Global, a podcast brought to you by IRI, is not your usual foreign policy podcast. Each episode dives into history, current events, and complex topics that impact how countries can become more democratic. Our dynamic hosts interview top country experts, including heads of state, elected officials, foreign policy analysts, journalists, and on-the-ground activists.
Whether you’re a foreign policy expert learning about a new country in your portfolio, a world traveler looking for your next destination, or simply interested in a fresh perspective on international affairs, Global provides unique context from all corners of the world.
If you have comments or feedback, you can contact our below producers by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @IRIGlobal.
Produced by Samuel R. Johannes @andthensamsays
Associate Producer, Travis Green https://bit.ly/2kvItUU
Democracy First Responders - Kosovo - Donjet Bislimi
In this series of Global, we’ve been speaking with “Democracy First Responders” — the politicians, activists, government officials and everyday citizens who are working to respond to the COVID-19 crisis successfully and protect their country’s democratic institutions.
Today, we’re taking you to Kosovo. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Kosovar government has struggled to meet the challenges of the pandemic, mismanaging both the country’s political and medical response. Ultimately, the government dissolved and a nationwide political crisis ensued. But in the midst of these crises, young people in Kosovo has stepped up.
Enter our guest for today: Donjet Bislimi. Donjet is a physician, whose work has literally put him at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. But in addition to that, Donjet is a young political leader committed to democratic governance in Kosovo. He’s the President of the Democratic Party of Kosovo’s youth wing. But before that, at the ripe old age of 23, Donjet was elected to the municipal assembly of Mitrovica in 2017. Since then, he’s been a champion for young people throughout Kosovo, helping the country’s next generation of democratic leaders.
Global spoke with Donjet about his experience as a physician on the frontlines of a public health crisis, the government failure to manage the fallout of COVID-19 and his hopes for a more democratic future.
This episode concludes our “Democracy First Responders” series. It’s been an honor to hear from the politicians, government officials and activists across the world who are proof of democracy’s strength in times of crisis.
Democracy First Responders - Ethiopia - Mesud Gebeyehu
Over the past few years, Ethiopia has made significant democratic progress, but with coronavirus jeopardizing democracies across the globe, that progress is at risk. Ethiopia’s elections, once scheduled for the end of August, are now indefinitely delayed and many Ethiopians fear the government is manipulating the country’s state of emergency to restrict the free speech of its citizens.
Enter Mesud Gebeyehu, the Executive Director of the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations. At the onset of the pandemic, Mesud’s consortium called for the Ethiopian government to implement prevention methods according to WHO standards and respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Mesud spoke with host Travis Green about his own experiences in Ethiopia and his hopes for continued democratic progress in the country.
Democracy First Responders - Serbia - Marka Zvaka
In this series of Global, we’re meeting “Democracy First Responders”: The politicians, activists, medical workers, journalists, tech pioneers, government officials, and everyday citizens like you and me who are working to respond to the COVID-19 crisis successfully and protect their country’s democratic institutions – or even build new ones.
Dusan Saponja and Dušan Čavić are two activist videographers from Serbia who are members of the YouTube duo Marka Zvaka. Dusan and Dušan created two short videos early in the crisis, before it even hit Serbia. They interviewed Serbian doctors working in Italy and China, and these videos quickly went viral, helping Serbians understand the measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Serbians saw their national government ousted, due in part to its response to the outbreak. We talked to Dusan and Dušan about their work to create awareness, and how coronavirus has affected both day-to-day life and politics in Serbia.
Democracy First Responders - Cuba- Dr. Daily Coro
For the last 60 years, under the Castro Regime and now under President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba has conducted what Havana calls “internationalist missions” – sending thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to bolster its international image.
But this aid is far from altruistic. It provides an economic lifeline for Cuba’s ruling regime and also affects the island’s already-crumbling medical system, which fails to provide Cubans to with quality health care.
Doctors and nurses on these missions are also subject to horrible and restrictive conditions in the countries where they are sent. Their passports are confiscated. The regime pockets most of their income. They are not allowed to leave, and in some cases, never allowed to return home.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the regime’s use of these missions, exporting Cuba’s disastrous human rights abuses under the guise of humanitarian aid.
Dr. Daily Coro has seen these missions up close. She was the Head of Cuba’s Medical Commission of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Guárico, Venezuela from 2011 until 2014. Today, she lives in Madrid, and is shedding light on what the Cuban regime would rather the world didn’t see. The coronavirus has made that effort more urgent than ever.
Democracy First Responders - Georgia - Dr. Akaki Zoidze
We’re looking at how COVID-19 is threatening global democracy, and meeting the people stepping up to protect their country’s democratic institutions.
Georgia is a country that has weathered many challenges over the years, from the internal corruption that led to 2003’s Rose Revolution to the Russian invasion in 2008. In the past few months, Georgia has emerged as a success story in the global fight against COVID-19, showing a path for developing democracies to resist democratic backsliding and come through the crisis stronger than before.
Today, you’ll hear a conversation between Dr. Akaki Zoidze and guest host Bakhtiyor Nishanov. Akaki has been a Deputy Prime Minister of Health and Chaired the Committee on Healthcare, Physician and Public Health Expert while serving in Georgia’s parliament. In other words, he has been smack dab at the intersection of government and public health issues for years. In this conversation, Akaki and Bakhtiyor talked about how the Georgian government identified coronavirus as a threat early on when so many others did not, why the country’s response has been so successful, and how to make the case that democracies, not autocrats, are best equipped to meet global public health challenges.
Democracy First Responders - Lebanon - Makram Rabah
In this series of Global, we’re meeting some of these “Democracy First Responders.” We’ll travel around the world – virtually, of course – and talk to politicians, activists, medical workers, journalists, tech pioneers, government officials, and everyday citizens like you and me. These are very different people, but everyone we spoke with has one goal in common: To respond to this crisis successfully and protect their country’s democratic institutions – or even build new ones.
Before the coronavirus, Lebanon was home to one of the world’s most vibrant people-powered protest movements, demanding accountable, transparent government and rejecting entrenched elites. But restrictions on gatherings are straining this movement, and ruling elites – and foreign powers – are using the crisis to challenge their gains and reestablish their own support.
Can Lebanon’s protest movement – and movements like it – adapt or even thrive in this new reality? To find out, Global spoke with Makram Rabah, an activist, journalist and professor of history at the American University of Beirut. Makram has been active in writing about Lebanon’s protest movement and exposing efforts to silence it. Makram has also been calling for reforms that respond to people’s demands for change.