy audit necessarily tends to be static, does not make for engaging reading and, in the end, does not lend itself to the sort of analysis of the dynamics of politics and the interaction across dimensions (e.g. between the electoral system, the party system and the lawmaking powers of congress) that is needed of a diagnostic that points the way to recommendations of reforms.
The Quantitative Data Component The work on the democracy audit will contribute a large amount of original quantitative data. One distinctive part of the data is a mass survey data, gathered in 2010. Survey data has a special status. Politicians see these data as an expression of the voice of voters and hence pay attention to them. Thus, it is important that one of the consortium members, the CEP, has a strong track record in the field of survey research and a reputation in Chile as a leading producer of survey data. In addition, some features of the survey deserve mention. The survey used a national sample and relied on stratified random sampling. It was based on face-to-face interviews of 35-40 minutes and the interviewers were heavily supervised. The response rate was high (over 80%). All in all, thus, though costly (roughly U$S 100,000), the survey data easily meets current international standard in matters of survey research methods.
In addition, the democracy audit project has produced data on a range of other matters. New data has been generated on various issues related to elections, parties, parliament, and civil-military relations, in many cases allowing for fairly long-term comparisons. One interesting aspect of the work on data was the generation of a new index of democratic governability in the defense area, spanning the 1990-2010 years. These data fill in an important gap in knowledge about Chile. Thus, they contribute substantially to the overall value of the democracy audit.
Next Steps and a Preliminary Impact Assessment Looking forward, the next critical stage in the democracy audit in Chile is the preparation of the actual audit report and its dissemination. Probably the most important single challenge in this next stage, given that the democracy audit will likely be largely diagnostic in nature, is to involve members of the think tanks in the writing of some of the materials used in the dissemination of the report that draw upon the findings of the report but that focus centrally on the formulation of recommendation of political reforms. Since the Pi単era government would like to have at least two new partners (one linked to a right-wing party, another to a left-wing party) added to the consortium, the development
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of recommendations is not likely to be an easy task. But moving from diagnosis to recommendations is critical to the overall impact of the democracy audit and thus deserves to be given all the needed attention. And the idea under consideration is to elaborate some side documents, much briefer than the audit report, which would propose recommendations on targeted issues. (Another idea is to conduct a new survey; there is a strong interest in developing time series that would enable an analysis of trends). Even though the project is entering a key phase, with the release and dissemination of the democracy audit, and the overall success of the project will hinge on the way it evolves in the near future, a preliminary assessment of the projectâ€™s impact can be offered at this time. In this regard, four points can be made. One of the most immediate ways in which the democracy audit has had an impact is through its effect on the actors that are part of the project itself. In this regard, the preparation of the democracy audit can be seen as an exercise in confidence building. The members of the think tanks developed a greater openness to thinking about new options and a greater awareness that certain views are simply not empirically supported. This process started when the consortium of four think tanks was initially formed, as mentioned above, before the work on the democracy audit began. And, given the failure of attempts at reforming the electoral system in 2006, the development of this network and the bonds of trust generated within this network, this first aspect should not be underestimated. A second way in which the impact of the democracy audit can be gauged is through the visibility of the democracy audit. The fact that a consortium made up of a disparate set of think tanks has been at work on a democracy audit has been reported in the news. Moreover, some early evidence of the likely impact of the products of the democracy audit is offered by the attention given to the release of the data from the public opinion survey in November 2010. The practice of the CEP is to release the survey data they gather as soon as it has been processed, and that precedent was followed in this case. And the impact was huge, garnering attention of all the main print and TV outlets of Chile. The release of the democracy audit is still to come. But two propitious factors suggest that it will have a strong impact. On the one hand, the four think tanks that are part of the consortium working on the democracy audit have excellent relations with the media. On the other hand, the findings of the audit are likely to be taken seriously because the consortium of four think tanks that have worked on the democracy audit bridge the world of reflection and practical politics and, more pointedly, because these think tanks are associated with leaders in the government and parliament. Indeed, politicians in the government and the opposition listen to these think tanks and turn to them for ideas. Thus, given the four think tanks involved, one can expect the results of the democracy audit to enter politics right away. (If the democracy audit had been prepared by university academics or an NGO, the situation would surely be different.) Third, the uniqueness of the democracy audit is a factor of some importance. There is no such thing as a democracy audit that people can turn to in Chile. Thus, its novelty will be part of its attractiveness. There is little precedent for a work that straddles the world of reflection and of practical politics coming from a diverse set of think tanks. And the
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fact that the democracy audit is a product of a consortium of think tanks along with the UNDP is likely to give an aura of legitimacy to the findings of the democracy audit and hence added attention. Finally, there is something about the timing of the release of the democracy audit (set provisionally for March 2012). There is a growing sense of a need for reforms in Chile. Unlike in the past, when some sectors pushes for political reform and other opposed political reform, for the first time since the return of democracy to Chile in 1990 it appears that all sectors are becoming convinced about the need for political reform. Thus, the timing of the release of the democracy audit is very propitious. Indeed, coming at the right time and reflecting the views of groups from across the political spectrum, the democracy has the potential to make a big splash. In sum, though there are ways in which the project â€œGovernance Assessment: How Democratic is Democracy in Chile?â€? could be strengthened, it has been overall a successful project, that shows the ways in which a democracy audit can be carried out with the involvement of well placed actors with strong political connections. of analysis of the dynamics of politics and the interaction across dimensions (e.g. between the electoral system, the party system and the lawmaking powers of congress) that is needed of a diagnostic that points the way to recommendations of reforms.
