Facilitating interparty dialogue
NIMD sets up dialogue platforms, which are safe spaces for political parties to meet and discuss issues. We do not only establish these platforms, but also proactively facilitate the debate and ensure inclusion of all relevant actors. This entails assisting the parties in making an analysis and formulating a common agenda for democratic reform. It also means that, when necessary for the implementation of the agenda, NIMD actively links political parties to civil society organizations or other relevant stakeholders.
The dialogue platforms can be formal or informal, temporary or long-term. There are currently dialogue platforms in 11 countries.
Dialogue is a process that takes time, as politicians learn to trust each other and collaborate on issues. Dialogue often leads to improvements in the formal democracy system. One example is Mali. During the recent conflict and coup d’état, the interparty platform facilitated all political parties, including a broader alliance of civil actors, in order to agree on the roadmap towards reinstating the constitution and democratic rule. Georgia has also adopted several legislative measures and agreed on financial incentives for political parties to promote more women in politics as a result of the interparty dialogue platform. In Guatemala, successful advocacy has led to legislation on strengthening political party capacity, amendments to the electoral law, and changes to the internal law of congress.
- Interparty dialogue platform in Mali
The political situation in Mali has been unstable since gaining independence from France in 1960. In 1991, a movement for democracy toppled the long-standing authoritarian regime. In March 2012, a military coup forced the elected president to resign. This resulted in a substantial degradation of the political and security situation. At this crucial time, NIMD’s multiparty platform was used as the initial forum to discuss a transition to democracy. This provided forces, either opposed to or sympathetic towards the coup, a safe space to initiate a dialogue and present their perspectives. The forum held only ten days after the coup, underlines the benefits of a pre-existing dialogue platform and played a central role in the transition to democracy that was negotiated with parliamentary and presidential elections held in 2013.
Following this in 2014, a peace process was launched in Algiers between the government of Mali and non-jihadist rebels. The Algiers Process resulted in the signing of a ceasefire agreement and the drafting of a peace accord. The agreement provides a foundation for the re-establishment of the constitutional order throughout northern Mali.
NIMD’s main focus in 2015 was the communal elections. However, they were postponed because of political instability in the North. Amid this political unrest the government passed a new law supporting women. The law will regulate a minimum 30% participation of women in key government positions and on election lists. This law was the result of longstanding efforts and lobby activities of the NIMD supported dialogue platform. Over the years, NIMD’s local implementing partner, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy Mali, has gathered widespread recognition and respect among the different political parties for being politically neutral. Now, despite the mounting tensions between various political parties we continue to be able to bring political parties together for joint activities.
- Dialogue activities in Ghana
In 2002, NIMD established the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The programme provides a platform through which we actively encourage different parties to come together to discuss political reform. Over the years this platform has played an important role in Ghanaian politics.
In 2015, with the 2016 elections just months away, NIMD planned to address the issues that arose from the 2012 elections. One of the issues was the irregularity in the voter’s register. This register has all the voters’ names and is said to be full of names of minors and foreigners who are not eligible to vote. As a result, the ruling party suggested cleaning up the registry. However, the opposition called for a fresh register as a solution. These conflicting positions were an issue of national concern. So NIMD and IEA organized a series of activities to encourage open dialogue for both parties to come together and find a solution they could agree upon.
One of these activities was the National Stakeholders Workshop to debate the voter’s register. This debate provided a stage for meaningful discussions on the issue. Representatives from the Parliament, political parties, civil society organizations and media attended it. The recommendations made at this debate were widely circulated in the media. One of the recommendations was that the Electoral Commission should take a more proactive approach on this issue. Consequently, the Electoral Commission took advantage of the constructive discussion on the voters’ register to organize a follow up public forum for all political parties and civil society organizations to present their proposals for the way forward.
We also held the National Constitution Review Workshop. Over 100 participants from the political parties, media, traditional leaders, clergy, local civil society organizations and security agencies attended the event. At this workshop we discussed Ghana’s constitution review process and informed Ghanaians about the status of the process and the role the public played in it.
Furthermore, to ensure peaceful and credible elections in 2016, we continued to organize dialogues and lectures in Ghana throughout the year.
Capacity strengthening of political parties
NIMD works in countries where democracy is relatively or completely new. In many of these countries, political parties are based on the personality of the leader rather than their policies. In addition, they are often poorly organized and lack the skills and experience to fulfil their role.
