The Center on Democratic Performance
The Center on Democratic Performance was established in 1999 at Binghamton University as a research center of the Research Foundation of State University of New York. Its mission is to assist the academic and policy communities in understanding the functioning and performance of democratic political institutions. Since 1999 the Center has undertaken a number of research projects, country assessments, and held workshops on topics ranging from satisfaction with democracy to cooperation and conflict. A key initiative of the Center has been to generate systematic data on democratic elections around the world. The Election Results Archive database provides an accessible format to evaluate elections between 1974 and 2002 for over 130 countries.
The advisory committee of the Center is comprised of experts on democracy, human rights, and conflict management, as well as policy makers and elected officials. The activities of the Center have been funded through the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, the National Science Foundation, the World Bank, and Science Applications International, among others. Fellows of the Center have consulted with the US Department of State, US Agency for International Development, and the World Bank.
A general consensus maintained by both academic and policy communities contends that the transformation of societies from autocratic to democratic governments is beneficial to the global community. Conventional wisdom, that is, suggests that democratic societies function better internally and externally than their non-democratic counterparts. However, there are many questions that pose knotty problems for the scholar and practitioner of democratic politics. Human rights – broadly defined – and patterns of representation are two such areas.
The mission of the Center on Democratic Performance is to evaluate the performance of democracies on a number of critical dimensions, such as civil conflict and its management, human rights, voting rights, and political representation. Understanding how democracies address these issues and confront challenges associated with them will help to facilitate remedies geared toward buttressing democratic institutions rather than dismantling them. We have two substantive agendas: a) the relationship between human rights and democratic processes and b) how individual representation influences outcomes in democratic societies. Based on the widely held belief that respect for human rights is paramount to a fully formed democracy, the Center focuses on human rights practices and whether respect for the individual must precede or follow the transformation to democratic rule.
Although we encourage and promote a wide-ranging discourse, we address some specific contextual questions:
- Should the provision of human rights precede or follow democratic rule?
- Is democracy the ultimate goal in all countries? Are democracy's virtues culturally specific?
- What characteristics are generally associated with coup-prone, civil war-prone, and peaceful societies?
- How do women's and worker's rights influence socio-political practices in democratic and non-democratic countries?
- In what ways does minority districting and other forms of gerrymandering impact the performance of democratic societies?
- How does public access to the political process affect political representation? For example, what is the role of campaign finance in the political process?
The Center's goals are to facilitate new ways of thinking about these questions through substantive analysis, to train future scholars and practitioners, and to communicate effectively among the research, non-profit, and policy-making communities.
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