Kizito Kuchekwa is a long-time and dedicated member of ZANU-PF, the political party that liberated Zimbabwe from British colonial rule under the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

Kizito grew up in the ‘keeps’, or isolation villages set up by the colonial regime. This was a formative period in his life. In the 1970s, before Zimbabwe’s liberation, Kizito’s father was arrested and brutally tortured by the colonial regime. He passed away shortly after.

Kizito’s pain and hurt from this loss spurred his hatred for the colonial system. That’s when he got involved in ZANU-PF to support liberation.

Kizito rose quickly through the ranks of the party, soon reaching the national level where he has held several key portfolios. In his current position as Director in the Commissariat, he is responsible for membership recruitment and party structure.

Engaging in dialogue

It was as a fully trusted cadre of his party, with strong political convictions, that Kizito first engaged in interparty dialogue.

He became a member of the Zimbabwe Political Parties Dialogue, a platform which brings political parties together to discuss issues of national interest. This platform is supported by NIMD and our implementing partner, the Zimbabwe Institute, and its work is based on our principle of inclusiveness.

At its core is the conviction that real meaningful change can only be achieved by engaging with all three of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary parties, ZANU-PF – the ruling party – and the opposition parties MDC-T and MDC.

The platform brings together the Secretaries General of each of these parties to engage in dialogue with an equal voice. Each Secretary General is supported by technical staff from their party, known as political liaison officers.

Kizito was selected as the political liaison officer for ZANU-PF because of his impeccable track record in the party.

He testifies that participating in the dialogue programmes has changed his outlook. Looking back at when he first joined the interparty dialogue in 2009, he says he was intransigent, driven by party interest.

However, “the programme transforms you; models the way you perceive things – shapes what you see as right and wrong.”

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Credit: Ninara / Flickr

Observing multiparty cooperation in action

This change in perspective came about slowly, as Kizito witnessed the power of dialogue in action time and again.

Most recently, Kizito observed how cooperation between parties can ensure that citizens have a voice in crucial elections.

The voter registration process for Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections started in October 2017. But, the process was interrupted soon after the voter registration centres opened, when political turbulence within the ZANU-PF caused the long-standing President Robert Mugabe to step down. This distracted the public from registering.

In past elections, the role of voters has been a major point of contention and a thorough registration process was essential to ensuring the legitimacy of the elections.

With the deadline fast approaching, few people had registered and both national and international criticism was rising. It was clearly in the interest of all the political parties to have a legitimate election with as many citizens as possible registered.

But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was not keen on extending the process since this would disrupt their plans.

Kizito, together with his fellow liaison offers from the opposition parties, prepared several meetings between the parties’ Secretaries General. Together they came up with a common lobby position to try to extend the voter registration period.

Drawing on their common ground, the parties were able to convince the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to extend the deadline from 10 January to 8 February 2018.

Zimbabwe’s Parliament. Credit: Damien Farrell / Flickr

Developing as a democrat

A process such as developing a joint lobby position means constantly engaging with liaisons from other parties. This type of contact, and the feeling of working on a common goal, slowly builds interpersonal cross-party
relationships.

Kizito chuckles and admits: “Soon I found myself borrowing money from my colleagues, attending their [family] funerals and visiting their families. […] I came to realize that, despite our party differences, we had the same anxieties; the same aspirations; the same wishes. They were human – not the monsters I had grown up to know them as.”

Looking back at his involvement in the dialogue process, Kizito reflects on how he has developed as a person: “As youth leader of ZANU-PF in Harare, which was the stronghold of the MDC, I had witnessed violent clashes between youth. I had seen some of our young people with axe wounds and broken bones…a close friend of mine had been shot dead in Mbare. So I came into the dialogue process with a view that I was going to engage the enemy and I had to be under full guard to defend my party.”

Although he is still convinced that he has a duty to defend his party position as a liaison officer, Kizito now realizes that engagement and dialogue, rather than confrontation with the opposition, is the best route to national development.

He actively tries to find ways to help other members of ZANU-PF, many of who have not had the privilege of the human lessons the programme has afforded him, to give cooperation and dialogue a chance.