Therefore, NIMD supports political parties to build their capacities in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the support is as basic as making sure that parties have procedures in place for managing their finances, recruiting staff, and organizing internal elections.
However, we also provide specific support for policy analysis. This can be in the form of policy analysts who work for parties. In Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, for example, each party has a policy officer whose role is to research policy options and help the party decide what their policies on a range of key issues will be. We also offer training and technical support for parties to develop clear and realistic policy positions as well as alternatives that are captured in manifestos or electoral programmes.
NIMD’s ultimate goal with these activities is for parties to become more policy-based and more focused on a long-term agenda for the good of their country.
NIMD also often works with other democratic institutions, such as election management bodies and parliamentary commissions, the media, and other civil society organizations. These institutions play an important role in shaping a country’s democracy.
NIMD currently works with around 200 political parties all over the world, many of which have expressed their appreciation of NIMD’s assistance towards capacity strengthening of the parties. NIMD has supported parties in enhancing their internal organization development, including training in policy development, negotiation, and strategic planning), which encourages parties to use policies to guide their decisions. In Georgia, for example, our new Strategic Planning Tool was used in the country’s transition from a one-party to a multiparty system. Georgia also developed a website where an analysis of political parties’ election programmes was presented. This shows progress and innovation as a result of NIMD’s capacity strengthening strategy.
In 2010, NIMD launched its dialogue programme in response to requests from Uganda’s parliamentary parties, including the ruling party. Against the backdrop of a volatile political environment and fear of violent elections NIMD established the interparty dialogue process (IPOD) to help foster an effective multiparty democracy. This dialogue process marked a turning point in multiparty politics in Uganda.
After five years of regular party interaction at IPOD, the six political parties in the programme have experienced a marked improvement in their organizational and policy development abilities. One of the participants of IPOD and a leading political party in Uganda, JEEMA, said that IPOD has directly helped it improve its internal processes, committee structures, and policy. This has helped JEEMA develop as an institution.
These improvements in the parties within the IPOD contributed largely to the establishment of the Political Party Capacity Strengthening Fund (PPCSF) that was launched in 2014. The PPCSF has encouraged the participating parties to adopt a more professional approach to their work. The eligibility criteria to join the PPCSF alone, like requiring parties to recruit an accountant and project coordinator, and to establish a project implementation committee, resulted in an improvement in the parties’ ownership, organization and management.
The fund itself provided organizational development, policy development, and internal democracy support. The fund ended in September 2015. To sustain the impact we have created so far, NIMD is exploring new and innovative ways to continue the programme after the elections that are scheduled in 2016.
The presidential elections in 2014 in Colombia produced a polarized political landscape. On the one hand, new political parties refused to engage with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). On the other hand, the President of Colombia achieved his second presidential term based on the campaign promise of reaching a final peace agreement with the FARC-EP before the end of 2018.
It is clear that political inclusivity is a crucial aspect of reducing conflict in Colombia. Particularly since one of the points the government and the FARC-EP agreed on during ongoing peace talks was the need for increased participation of groups that were not formally represented. An increase in political participation would lead to inclusivity in terms of the people and the ideologies that are represented in the governing process.
Political inclusivity was also a key aspect of the local elections of 2015. During this election more than 2,000 government officials like mayors and governors were elected. To support the candidates NIMD and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior trained more than 350 young candidates from different political parties throughout the country. The training helped this diverse group of candidates strengthen their skills and prepared them to contest in the local elections of October 2015.
Furthermore, in line with article 16b of the Strategic Development Goals (to promote and enforce nondiscriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development) elected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates received training from NIMD and other civil society organizations on the functioning of the political system. This also provided a good opportunity for the participants to network and exchange lessons learnt.
And finally in 2015 we worked on a ‘Gender Ranking Tool’ whose results are published publicly to nudge parties towards more female political participation, which was released in 2016.
Offering democracy education
To foster democratic behaviour, we set up democracy schools and other incubators. At the schools, the participants practice democratic skills and behaviour that they need in order to work in a multiparty democracy. For example, they learn how to promote diversity and how to debate with mutual respect. Some schools focus only on training politicians, while others have mixed groups consisting of (aspiring) politicians and people from civil society organizations.
Currently, we have schools in Benin, Colombia, the South Caucasus, El Salvador, Tunisia, Mozambique, Burundi, Myanmar and Guatemala.
