NIMD has embarked on a new four-year programme, which aims to support Jordan’s reform process to consolidate democracy, as well as promoting the inclusion of women and young people in national policy and decision-making processes

The programme, which is entitled, “Enhanced Support to Democratic Governance in Jordan”, is funded by the European Union and implemented by a Consortium led by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and composed of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), the French Agency for Media Cooperation (CFI) and NIMD.

The launch

The programme will be launched on 24 May in Amman, Jordan. The ceremony will be attended by the different actors working on the project, as well as representatives of the EU and the Jordanian Parliament.

Opening speeches by the Ambassador of the European Union to Jordan, H.E. Andrea Matteo Fontana, and the Ambassador of the Spain to Jordan, H.E. Santiago Cabanas Ansorena, will kick off proceedings.

Participants will then hear from Jordan’s Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Musa Maaytah, the First Deputy Speaker/Action Speaker of the House of Representatives Khamis Atieh and the Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission, Khalid Kalaldeh. These representatives will present the programme from the point of view of the beneficiary institutions.

The programme will then be presented from the standpoint of the implementing organisations, with speeches from ECES and AECID.

The different actors working on the programme

The new programme

 The objectives of the Jordan programme are threefold:

  • Parliamentary support: strengthen the functioning of the House of Representatives in exercising its core parliamentary functions in a professional, accountable and transparent manner;
  • Electoral assistance: enhance the functioning of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other key stakeholders, contributing to elections conducted in a professional, transparent and credible manner;
  • Support to the political party system: support the political party system in contributing to democratic governance and policy making in particular in the House of Representatives.

NIMD is implementing the third component, political party support. The programme will support interparty dialogue platforms, which are safe spaces for political parties to meet and discuss issues. In addition to facilitating the set-up of these spaces, the project will also proactively facilitate the debate and ensure the inclusion of all relevant actors, including MPs, women and youth candidates. In addition, the programme will aim to strengthen political parties in internal management and organization, and support the participation of women and youth in political life in general.

With this multi-faceted approach promoting stronger institutions and building bridges between elected institutions and citizens, we hope to support Jordan’s reform process towards consolidation and deepening of democracy.

More on the programme’s approach and ambitions here.

Ongoing conflict across the Middle East is affecting many lives, causing hunger, fear and destitution, impeding development and threatening global stability. And while European countries and the United States have been trying for many years to bring peace and stability back to the region through civilian and military intervention, this seems to have had little effect.

Faced with this situation, what kind of policy should the Netherlands develop towards the Middle East region? Is an interventionist strategy the best way to ensure peace? And, if so, what form should this strategy take in order to contribute to sustainable stability and democratization across the region?

On 7 June 2017, Nieuwspoort, together with NIMD and other partners, will organize a debate on the best way forward for the Netherlands regarding the conflicts in the Middle East region.

Panellists will include Dutch MP Sadet Karabulut, former military and political scientist Martijn Kitzen, journalist Paul Brill and Director of PAX Jan Gruiters. They will discuss the opportunities and choices for the Netherlands to promote peace in the Middle East and address the potential role of NGOs in the process.

This debate is part of a series of events entitled actualiteitendebat hosted by Montesquieu Instituut, Nieuwspoort, ProDemos, and the Filmhuis Den Haag. NIMD, PAX and the Grote Midden Oosten Platform are co-hosting the event.

With our new programme in Jordan starting up, NIMD wants to take this opportunity to share its views and debate the future of the region with other experts and members of the public.

The debate will be in Dutch and will take place on 7 June from 17.15 to approximately 18.30 at the Nieuwspoort International Press Centre in The Hague.

Sign up or find out more (in Dutch) here.

NIMD is held a forum on the media, stereotypes and women’s political leadership on 10 May in Bogotá, Colombia. The event explored the stereotypes and obstacles that hamper gender equality and women’s access to political leadership positions.

With a focus on the Colombia context, the participants were invited to contemplate how the way women and men are portrayed in the media can compound these barriers and greatly affect the way we perceive gender roles.

Through the event, representatives of the gender offices of Colombia’s political parties, women candidates and party members were provided with tools for political Communications and social media management. These new skills will help to strengthen their leadership within their party, in the eyes of the electorate and in the general public opinion. Other participants included youth and minority political party representatives, Congresswomen and their advisors.