NIMD is teaming up with its partners CEMI, EECMD and EPD to launch a new EU-funded programme entitled “Regional Engagement to Advance the Creation of Hubs for Democracy” (REACH for Democracy).

The programme will be rolled out in Benin, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Morocco and Tunisia. Together with our partners, we aim to create an international network of young democrats from across the political spectrum who will work together to make their political systems more plural and inclusive.

How it works

By focusing on high-potential young leaders and women politicians, the programme aspires to turn promising party members (with responsibilities in their parties’ structures) into drivers of change within their own organizations.

These key stakeholders will be strengthened to become advocates of the non-partisan approach and take part in an expanding network of political representatives who will promote multiparty dialogue not only in the EU and its neighborhood but also beyond.

Their capacities to create change will be increased through a comprehensive and intensive training programme that will turn the already existing Democracy Schools in Georgia and Tunisia into Multiparty Democracy Hubs.

ln parallel, the multiparty platforms that NIMD is already running in Georgia and Tunisia will be consolidated, embarking in more complex and sensitive issues such as corruption, money in politics, policy frameworks etc.

A series of multiparty dialogues will be combined with a peer-to-peer component, in which political representatives from both countries will learn from each other and discuss solutions to overcome their respective challenges through consensus and mutual understanding.

Our first activities

The programme kicked off in May with scoping missions to Moldova and Benin. To set the wheels in motion, the partners held meetings with all relevant stakeholders such as political party representatives, CSOs, state institutions & international NGOs.

After all the scoping missions are concluded, selection criteria for the participants will be finalized and a second mission will be undertaken to finalize the selection process.

In addition the programme has officially been launched in Tunisia, and will be launched in Georgia by the end of June.

We look forward to continuing our project and working together towards more inclusive democracies in these countries.

 

The REACH for Democracy programme is financed by the European Union.

The appeal of traditional institutions for political representation, such as political parties and legislatures, seems to be in decline in both established and developing democracies alike. Increasingly, new forms of political action and agendas emerge, including different forms of populism.

To explore this new reality, NIMD teamed up with International IDEA, OSCE/ODIHR, REPRESENT and WFD to organize a conference on “Representation in the age of populism”.

The conference, which took place on 18-20 June, will address whether populism – in all its different forms and shapes – signifies a potential demise of representative democracy, or if whether triggers a renewal.

Experts from across the globe gathered in the Belgian Senate in Brussels. Over the course of 10 sessions, they addressed global action on social movements, party innovation, social media and legislation, among other topics.

Speakers at the conference included:

  • Michelle Bachelet – Former President of Chile
  • Enrico Letta – Former Premier of Italy
  • Cas Mudde – Expert on populism
  • Delia Ferreira – Chair of Transparency International

 

NIMD first opened its country office in Mozambique at the turn of this century. We initiated the Mozambique programme in an effort to reduce tensions between two parties previously at war with each other and to create a safe space for dialogue and collaboration.

Now, over 15 years later, we are delighted to announce that our office has become an independent organization.

The Institute for Multiparty Democracy Mozambique (IMD Mozambique) is a strong local organization that can now use its experience to further build its relationship with political actors and other relevant stakeholders in Mozambique to promote a more inclusive and transparent democracy in the country.

Hermenegildo Mulhovo, Executive Director of the newly established IMD Mozambique and former Executive Director of NIMD Country Office in Mozambique, played an important role in the transition process.

New opportunities

There were several reasons that led to the creation of IMD Mozambique. Firstly, the NIMD country office had had to work with heavily diminished budgets for the previous few years, mainly due to budget cuts in development

cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This led to reflections on the sustainability of the office.

At the same time, Hermenegildo also saw a lot of opportunities surrounding the creation of a new organization. These included opportunities for fundraising.

As a Dutch organization, the country office did not qualify for many locally contracted funds from international organizations, like the European Union. Accessing these funding opportunities was essential to achieving the potential of the NIMD Mozambique programme and to supporting the Mozambique office’s sustainability and even helping it grow.

So the chance to increase impact by working with several reputed international organizations and the practical opportunity to diversify the office’s funding made Hermenegildo reflect on creating a local Mozambican organization.

This idea was compounded by calls for long-term support from Mozambique’s political parties. The trust and relationships that the country office had been building were paying off.

A little forethought goes a long way

These reflections led Hermenegildo to initiate the transition process. As a representative of both organizations during this process, Hermenegildo was in a unique position to make sure that the new institutional set up would serve the interests of both NIMD and the future IMD. Predictably, this role came with its own set of challenges.

“Initially it was not easy to get a buy-in from all the people concerned,” he explains.

“There was a lot of pressure, both from NIMD’s Headquarters in The Hague and from my own staff. But, like in our daily work with the parties, you can achieve a lot through dialogue. So I invested in talking and negotiating, reassuring everyone that the new model would be better and accommodate all their interests. We even conducted a study to see if we could follow a different model where we could still be a part of NIMD and still be independent. But it was not legally viable. We had to become completely independent.”

The process of becoming independent was supported by NIMD. One of the outputs of NIMD’s programmes is to strengthen the local organizations that we work with.

So there was already a results framework in place that provided the opportunity to support this process. Both NIMD and IMD clearly wanted the same thing: for the Mozambique programme to reach its full potential. This greatly helped the discussions.

“No matter how tricky it got, NIMD remained open and kept looking for solutions” says Hermenegildo. “For instance, after becoming an independent organization, we set up an independent Mozambican Board to oversee IMD’s work. This brought up issues of power relations. What role should NIMD have on that Board, if any? We were able to manage the tensions and agreed that, from now on, IMD would be fully independent and operate as NIMD’s implementing partner in Mozambique.”

Stig Nygaard – Flickr

A solid basis for the future

Once IMD Mozambique was created, many previously unexplored avenues opened up for the organization.

“The commercial name, IMD Mozambique, demonstrates NIMD’s legacy and the historical connection. It is this legacy that makes international organizations, like the EU, keen to partner with us. At the same time, we are now viewed as a completely local organization, which means that political parties in Mozambique are more open to us. Our partners have the best of both worlds” explains Hermenegildo.

“We know that most of this trust our partners have in us is because NIMD has paved the way for us” he says.

“Since the office was established in 2000, NIMD has initiated a reform in the country’s democratic institutions, particularly in reforming electoral laws. And during the elections of 2014, NIMD was very keen on facilitating dialogue and consensus-building between the three political parties in parliament. There were many contentious issues at the time.

But NIMD created a non-partisan space and encouraged a solution-oriented discussion. There is no other organization that has gained the trust of political parties for their solution-oriented approach like NIMD has in Mozambique”.

The first thing IMD Mozambique is looking forward to doing as an independent organization is creating and consolidating knowledge and expertise.

“We want to invest more in knowledge production, like developing policy briefs” says Hermenegildo.

Although the process was hard at times, it has been a learning experience for Hermenegildo, who was the Executive Director of the NIMD country office for many years.

“I’m going to miss NIMD’s support. It’s like a child growing up and leaving home. But on the other hand, we can move on to another level of support – a more expertise-oriented support, rather than an administrative one.”

“I am proud that IMD Mozambique is a product of NIMD” he concludes.

And we, at NIMD, are proud to be able to continue working with Hermenegildo and IMD Mozambique.

For us, the establishment of new organization is a major achievement, not just because it opens new doors for our work in Mozambique, but also because it underlines our efforts to build strong local institutions that have ownership over political development efforts in their country.

We are very much looking forward to our future with IMD Mozambique as partners as we grow stronger together.

As part of our programme in Ethiopia, NIMD today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – a type of framework agreement outlining the general terms and objectives of our collaboration – with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).

NEBE is an autonomous government agency which supervises and monitors Ethiopia’s elections and is responsible for the registration and oversight of political parties. The new MOU will allow NIMD to support the board in fulfilling these roles effectively and transparently.

In addition, NIMD will work on capacity building and dialogue with political parties in Ethiopia. This will be added to the capacity building activities we are currently undertaking with the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the Oromia Regional State Parliament.