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Lessons Learned By way of conclusion, certain lessons learned deserve to be mentioned. In this regard, it is useful to highlight some key strengths and potentials of the Chile experience, that is, “things to do, again and elsewhere.” Moreover, it is also useful to draw attention to certain things that could be labeled as “things to do better.”
Things to Do, Again and Elsewhere •
The so far successful experience with the democracy audit in Chile can be linked to the political context in Chile, characterized by a high level of commitment to democracy and a strongly institutionalized system. But, more specifically, the choice of the partners that were included in the consortium, and the precedence of their joint work, is probably the most fundamental feature of the entire process and a notable strength of the Chilean experience. The political weight of the local partners is a key factor in making a democracy audit a success. And the Chilean experience meets a high standard in this regard.
The development of trust among think tanks with different political affiliations and political ideologies is one of the main results of their joint work on the democracy audit. In this regard, it is important to highlight that, in a very real sense, the process is the product.
The use of survey data to capture the opinion of the public is one of the undisputed contributions of the democracy audit. Indeed, though some data can be controversial, there is a sense among politicians that survey data conveys the voice of their constituents. These data have instant appeal and much legitimacy, and thus are one way to effectively convince doubters about the value of doing a democracy audit.
The Chilean experience shows that a democracy audit can address the fundamental political features of the political system, that is, the broad framework used to process demands from society and make legally binding decisions. In this sense, the Chilean model stands in contrast to governance assessments that focus largely on public policies and the delivery of services. The Chilean experience might not be directly usable as a model for other countries. But it is likely that such a model could work in other developing countries, probably starting with other Latin American countries that, like Chile, have an experience of some twenty years of continuous democracy and are at a stage where the issue of reforms geared to deepening democracy has gained considerable salience. (Countries in Eastern Europe are likely candidates as well.)
The Chilean experience also shows that there is an important role for the UNDP in assisting countries conduct democracy audits that address the big political issues of the day and democracy writ large. Indeed, though one could envision a setup as the consortium put together in Chile eventually deciding to institutionalize the production of democracy audits at regular intervals of time, the contribution of the UNDP as convenor and facilitator is likely to remain relevant even in such a situation.
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Things to Do Better •
The fuller involvement of the local partners in every stage of the process, including especially the write-up of the audit. Though there were good reasons for the UNDP to take the lead in the write-up stage of the audit, such a choice necessarily means that the buy-in by the partners will be somewhat reduced, even if they have their say when a first draft of an audit report is revised.
Relatedly, a greater effort to move from diagnosis to recommendations regarding political reforms and public policies, something that necessarily has to flow from discussions among the local partners, would increase the relevance and impact of the audit. Inasmuch as materials used in the dissemination of an audit report delve into recommendations for reforms, this gap may very well be reduced.
The more deliberate involvement of party leaders in discussions on the democracy audit would increase the sense of ownership of the audit on the part of the political establishment. Though think tanks linked with the main parties were involved in the consortium, a greater involvement of key party leaders in some phases of the discussion would help to give them more of a stake in the audit report and prepare them better for the launch of the audit report.
The use of comparative data could be used beneficially in the democracy audit, both because a country—one’s country—is usually understood in comparison with others and because the case for recommendations can be bolstered through the use of evidence that shows what happened when other countries carried out the some change.
The report of a democracy audit should avoid a rigid organization of the presentation of the data and analysis (as may be encouraged by the International IDEA framework and as has been done in several democracy audits that rely on the International IDEA framework), and be attentive to the links among different issues areas.
A more concerted development of a pedagogical strategy aimed at citizenry would be valuable.
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Annex 1 - persons consulted Bellolio, Alvaro; Member of democracy audit team in representation of Libertad & Desarrollo Cassinelli Capurro, Aldo; Analyst, División de Estudios, Ministerio Secretario General de Presidencia, Government of Chile Díaz, Francisco; Member of democracy audit team in representation of CIEPLAN (Corporación de Estudios para Latinoamérica) Flisfisch, Angel; Member of democracy audit team in representation of Proyectamérica Luna, Juan Pablo; Academic, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Martínez, Felipe Ajenjo; Coordinator of democracy audit, Office of Democratic Governance, UNDP Chile Navarrete, Jorge; Former member of democracy audit team in representation of Proyectamérica Ríos Tobar, Marcela; Director, Office of Democratic Governance, UNDP Chile Segovia, Carolina; Member of democracy audit team in representation of CEP (Centro de Estudios Públicos) Sierra, Lucas; Member of democracy audit team in representation of CEP (Centro de Estudios Públicos) von Baer, Ena; Senator for UDI party, former member of democracy audit team in representation of Libertad & Desarrollo
Prepared by: Gerardo L. Munck October 8, 2011 Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California. email: email@example.com
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United Nations Development Programme Bureau for Development Policy Oslo Governance Centre United Nations Development Programme Democratic Governance Group, BDP Inkognitogata 37, 0256 Oslo, Norway For more information: www.undp.org/oslocentre Copyright 2010, UNDP.