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.

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: