NIMD organised a debate on the question “Can we have democracy without political parties?”, in cooperation with the Society for International Development – Netherlands Chapter (SID-NL) and the International Institute of of Social Studies (ISS).

The debate, which tool place in The Hague, the Netherlands, is part of a series entitled “Doing Democracy Differently”. This initiative aims to respond to the emergence of populism which seems to downplay the role of parties, while also exploring new ways of “doing democracy” outside the realm of the (established) political parties.

Dr. Will Derks, NIMD Innovation Advisor, participated in the debate as an introductory speaker. He was joined by Dr. Gerorgina Gomez, Senior Lecturer at ISS, and Dr. Loes Keysers, a member of the Jan en Alleman political choir and a former ISS lecturer.

The speakers (left to right): Dr Loes Keysers, Dr. Georgina Gomez and Dr. Will Derks.

The speakers each gave a brief introductory statement on the central question. Dr. Derks argued that, although political parties are so deeply embedded in our society that they are here to stay, we are witnessing the start of a new era, with the emergence of new political parties who want to do things differently. These parties, he argued, are open and porous, emphasize self governance and hold a long term vision. To him, this could be an exciting new development, a way to rethink the traditional political party, increase trust, and ensure all voices are heard.

“Ensuring that political parties adapt to the world of the 21st century is an absolute priority” Dr. Derks

Dr. Gomez, however, advocated strongly for the fundamental role political parties play in our democracy. She argued that they are an essential tool to channel people’s ideas, organise societies and therefore ensure that people have a voice.

On a different note, Dr. Keysers argued that political parties are more of a hindrance than a help in today’s democracies, that true democracy is more than simply well-functioning parties and parliaments. She called for different forms of direct democracy and new movements to ensure a more effective form of representation.

Democracy is more than parties and parliaments. Our western notions of good governance are too limited” Dr. Keysers

The introductory statements were followed by a lively and interactive discussion with the participants, who included students, NGO representatives, public servants and diplomats.


Today, NIMD celebrates International Women’s Day, held each year in honour of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This year’s theme, “Be Bold for Change”, is a call to forge a better working world, a more equal world which is truly inclusive. In particular, it calls for groundbreaking action that drives real change for women.

Through our programmes, NIMD places a focus on inclusivity and aims to ensure that women have equal access to political representation, participation and leadership.

For us at NIMD, an inclusive democracy means that all citizens should feel represented and be heard. Within that, true equality means that all citizens should have access to an equal playing field, and should be able to access power structures on an equal footing.

And, unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. According to UN Women, only 22.8% of all representatives in national parliaments were women as of June 2016. What’s more, in the developed world, only 30% of ministries are headed by women, and women make up only 16.5% of the Ministers of Economy, Defense, Treasury, Foreign Affairs and Home Office.

That’s why, in our experience, it is not enough to promote a seat at the table for women and other marginalized groups. That’s why we aim to achieve inclusiveness by helping politicians to work on national legislation, working with political parties on their internal party regulations and fostering an open political culture.

Find out more about our work here.

“We can each be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.” International Women’s Day 2017.

NIMD is deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Horrance Chilando, Executive Director of our partner, the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID), who passed away on 27 February 2017 at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, Zambia.

Below, we share with you some words from Augustine Magolowondo, NIMD Africa Regional Representative, who worked closely with Horrance, and who describes his determination and dedication to his work:

“Horrance was a founding Programme Officer of ZCID, having joined at the very inception phase of this NIMD initiative in Zambia. Following the discontinuation of the NIMD Zambia programme in 2010-11, Horrance was the only officer who decided to remain and try to keep ZCID alive. He subsequently assumed the role of Executive Director.

Between that time and 2015, Horrance went through the most painful experience of keeping the brand and the name of ZCID alive. He literally volunteered.

I remember meeting Horrance in the offices of some organisations as he did not have an office of his own. Still, he was proud of championing the cause for which ZCID and, for that matter, NIMD, stood for.

Through his perseverance and personal sacrifice, the spirit of ZCID lived on in the shadows of NIMD in the remote background.  It was only recently that organisations like, NDI and later ourselves, NIMD, started re-engaging with ZCID.

Horrance was instrumental in bringing ZCID back to its feet. The organization had just started taking off. While to organizational development experts it may sound like an antithesis, it is not an exaggeration to say that in Zambia, Horrance was ZCID and ZCID was Horrance.

By losing Horrance, ZCID has lost a foundation and a pillar. To us at NIMD, we have lost a champion of the very principles and values that we strive to advance.”

NIMD wishes to pass on our deepest condolences to Horrance’s family and loved ones at this sad time. For many at NIMD, we have lost a dear colleague and friend.

On 15 February, the World Bank launched its World Development Report (WDR) 2017, entitled “Governance and the Law”, in The Hague, the Netherlands. As part of the launch event, NIMD led one of the working groups focusing on democratic governance in relation to the new report.

