Initial funding for this project was received from the Martha Piper Fund at UBC and the Glyn Berry Program in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the Government of Canada to convene the first meeting of experts, in Lima in December 2007, to: (1) bring together scholars from across the hemisphere working in distinct areas of democratization research to discuss key concepts, measures, and indicators of diverse dimensions of democracy; (2) compare and evaluate data and methodologies that have been developed to measure, monitor, and assess the state of democracy in diverse regions; and (3) outline a conceptual and analytical framework for a pilot project on the Andean sub-region. This meeting launched what we envisage as a pilot project that will serve as a building block for a more ambitious and sustained project for reporting on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean modeled on the international system for human rights reporting and the international convention against anti-personnel landmines.
In the Lima meeting, participants agreed on the need for independent, arms-length contributions to public policy and debate within the Americas by means of timely, impartial, and high quality research on the state of democracy in the Andes; that such contributions should provide evidence to enable judgments about the trends in the region, with the intention of mobilizing political will to support democracy within the framework of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and related instruments; and that they should also encompass broader issues of constitutionalism and citizenship. To this end, the participants discussed how a research network might provide evidence for policy in the form of analyses of constitutional developments, including tensions between participatory and constitutional and institutional aspects of democracy, and collaboration with civil society to address inclusion and empowerments along three dimensions of citizenship. Participants discussed the network structure and roles, process and planning, outputs and deliverables, and the intended target audiences.
A subsequent meeting was held in Vancouver in July 2008 in which the assembled research teams presented their research proposals and received detailed feedback. Researchers agreed to reconvene in Ottawa in October 2008 to present preliminary findings. It was further agreed that democracy assessment reports would include the following elements: (a) an introduction, (b) brief discussion of context (c) 10 to 15 pages on the 10 dimensions of democracy (electoral, constitutional, citizens’) in the methodological template, followed by (d) in-depth interpretation and discussion of the case. Thematic reports will also be commissioned, as well as “flash reports” on crises as they occur. The first flash report, on the recall referendum in Bolivia, was submitted on August 12, 2008. The second flash report on the referendum in Venezuela was submitted on February 17, 2009. A third flash report was prepared following elections in Ecuador in April 2009.
An interim meeting was held in Ottawa in October 2008. This provided an opportunity for researchers to share preliminary findings, to meet with officials from the International Development Research Centre to discuss sustaining the project after funding from the Glyn Berry program runs out, and to make presentations to officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs about the research in progress.
By April 2009 most of the research teams had submitted their final reports. In addition, thematic reports were submitted on the state of the economy, civil-military relations, gender, and political parties.
Two well-attended back-to-back round tables were held at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meetings in Rio de Janeiro in June 2009. This provided an opportunity for the researchers to discuss their findings collectively and plan the next step for the research network. It was agreed that the studies would be published both as a collection of papers in Spanish and as an English-language monograph. The Revista de Ciencia Politica accepted a selection of country studies as part of a thematic issue of their journal in March 2010. The journal was presented at the LASA meetings in Toronto in 2010. Most recently the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos published a book in November 2010 that brought together six case studies and a series of thematic reports. This book will be available for free online 6 months after publication in print.
The International Development Research Council approved seed funding to extend the project.