The overall objective of NIMD’s Ethiopia programme, which was launched in January 2017, is to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the country. Our work with political parties will be crucial to this. By helping to facilitate ongoing dialogue between the ruling EPRDF and opposition parties, we hope to contribute to the strengthening of understanding and trust between these parties and create an environment for constructive cooperation among them.

The signing of the MOU was possible following initial meetings between NIMD representatives and NEBE in Addis Ababa, and a study visit of NEBE board members and secretariat to the Netherlands on the occasion of the Dutch municipal elections on 21 March 2018.

To enable a swift start of the partnership, the NEBE Chair Ambassador Zekaria already signed the agreement in Addis Ababa. For NIMD, the MOU was signed by the Executive Director Simone Filippini and co-signed by the Dutch Senator and former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ben Knapen, in his capacity as advisor to the NIMD Ethiopia programme.

We are proud to be able to provide support to NEBE in their work and are looking forward to a long and fruitful working relationship.

Madona Batiashvili is the only woman Vice-Mayor in Georgia’s Kakheti region.

It’s a platform she uses to make sure everyone has a voice. Having been appointed in 2017, her first steps in office were to engage and empower two groups that are often marginalized from politics in Georgia: young people and women.

The NIMD Democracy School

Madona is one of more than 500 NIMD Democracy School graduates in Georgia.

When she joined the School in 2016, she found herself in a melting pot of students from a whole range of backgrounds. Public servants, civil society representatives, political party members, business representatives and academics gather in the schools annually.

Over the five-month training period, these participants deepen their understanding of the key concepts of democracy, expand their analytical capacity and gain relevant skills that will help them make effective changes in society.

Georgia’s four Democracy Schools – based in the cities of Telavi, Gori, Kutaisi and Batumi – are playing an active role in enhancing political culture and building the capacities of civil society and political leaders at the local level. This is what enticed Madona to sign up for the Democracy School – she wanted to learn alongside people who shared her ambition to make a difference.

Madona graduates from the Democracy School.

Enhancing skills and changing perspectives

When Madona first started at the School, she found it hard to work and learn together with people from different political affiliations. But she soon realized that interacting in such an environment was actually beneficial for her. The Democracy School debates equipped her with the skills to think through her own arguments and tolerate critical and diverging opinions.

She believes that these skills help her today when she has to persuade colleagues or opponents to make certain decisions:

“Before attending the Democracy School, I had never had the opportunity to work with people with different political convictions. Since attending the school, I have become more tolerant and sociable.”

Promoting inclusion

Madona also recalls that studying at the school made her realize that:

“a contemporary leader needs to be believed by people. We need more openness as well as a different rhetoric.”

This new perspective made a crucial difference when she started working in her high-position public service role. She was determined to open up to the public, closing the gap and calling for inclusion of the different groups she represented.

In fact, one of Madona’s first moves as Vice-Mayor was to establish contacts with young people.

Youth engagement in local self-government is very low in Georgia, and young people are often disenchanted with politics. That’s why, having reached out to youth in her region, Madona set about making amendments to the local budget, creating funds for initiatives by local youth organizations. These funds will take the form of grants, which will be opened up for applications from all youth organizations in the region.

Madona firmly believes that the engagement of youth is vital to securing a prosperous future for her region. She hopes that the new funds will help young people engage in politics, realize their potential, find jobs locally and, ultimately, stay in Kakheti.

Another issue Madona feels strongly about, having attended the Democracy School, is women’s rights.

Women’s political participation in Georgia is alarmingly low. Women hold only 16% of seats in the Parliament of Georgia, while less than 12-13% of elected officials at the local level are women. Men head 63 out of the country’s 64 municipalities, including the eight in Kakheti region.

In her new role, Madona is determined do her best to ensure that active and successful women are given the opportunity reach their full potential. And she has already taken action to make this a reality.

In an attempt to offset the large number of men in politics, Madona has recommended several women as representatives of the Mayor in villages. By bringing more women into these local roles, Madona hopes that she will give them a voice and help them to make a difference in their communities too.

Madona’s work with youth and women is underpinned by a strong conviction, influenced by her time in the Democracy School:

“It is important to realize that when you dislike the way things work, or you disagree with somebody’s policy decisions, you have to start working on changing those decisions. I am glad that I came to that conclusion, because now I am a public servant and will do anything I can to make the local self-government function better.”

Madona is determined to use what she has learned to make this difference. Through the Democracy Schools in Georgia, NIMD’s goal – along with our partner EECMD – is to empower more people like Madona to become leaders in their communities and make effective changes in society.

 

More on NIMD’s Democracy Schools around the world here.

Where do you learn to become a politician? Who can teach aspiring young politicians the basics of democratic leadership? In a country like Tunisia, there is no easy answer to these questions.

The Jasmine Revolution that took place in 2011 brought many changes: free elections, a Parliament that controls the Government and a new Constitution. Dozens of political parties were established to compete for power.

But, after years of authoritarianism, democratic politics is in many ways a new profession.

The Tunisian School of Politics (TSoP) was established in 2012 to teach aspiring young politicians this profession. Samar Zaidi and Rabia Arfa are two young politicians who had the opportunity to participate in TSoP in 2017.

Meet Samar and Rabia

Samar Zaidi grew up in the city of Gafsa, southwest Tunisia.

“I learned about TSoP from a fellow party member in the Front Populaire party alliance (an opposition party). I have found the course eye opening and deeply practical. In particular, I gained a lot of technical knowledge with real-life applications. I have already applied for a second year and hope to continue the course in 2018”.

Rabia Arfa is also from Gafsa, but is a member of the ruling Nidaa Tounes party. Her route into TSoP was also through her party and she too has applied for a second year.

“I found it a very interesting experience, sharing and coordinating with young people from other political parties. They are the drivers of political change in Tunisia. They want our country to move forward. There were a lot of interesting and diverse training sessions and a nice cohesive atmosphere between staff and participants.”

Evening the playing field

Each year, the ten largest political parties nominate their best and brightest young members for participation in the training programmes. Forty-five candidates are then selected. Through this process, the TSoP focuses on creating equal opportunities for those who traditionally have less access to politics: youth, women and people from rural areas. The aim is to even the playing field, giving everyone an equal chance to participate in politics. In 2017, 55% of the participants were women, and 53% came from regions outside the capital city, Tunis.

After a year of training, the ten best participants are selected for an exchange visit. That’s what brought Rabia and Samar to the Netherlands in December 2017. They visited the cities of Rotterdam, where they learned about local democracy and local elections, and The Hague, where they found out about social dialogue in the Netherlands. This is particularly relevant to Tunisia in its current democratic transition, with local elections scheduled to take place in May 2018.

Embracing diversity

Besides the School’s relevance to the Tunisian context, one of the most interesting aspects of TSoP’s work is that it gives politicians from different backgrounds the opportunity to actively engage in constructive dialogue.

“TSoP creates an environment which allows young Tunisian politicians from various parties, views and backgrounds to come together. It was always a positive atmosphere,” Samar says. “There were interesting interactions with people from different political backgrounds who I had not exchanged much with before.”

This social aspect of the school is crucial in fostering a democratic culture among the participants, promoting understanding and encouraging the participants to listen to different viewpoints. But, as Samar points out, it can also have practical benefits, widening professional networks:

“I didn’t know other TSoP participants before the year started, except participants from my own party, but I made a lot of friends and extended my network thanks to the school. I now play a role in my current work in Parliament as an intermediary with TSoP and will continue playing a role as a TSoP alumni keeping in touch with the staff.”

Professional relevance and skills-based approach

Indeed, Samar found the training helpful for her career in different ways. She now works in Communications for the Tunisian National Parliament and, as a result of her TSoP training, would like to delve deeper into developing her communications skills and furthering her expertise.

The professional relevance and skills-based learning also appealed to Rabia who is the Director of the Women’s Department at the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies.

“On a personal level, learning from experts across a range of subjects is very valuable. I remember one session on geopolitics being particularly interesting. TSoP is the only place I could ever have had the opportunity to learn about this topic.”

In addition, TSoP provided Rabia opportunities to attend conferences and take part in high-level panels to promote women in political leadership.

Fostering openness and cooperation

The training has provided both Rabia and Samar many opportunities. But it also comes with responsibilities, especially towards their political parties.

