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Ukraine's Lessons for Democratization: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Mark P. Lagon, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Human Rights, Council on Foreign Relations
March 20, 2014

Ukraine's transition to a pro-Western government and Crimea's pull toward Russian influence offer three lessons for policy to promote democracy, says Mark P. Lagon, CFR's adjunct senior fellow for human rights:

  • Good and Democratic Governance: Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich lost the public's trust not only because of his tilt toward Russia and away from the European Union, but also because of corruption, Lagon says. Good governance and democratic governance are closely linked, and Ukraine's example demonstrates that publics protesting for change often demand both an "accountable and democratic government."
  • Strong Civil Society: Both Ukraine's 2004–2005 Orange Revolution and the 2014 protests that brought down Yanukovich illustrate the importance of civil society for democratization, says Lagon. "The exercise of organized nonviolent 'people power' increases the chance of pluralistic government taking root."
  • International Support: Ukrainians' homegrown demands for democracy were ultimately buoyed by support from the European Union and the United States. "Russia's brazen effort to pull Crimea into its domain was motivated by having lost in a battle for the rest of Ukraine—where civil society with international backing demanded corruption-free, economically responsive democracy," he says.

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