Special guest at the forum were international expert on political communications and gender, Virginia García Beaudoux. Virginia is a CONICET-IIGG researcher in Argentina; consultant with NIMD and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); and Director at COMMUNICATIO communication strategies consultants. She is the author of ten books, including NIMD’s most recent publication Dancing Backwards in High Heels, and a communication advisor for politicians, candidates and governments. In the last few years, she has specialized in communication, leadership and the strategic development of political careers for female leaders, female politicians and female candidates.

The forum was organized in the framework of the UNDP-NIMD-IDEA Respect for Women Political Rights programme (WPR Programme) in Colombia. This programme aims to:

  • provide technical assistance to political parties and their gender offices to promote more inclusive structures;
  • strengthen political leadership among women representatives and candidates by providing spaces to improve their skills in communication, negotiation and political empowerment;
  • facilitate multiparty dialogue on the political participation of women in Colombia and analyse the barrier to women’s leadership.

 

As the clock ticks closer to the 2017 General Election in Kenya, the country’s President, has instructed Aden Duale, the Majority Leader of the National Assembly, to prioritize passing the two-thirds gender bill. This follows the ruling on 29 March of High Court judge John Mativo stating that the National Assembly must pass the law within two months or risk being dissolved prematurely by any petitioner.

The bill is an attempt to level the playing field for women in Kenya. It proposes a number of measures to ensure that a single gender cannot make up more than two thirds of Kenya’s National Assembly or any other elected public body. This two-thirds rule is an important provision of the country’s new Constitution, passed in 2010, which provides a framework for addressing gender inequalities. Despite its requirement that a single gender cannot make up more than two thirds of parliament, the gender gap persists and women struggle to make their voices heard when it comes to local and national matters.

Unfortunately, in the past, the motion has failed in Parliament due to lack of quorum three times in a row. The bill, now re-introduced by Mr. Duale aims to ensure that the two-thirds rule is implemented, decreasing Kenya’s persisting gender gap and helping women to their voices heard on local and national matters.

Therefore, NIMD welcomes the ruling from Mr. Mativo and President Kenyatta’s call to prioritize the bill. Since 2012, NIMD has been working with our local partner in Kenya, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-Kenya), to support the realization of the provisions set out in the 2010 Constitution to enhance gender equality. Together NIMD and CMD-Kenya have engaged with the political parties in Kenya to advocate for the passing of the bill.

If implemented according to the Constitution, the two-thirds gender rule will institutionalize increased participation for women in Kenya. This will support many of our interventions on women’s political rights. We are hopeful that the new development will help to ensure fairer political representation of women in elected positions after the upcoming elections.

NIMD’s Eastern European Neighborhood Office organized a two-day training session to improve the capacities of Georgian political parties to develop and implement effective social media strategies with the expert support of BKB Campaign Office.

The training, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 10-11 April, brought together all the main Georgian political parties. The participants were given an overview of general trends in social media in politics, exploring the essential tools for the development of social media strategies and the methods for effective engagement and voter cultivation via social media.

On the first day of the workshop, BKB introduced the parties to basic campaign rules. The trainers presented the most important social media tools and emerging communication trends, giving multiple examples of online campaigns. The participants also learned about of the role of social media in political campaigns internationally.

The second day saw the participants split up into smaller groups, each representing a mock political party with a clear message and a ten-point party programme. They were asked to work on a first draft of a content strategy, which they then presented to the other participants. This practical exercise provided first-hand insight into the workings of social media campaign creation, and what it means to work in a team to ensure a strong content strategy and visual strategy.

About BKB

BKB is a private company founded in 1999 in the Netherlands, specializing in organizing campaigns for governments, private companies and public organizations on various topics, such as social media, public speaking and negotiating.

With a young staff of about 30 campaigners with various fields of expertise, BKB provides advice on everything from business communication and online strategy, to internal change processes and PR.

NIMD’s Innovation Advisor, Will Derks, reviews “Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement”, a paper by  Julie Simon, Theo Bass, Victoria Boelman and Geoff Mulgan on pioneering innovations in digital democracy which are taking place on a global scale.

‘How can we begin to determine (…) what constitutes a “successful” digital tool?’, the authors of Digital Democracy ask themselves in the concluding remarks of their timely report about the latest developments in the use of digital means to democratic ends.

The question is typical of this excellent study, which is as revealing and practice-oriented as it is critical. Even though the authors – who are active for the UK-based ‘innovation foundation’ Nesta – believe, of course, in the democratic potential of digital technology, they are far from naïve. On the contrary, throughout their report, they do not shy away from uncomfortable questions and critical remarks. This approach is based on their wish to strengthen the underpinnings of future ventures into the use of digital tools for democracy.