“My party counts very much on TSoP to train members. I now have the responsibility to set a good example among my peers and pass along positive messages, promoting integrity, respect for each other’s beliefs and the importance of dialogue with people who hold a different opinion. TSoP teaches these essential behavioural skills and there is always room for self-improvement.”

Rabia will also put her newly acquired skills into practice within her party as part of a commission tasked with developing the party’s Vision 2030.

Ultimately, for both Samar and Rabia, a spirit of openness, a diverse atmosphere and the opportunity to learn relevant skills provided a valuable training ground.

“Democracy is like a garden with thousands of flowers of different colours” says Samar, “it this difference of colours which makes its richness.”

TSoP is proud of its graduates and their commitment to diversity and cooperation. It will continue to be a place for Tunisia’s new generation of politicians to learn the profession of politics.

TSoP is run and coordinated by the Centre des Etudes Méditerranéennes et Internationales (CEMI), and supported by NIMD in partnership with DEMO Finland.

More on NIMD’s Democracy Schools around the world here.

NIMD’s Annual Report 2017 is out now! This year’s theme is “Investing in Democracy”.

World over, people seem to think we are witnessing a decline in democracy. Many are growing weary of politics and giving in to a sense of powerlessness.

However, despite the challenges democracy faces today, we need to protect it. No other political system affords us the same protection, opportunities and freedom. Democracy gives people a much-needed voice in their country’s decision-making processes.

That is why we have been working hand-in-hand with our partners worldwide to support and encourage developing democracies to thrive. Our Annual Report delves into these efforts, presenting key results from the countries we have worked in, and recounting personal stories of the lives our work has touched.

Read the report here.

Every democracy needs Democrats.

That’s why NIMD’s Democracy Schools bring established politicians and future leaders from across the political spectrum together. We teach participants key democratic principles such as equality, ethics and inclusion. This lays the foundations for a broad and strong network of democratic leaders in a country who can make a lasting impact on politics.

On our brand new interactive website section on the Democracy Schools, you can find statistics, curriculum topics and testimonials from current and former Democracy School students.

We also have a new Democracy School brochure, which sets out the objectives behind our tailor-made Democracy Schools, lays out the main principles that we promote in all our schools and gives real examples to help you to understand the schools in context.

 

Democracy is under threat, both globally and at the European level. A clear trend of democratic backsliding in some EU Member States and neighbouring countries can be observed – shrinking democratic space, fewer fundamental freedoms, and the demolishing of the rule of law and systems of checks and balances. To counteract this global spread of illiberalism and authoritarianism, which could also affect the EU, an increased effort in democracy support and democratisation is needed to protect and make democracy resilient.

That’s why we, as part of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), have come together with International IDEA, and the European Network of Political Foundations (ENoP) to release a joint statement on the European Commission’s proposal for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027.

The joint statement is as follows:

We welcome the European Commission’s resolve to develop a new Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) that will contribute to a safe and secure, prosperous, competitive, sustainable and socially responsible European Union (EU), and provide the capacity for the EU to play a leading role in global affairs. 

We support an MFF that brings more simplicity, flexibility and agility, as well as greater efficiency, to the EU’s external action instruments. However, we are also concerned the European Commission’s proposal of a single External Instrument in the next MFF could lead to a less strategic approach to democracy support, reduced financial resources, less predictability and funding specificities, and reduced accountability, transparency and oversight, amongst others.

As actors in democracy support and partners of the EU, we would like to make the following recommendations in relation to democratization and external democracy support in the next MFF 2021-2027:

  1. Increase the funding for the external action component compared to the current EU budget to reflect the importance of external relations on the long-term interests of the Union and its citizens.
  2. Guarantee that all current operating modalities for external democracy support under the EIDHR are maintained and further improved.
  3. Expand funding and ensure long-term financial commitment to external democracy support in line with the scope of current and emerging challenges.
  4. Simplify and streamline the rules and procedures of external action instruments.
  5. Ensure wide consultation, coordination and policy coherence among EU Institutions, EU Member States, and with democracy support actors.

 

Read the full statement here.