In some countries where democratic space has only recently opened or where it is still too tense to have official interparty dialogue sessions, NIMD offers informal spaces where political minds can meet and interact to start building relations while gaining knowledge. In Tunisia, for example, NIMD has set up an informal platform called “Couscous Politique,” which brings together alumni from the Tunisia School of Politics, leaders from different parties, and other stakeholders, to discuss current political issues and has resulted in a marked improvement in the students’ discussion.
More than 5,000 students have graduated from NIMD Democracy Schools around the world. Of all the students in Burundi, 110 were politicians and 372 were local leaders. In Tunisia, the first two graduating classes were made up of youth participants under the age of 40. In Indonesia, many alumni became civic public figures and developed healthcare proposals that were adopted and now guarantee access to basic healthcare to millions of inhabitants in the province. The local government in Georgia consults our Democracy School in Kutaisi, Georgia, as a policy advice think tank, and another School eventually brought forth the first female national public prosecutor in Georgia.
- Democracy School in Tunisia
Since 2012, NIMD and Demo Finland have been working in Tunisia to build the capacity of the parties and politicians. To achieve this, we have set up a School of Politics with our local partner, Centre des Études Méditerranéennes Internationales.
At the school politicians work together in a multiparty setting to learn the skills and knowledge they need to run a successful multiparty democracy. This also creates trust and encourages open dialogues that results in relationships that go beyond party affiliations. This is helpful in dealing with the many challenges Tunisia’s government faces, such as the threat of ISIS and related organizations and the impact of the global refugee crisis. To help combat the threat of terrorism the politicians of the 2015 class and alumni from classes took the initiative to jointly and voluntarily develop multiparty policy proposals on counter-terrorism. These multiparty proposals were a clear demonstration of the skills learnt at the school that were then put into action. Our partner in Tunisia also helped facilitate this and guided the politicians through the process.
The participants at the Tunisia School of Politics are young politicians from nine different parties in the country. To support the students’ interaction and their desire for increased discussions we introduced a political café during each of the school’s sessions in 2015. Furthermore, we have set up an informal multiparty dialogue platform called ‘Couscous Politique’. The platform brings together the alumni of the school, leaders from different parties and other stakeholders to discuss current political issues and has resulted in a marked improvement in the students’ dynamics and discussions.
- Democracy education in Georgia
In Georgia, NIMD works on democracy education in four different regions. If democracy is to grow in a country, politicians, NGOs, media, and government bodies will have to work with one another. This requires a strong network, which is being formed at the schools. The schools focus on political parties and people working for civil society organizations and local governments. The schools are a place for debate, discussion, networking, and exchanging ideas. NIMD maintains active contact with the alumni. Many of them have been appointed to leading positions in government. In some countries where democratic space has only recently opened or where it is still too tense to have official interparty dialogue sessions, NIMD offers informal spaces where political minds can meet and interact to start building relations while gaining knowledge. Examples are political coffee or tea house meetings or couscous sharing sessions in Tunisia.
International exchange and thematic conferences
In addition to the three strategies, we also organize international exchange and thematic conferences. Political parties can learn a lot from parties in other countries. For this reason, NIMD regularly organizes peer exchanges. This can be in the form of (regional) conferences for political parties on specific themes pertaining to political party functioning, but we also organize specific thematic exchanges between political parties of the different countries where we work. By bringing politicians to other democratic contexts, NIMD exposes them to other ways of interacting and operating in society.
In 2013, NIMD organized a regional conference in Kenya on interparty dialogue. This conference was attended by politicians from different African countries who exchanged experiences, as some of the participants came from countries where there was no dialogue. For them, it was inspiring to hear what interparty dialogue had brought to the other politicians, but also to hear about the challenges and how they dealt with them.
A year later, in 2014, NIMD organized a conference on women’s political participation in Honduras, where politicians, ambassadors, and academics from several countries in Central and South America exchanged experiences and ideas. The conference covered several factors that influence women’s political participation, including cultural attitudes and stereotyping, legislation, quota systems, and how political parties organize their lists of candidates. Many of the ideas exchanged during the conference were incorporated into policy plans and programmes, and the conference as a whole helped to keep the issue of women’s political participation on the agenda.
In 2015, the regional conference in Africa focused on innovation and the use of technology by political parties. Again, this was an opportunity for politicians of different African countries to share their experiences. Some participants had a lot of experience with social media, while others did not, but they all agreed that it is important for political parties to be open to new technologies.
In 2016, peer exchanges took place in 11 countries where NIMD works, involving around 500 politicians.