On 28 September NIMD and the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) are holding a round table in Brussels, Belgium, on shrinking democratic space and what it means for political parties and political party assistance providers.

Shrinking democratic space: The context

Today, the world of democracy has changed. Not only has the wave of democratisation stalled, but in many respects, it has receded or is backsliding at alarming levels.

Whether this is a temporary phenomenon is hard to tell, at least when in many respects, there are no signs of this abating.

Until now, much of the discussion on the shrinking space phenomenon has tended to focus on civic space. However, if what we are witnessing is understood as an assault or a backlash on the very idea of democracy and the process of democratisation, then we must start to broaden the discussion. We must also consider the effects of phenomena such as increasing authoritarianism, populism or low levels of trust in political institutions.

The meeting

The NIMD-EPD meeting brings together a limited number of researchers, policy-makers and practitioners.

This round table discussion will aim to contribute to the broadening of the discourse around shrinking democratic space from the perspective of political parties and party assistance providers. In particular, the participants will be invited to deepen their shared understanding of the nature of shrinking space; reflect on its impacts and implications; and explore the strategies being used to tackle the phenomenon.

We also hope to develop ideas to sharpen future research on shrinking democratic space. As such, NIMD will present the first findings of a study we have carried out within the framework of our ongoing learning agenda on shrinking democratic space.

On 20 July 2017, the NIMD’s Eastern European Neighbourhood (EEN) office became an independent, locally owned and locally rooted NGO called the¬†Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy (EECMD).

The transformation has its roots in an important guiding principle within NIMD: local ownership. Based on this principle, NIMD always works together with local partners to ensure its programmes reflect local demands.

The transition of the NIMD EEN country office into the Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy (EECMD) reflects a shared aim to strengthen and sustain locally rooted organizations to implement democratization programmes independently and with greater autonomy. Local identity and ownership will allow the new organization to diversify both its funding base and programmatic portfolio and become more flexible in responding to the needs in its field and the area of work.

This represents a major achievement in our efforts to build strong local institutions that are able to assume greater ownership over political development and democratization efforts. To NIMD, this represents a mature state of democracy assistance and an important accomplishment of its work in the region.

Of course, this achievement would not have been possible without the strong support of crucial donors such as the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia, the British Embassy, the Canadian Consulate and the OSCE. NIMD thanks them for their support to strengthen free, multiparty and democratic political systems in the region.

To reflect the changing relationship and to express their continued commitment to pursuing their shared goals and joint programmes, NIMD and EEN reiterate their partnership through a written contract based on shared principles and agreements. NIMD will continue its work in this region, implementing its programmes through, and in close coordination with, EECMD.