Plethora

As the report shows, during the last decade or so, the experimental use of digital technology to enhance democratic processes has really taken off, resulting in a plethora of initiatives that intend to further the participation of citizens in democratic decision-making using a fast-growing variety of digital tools. It also shows that the time has now come for a sound intermediate survey and evaluation of the results so far, a kind of reculer pour mieux sauter meant to improve the quality of the next steps in the ongoing experimentation.

Which is precisely what this study does. It is descriptive and prescriptive at the same time. First and foremost, it maps what has been going on globally on the digital democracy front and summarizes this conveniently in a typology consisting of ten forms of digital democracy, ranging from the relatively simple ‘Informing Citizens’ through the more intense ‘Citizens Developing Proposals’ to the fully participative ‘Citizens Making Decisions’. These ten categories are given distinguishing logos and colours that make it easier for the reader to keep an overview of the subsequent case studies that make up the lion’s share of the report. Some of these case studies of digital tools – used by parliaments, municipal councils and political parties in countries such as France, Spain, Brazil, Taiwan, Estonia, Finland, the UK and Iceland – are labeled ‘Deep Dive’ and therefore provide much more detailed information than those entitled ‘Overview’.

Source: Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement, p.13.

A clear pattern

This alternation between comprehensive analysis and sketchier discussions of various forms of digital democracy is very effective. It enhances the readability and quickly and thoroughly provides the reader with a good idea of the overall situation. Moreover, as the ‘Deep Dive’ sections always include discussions of success factors and ongoing challenges, a clear pattern emerges of what works and what doesn’t, and why.

Consequently, it is almost a practitioner’s dream come true when, in the chapter following the case studies, the authors present a detailed discussion of ‘six common factors for success’. Beginning, in a typical fashion, with a warning about the detrimental effects of poor participation exercises – a lot has gone wrong in the past – they proceed to show what a good and successful digital democracy process should look like. We are admonished to think twice, to be honest, not to expect digital to be the only answer, not to waste time, not to cut corners and to choose the right tools. This perhaps sounds somewhat stern, but what results, in fact, is a chapter full of very practical hints, considerations and advice to be kept close at hand when planning and implementing any form of digital democracy.

Source: Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement, p.64.

Collective importance

In its penultimate chapter, the Nesta report continues to reflect on the extent to which new tools and technologies can improve the quality and legitimacy of decision-making in our democratic institutions. The evidence appears to be ‘pretty mixed’, ambiguous or simply lacking where there are no data. Yes, transparency increases and, yes, we may take better decisions with ‘more eyes on a document or process’. Yet, overall, the report honestly and perhaps somewhat painfully, concludes that digital democracy does not necessarily improve ‘the legitimacy of whole democratic processes per se’. Even the costs of these processes are not reduced because of the digital technology, as is often thought, but always increase considerably.

One could conclude, therefore, that we would be better to abandon digital democracy altogether. However, that would totally underestimate the collective importance of all the experiments that are presently taking place. The Nesta report convincingly demonstrates that the hundreds of digital tools and platforms presently in use across the globe do indeed have enormous potential to strengthen our democracy, which today in many ways is under siege. But to realize this potential, the phenomenon needs to come of age. With their in-depth knowledge of the matter, but especially with their critical attitude, the authors of Digital Democracy have brought this next phase a lot closer. They are critical because they strongly believe in it. For this reason, they conclude the report with the chapter ‘What Next for Digital Democracy?’ which not only contains much food for thought about possible future developments, but also suggests that digital democracy is here to stay and we had better start taking it seriously.

On 3 April, 19 politicians from Kayah State graduated from the Myanmar School of Politics (MySoP).

These leadership level politicians represent 10 different political parties as well as the Kayah State election sub-commission. They have successfully completed 8th edition of the MySoP core course, a 20-day learning retreat aimed at improving their capacities and constructive, policy-oriented political engagement.

The graduation ceremony was held in Ngwe Saung, Ayeyawady Region, in Myanmar. The politicians were awarded their certificates by the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Myanmar, H.E. Wouter Jurgens.

Politics meets Policies

In addition, each new alumni was presented a copy of the Myanmar translation of the book Politics Meets Policies. This co-publication between the Myanmar School of Politics and International IDEA (a translation of the latter’s 2014 book by the same title),  offers food for thought for political parties that are struggling to shift from personality-based or clientelistic-focused approaches to more programme-based strategies as they reach out to voters.