The launch ceremony

The launch featured a welcome by Ingrid van Engelshoven, Vice Mayor of The Hague and an introduction by Frank Heemskerk, Executive Director of the Board of the World Bank Group. Edouard Al Dahdah, member of the World Bank’s WDR 2017 team, then presented the key elements from the report.

Christiaan Reebergen, Director General for International Cooperation, gave a speech on the relevance of governance and the law in Dutch development policy, after which he received a first copy of the report.

Working group discussion

In a dedicated working group on democratic governance, NIMD moderated a session for representatives of organisations working on democratic governance, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and academia.

The group discussed the content of the report and in general were very much in agreement with the main findings. They found the plea to look beyond the mere form of (democratic) institutions and to consider their function in a given society extremely relevant. Similarly, the call to look at power relations and the role of law, rather than simply supporting rule of law in international cooperation resonated with the discussants.

The participants concluded that an official World Bank report that clearly recommends taking a political look at development interventions is not only welcomed, but also essential to applying the recommendations in practice.

About the WDR

The World Bank’s landmark report aims to sheds new light on how governance and the law can help promote effective sustainable development by mitigating power asymmetries to bring about more effective policy interventions.

With a focus on effective policy-making and the rule of law, the WDR concludes that change is possible if elites, citizens, and international actors shift incentives, reshape preferences and beliefs, and enhance the contestability of the decision-making process.

Read the report:

On 10 February, NIMD welcomed participants of the Dutch Visitors Programme (DVP) for high potentials to its main office in The Hague. The purpose of the visit was to introduce the young high potential participants to NIMD’s work and approach.


Every year, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs invite a group of young people with high potential from emerging countries to the Netherlands for a two-week programme on democracy and rule of law.

The participants are talented, entrepreneurial and internationally oriented with backgrounds varying from government or politics to education and science.

The programme aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands through the exchange of professional and personal experiences between these participants and their Dutch colleagues.

Presenting NIMD

During their visit to NIMD, the high potential visitors met with Jerome Scheltens, NIMD’s Knowledge Development Advisor, who illustrated NIMD’s approach by highlighting the organisation’s programme in Tunisia.

Jerome Scheltens shares NIMD’s work with the participants.

From the start of the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, to NIMD’s first interparty meeting in January 2012, and the creation of the NIMD Tunisian School of Politics in the same year, Jerome took the participants through the creation of the programme, right up to the present day.

He stressed NIMD’s work, in the context of Tunisia’s democratization, not only enhance political skills and knowledge within the country, but also inspire cultural change, motivating politicians to work together and seek compromise both within their parties and across party lines.

“What we seek to do on a cultural level is foster an attitude of openness and help politicians to incorporate democratic values into their work.”

The case study was followed by an exploration of NIMDs multiparty origins, and inclusive approach to deepening democracy through its programmes.

The participants join in the discussions.

The presentation opened the way for a lively question and answer session, with many of the young potentials sharing examples from their own countries.

Further reading

NIMD is proud to have been among the development practitioners, civil society representatives and EU officials invited to contribute to a panel discussion in Brussels, Belgium, on the political realities and domestic accountability in EU development aid.

The discussion, hosted by the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) on 25 January 2017, centred around the ongoing review of the European Development Fund (EDF), the largest European financial instrument for development aid in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries (ACP). Participants discussed the extent to which the Fund currently addresses domestic accountability in recipient countries.

Specifically, they considered the following questions:

  • What priority does the strengthening of domestic accountability take in the EDF?
  • How is this reflected in the amount and type of funding for development?
  • What degree of influence do domestic accountability actors have on the development agenda in their countries and how are they engaged across the EDF programming cycle?

By offering answers to these questions, the meeting contributed to the larger discussion of how ACP-EU development aid should be structured after 2020, when the Cotonou Agreement is set to expire.

“The EU owns the EDF. That does not take away the responsibility to safeguard the involvement and accountability of local actors” Judith Sargentini (MEP)

The first panel session

NIMD actively contributed to the event’s two panel sessions.

In the first panel, Kizito Tenthani, Executive Director for the NIMD Uganda programme, offered his perspective on how development initiatives in his country can tackle the highly complex issue of politics and ensure that all local perspectives are heard.

In addition, Fabien Nsengimana, Executive Director of NIMD’s implementing partner, the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP) shared his perspective from the point of view of Burundi. In his intervention, he stressed the importance, for the stability of the country, of development aid taking into account not only government but also a wider group of stakeholders, including civil society, the media and political parties.

During the first panel, both Kizito Tenthani and Fabien Nsengimana strongly underlined the importance of a thorough analysis of the political economy in order to prevent development agencies from stengthening institutions captured by the political establishment.

Kizito Tenthani, Executive Director Uganda, NIMD

The second panel session

The second panel examined ways in which non-government actors can be involved in the implementation of the EDF.