Over the next few weeks, all elected MPs in Myanmar will also receive a hardcopy of this publication.

Read the International IDEA publication in English or see the new Myanmar language version here.

NIMD wishes its new alumni all the best and hopes to see them soon in its alumni activities, as they further increase their knowledge and capacity on the issues of programmatic parties, intraparty democracy, and dialogue.

About MySoP

Organised by NIMD and Demo Finland, the Myanmar School of Politics (MySoP) provides training courses to strengthen the democratic role of politicians and political parties, and enhance the practice of multiparty dialogue.

As such, MySoP takes place in a multiparty setting: all parties with an established presence study and practice politics together in a neutral, respectful setting. In this way, the courses aim to build trust between the different political party representatives, and promote a political culture of openness and cooperation.

 

The phrase “Dancing backwards in high heels” became popular thanks to Bob Thave’s cartoon in 1982, in which a woman explained to the protagonists of the strip – Frank and Ernest – that although Fred Astaire had been a great dancer, Ginger Rogers could do the same, backwards and in high heels.

NIMD’s new book Dancing Backwards in High Heels uses this image to explore the situation of women in politics, who “play in the same soccer field as men and share the same spaces as men but with different rules and with all the odds against them.”

Written by Virginia García Beaudoux, a gender consultant in Latin America, Dancing Backwards in High Heels offers a unique glimpse into what it can mean to be an ambitious woman in an environment still dominated by males. It explores the different ways in which the media portray women and male leaders, how that shapes our thinking about leadership and the barriers that causes for women politicians.

Through a series of interview with Swedish and Dutch political figures, García shows that, even in countries that have made great progress towards gender equality, there is still a long way to go.

With specific and well-considered recommendations, the book stresses, however, that there is hope for the future, and sets out the pathway towards equality.

Read the book here:

The new book is in line with the theme of diversity and gender, which is a common thread through all of NIMD’s work. In addition to providing support to overcoming gender stereotypes, NIMD also works to promote equal rights for men and women through:

  • Capacity building for women political leaders;
  • Political party gender assessment where parties assess their own culture and rules and regulations regarding gender equity and draft plans of action to ensure equal rights within the party;
  • Facilitation of debate for positive measures in legislation or rules and regulations;
  • Support for women commissions and women caucuses in parliaments to support women political participation and ensure gender mainstreaming in policy and legislation.

Presenting the publication

In order to raise awareness around these issues, NIMD presented the new publication in meetings in Brussels, Belgium, and Stockholm, Sweden on 28 and 30 March. At both meetings, Virginia García Beaudoux provided an insightful introduction to the book, explaining the extensive research she conducted and her findings from the interviews. Ultimately, she called for changes to the current status quo with recommendations ranging from increased awareness among the media to the involvement of political parties in gender-inclusive policymaking.

“Political parties must be included in policies on gender equality”. Virginia García Beaudoux

Virginia García Beaudoux presents the book in Brussels.

The Brussels meeting was hosted by the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union and organized in cooperation with the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD).

Participants heard from Carmen Hagenaars, Head of Unit Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation at the Permanent Representation; Edita Hrda, Managing Director for the Americas of the European External Action Service; and Heleen Schrooyen, NIMD Senior Programme Manager.

“For women to participate, education and access to facilities such as good child care are crucial.” Edita Hrda

Edita Hrda shares her insights.

Following this, there was a lively discussion on the EU’s role in promoting women’s political participation at national and, at local level.

The Stockholm meeting

The second meeting was hosted by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and also saw much engagement during the fruitful debate on women’s political participation.

Among other issues, the participants noted additional barriers for women from poor background or ethnic minorities, and those working at the local level.

Recommendations to remove these barriers, and indeed all additional obstacles to women in politics, included a new approach to education, starting from an early age; and a variety of programmes aiming to raise awareness both in Sweden, where the high level of gender equality risks breeding complacency on the matter, and across the world.

About the author

Virginia García Beaudoux is a doctor in Psychology. She is the author of ten books and a regular lecturer in international forums on politics, leadership and gender. She also provides training on communication skills and leadership and is communication advisor to politicians, candidates and governments.

NIMD’s has launched a new project in Mozambique, which will aim to strengthen the Parliament’s role in overseeing extractive industries in the country.

The project is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will be implemented in partnership with Demo Finland, the Embassy of Finland in Maputo and the Institute of Multiparty Democracy (IMD), NIMD’s implementing partner in Mozambique.

The new project

Through this project, NIMD, IMD, Demo Finland and the Finnish Embassy wish to contribute towards a strong and functioning system of parliamentary oversight of environmental governance to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources.

As part of this process, the organizations will contribute to:

  • Capacity building for the Parliament and Provincial and Local Assemblies on oversight regarding natural resources;
  • Citizen engagement in natural resources management;
  • Promoting collaboration between Parliament and Provincial and Municipal Assemblies on natural resources management;
  • International and national networking and collaboration on natural resources management.

As a result, we hope that elected representatives and relevant technical staff at all levels of decision-making in Mozambique will be betterable to actively oversee the government’s role in extractive industries, based on citizens´ engagement.

The launch event

The Launch took place in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, on 28 March and brought together a number of high-level figures, including National Assembly MPs, Presidents of five of Mozambique’s Provincial Assemblies, with representatives from the implementing partners, embassies and other NGOs.

The meeting represented the first time that Presidents of the Provincial Assemblies have been included in a project on an equal basis with National Assembly MPs. As such, it was an interesting opportunity for the two groups to come together with a shared objective.

The day was opened by speeches by António Amélia, the Vice-President of the National Assembly in Mozambique; Laura Torvinen, Ambassador of Finland in Mozambique; and Hermenegildo Mulhovo, Executive Director of IMD.

Following discussions on the baseline report, which provides information to help to monitor and assess the successes of the new project, the participants were given an overview of the current legislation on extractive industries in Mozambique.

The MPs of the provincial assembly and representatives from the Committee for Constitutional Issues, Human Rights and Legislation and the Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture, Economy and Environment went on to have a two-day meeting to discuss current legislation in Mozambique on extractive industries, oversight responsibilities of MPs, and coordination between the Provincial Assemblies and the National Assembly.

Background information: Why this project in Mozambique?

In many developing countries, natural resources are prioritised on the political agenda as a cornerstone for economic growth. Such natural resources-based development models generally imply high dependency on global commodity prices, vulnerable and undiversified economies and elitist political-economic networks.

Long-term sustainability and the high risks posed to both the environment and local populations are often trumped by short-term economic or political interests. In addition, the choice for extractives-based development models is often closely linked to the high demand for natural resources originating in developed and newly industrialized states.

With recent discoveries on natural resources, the Mozambican economy focus is centred on its primary sector industries, namely its gas, petroleum and mineral extraction sector as well as its forestry sector.

Mozambique has considerable natural resources, but effective exploitation of its mineral and gas sectors did not begin until the civil war ended in 1992.

The extractive industries still operate below their potential; the government received less than $40 million in revenues from petroleum and mining in 2009. The entry of large multinational companies has boosted the sector and gas exports reached 107.4 billion cubic feet in 2010, when extractive products made up 74 percent of exports.

Newly discovered gas reserves are estimated at 4.5 trillion cubic feet.  According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Mozambique’s scores are falling on the various criteria compared with 58 other countries.

There is a clear need for improved democratic environmental governance. The legislative branch does not review contracts and provides little oversight of the extractive industries.

All public entities are audited and the reports are presented to the legislature, but lawmakers do not always follow recommendations from national auditors and not all audit reports are available to the public. Government officials involved in the sector are not required to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

NIMD’s new programme in Ethiopia, implemented in partnership with the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) and the Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa, kicked off with a five-day training workshop in Adama, Ethiopia, on 27-31 March.

The new programme, which forms part of the NIMD-AWEPA Strategic Partnership with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will aim to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Ethiopia. Over the course of the programme, the partners will work with both political parties and parliaments to build capacities and promote dialogue.

The first activity, organized by AWEPA, laid the foundations for this future cooperation while at the same time equipping members of the Federal House of People’s Representatives (HPR) and the Regional Parliament of Oromiya (Caffee) with skills necessary to strengthen their capacity to legislate effectively.

The workshop, attended by both MPs and staff members from the two institutions, also provided participants with the skills necessary to scrutinize draft proposals for legislation to ensure that they comply with the minimum norms and standards of constitutionalism and legislation.

As the activity was intended primarily as a Training of Trainers (ToT), its main goal was to ensure that the enhanced legislative capacity is left in Ethiopia as a seed for equipping further MPs and other strategic personnel on legislative drafting.

NIMD is excited to announce the programme’s first activity, and looks forward to further developments and increased cooperation as more activities get underway.