“The EU is not doing enough in terms of supporting the space for civil society” Karine Sohet, ACT Alliance EU

Hermenegildo Mulhovo, Executive Director of NIMD’s implementing partner in Mozambique, the Institute for Multiparty Democracy, was among the panellists, and imparted his knowledge and experience from the Mozambican context.

In addition, Isaac Maposa, Executive Director NIMD’s implementing partner, the Zimbabwe Institute (ZI), shared his analysis that the weakest part of the EDF has been the support it lends to civil society and political actors. In his view this has been further eroded due to shifting EU priorities relating to migration.

The second panel session kicks off. From left: Karine Sohet, Andreia Oliveira, Ken Godfrey, Isaac Maposa, Hermenegildo Mulhovo.


Participants of both panels agreed on the importance of engaging with domestic accountability actors, but identified several shortcomings with regard to the EDF (due, in part, to its particularities as a funding instrument).

Panellists specifically highlighted the need to increase awareness of EU funding instruments, to broaden the range of actors with which the EU engages, and to follow long-term approaches rather than providing ad-hoc support to domestic accountability actors.

About the EDF

Created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome and launched in 1959, the EDF is the EU’s main instrument for providing development aid to ACP countries and to overseas countries and territories (OCTs). The EDF finances cooperation activities in the fields of economic development, social and human development as well as regional cooperation and integration.

Further reading

On 9-13 December 2016, alumni from the Myanmar School of Politics (MySoP) came together for an alumni event, titled ‘The Art of Political Speech’, in Bago, Myanmar.

56 alumni from 22 different political parties attended the event, where they participated in three different workshops: one on speechwriting, one on the importance of art and poetry, and one on debate skills.

The workshops
The first workshop focused on speech writing, where participants learned both how to write and deliver political speeches. This workshop was facilitated by Finnish MP Silvia Modig. In the second workshop, Khin Aung Aye, a well-known poet from Myanmar, talked to the alumni about the important role that art and poetry can play in political writing and speech. In the third workshop, Thin Win Htut, a popular TV presenter and moderator from the Democratic Voice of Burma, gave a practical lesson on debating skills. In this last workshop, participants were divided into groups and were assigned different topics, such as healthcare, education, and employment. They then had to debate on a certain issue, with their individual topics in mind.

MySoP’s Programme Coordinator, Kyaw Zay Ya, called the event a ‘fantastic’ experience and was proud to report that many attendees felt more self-confident as a result of this event. They found their experience especially valuable with the by-elections coming up in April 2017 in Myanmar.

Growing family
The Myanmar School of Politics is a joint programme of NIMD and Demo Finland. Maaike van der Werf, NIMD’s Programme Manager for Myanmar, explains, “the School focuses on strengthening the democratic role of politicians and political parties, as well as enhancing the practice of multiparty dialogue. These bi-annual alumni events will undoubtedly enhance democratic practice as part of the MySoP programme”.

The increasing number of MySoP students, with currently 116 alumni from 28 different political parties, is a great sign of increasing cooperation amongst political parties. As Kyaw Zay Ya says, “the MySoP family is growing”.

In El Salvador, NIMD seeks to contribute to a democratic culture where the rights of women and men are respected. One of the groups that we focus on is the youth. In this video, Patricia Navarro, NIMD’s Country Director in El Salvador, explains how NIMD involves youth in politics in El Salvador.

In the following article in Prensa Libre (19 November 2016), Ligia Blanco, NIMD’s Executive Director in Guatemala, talks about poverty and exclusion in Guatemalan society and how NIMD tries to reduce inequality by working with the political parties in the country. Prensa Libre is one of the largest newspapers in Guatemala. (Please note that the article is in Spanish)

For more information on NIMD’s programme in Guatemala, also check out our website.

NIMD is organizing a conference on innovating democracy on 1 December in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. We hope you will be able to join us. The day will be packed with interactive workshops and inspiring speakers from different countries.

Examples from the field
Phenomena such as rising populism, deepening inequality, and disenfranchised citizens are questioning the future of democratic principles and institutions. This includes the role of political parties. Is there still a role for political parties in the 21st century?

NIMD’s workshop will showcase two new political parties that are laboratories of political innovation: the Pirate Party from Iceland and the Partido de la Red (the Net Party) from Buenos Aires, Argentina. These parties have adapted themselves to the 21st century by taking a fundamentally changed relationship between politicians and citizens as a starting point. They see citizens as co-creators of public value, using modern technology to spread messages and influence outcomes in ways that until recently would have required the infrastructure of classical parties.

The Pirate Party will be represented by the MP Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir. Felipe Muñoz will represent the Partido de la Red. And Sam van der Staak of International IDEA (Stockholm) will introduce the Digital Parties Portal which was launched recently. The workshop will be moderated by Will Derks (NIMD).

Here you can read about the outcomes.


The conference is a collaboration between NIMD, the Socioneers, the Centre for Innovation of Leiden University, and Pakhuis de Zwijger, who will all facilitate workshops during the conference.