The Eastern European Neighbourhood’s political background
In the Eastern European Neighbourhood, NIMD works with politicians from Ukraine and the South Caucasus countries, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The South Caucasus countries have been independent since 1991 and in that time have developed different political systems. Of the three, Georgia could be defined as having the most developed democratic system, where in 2012 a peaceful transition of power took place for the first time in this region. Armenia also has democratic government but the democratic institutions are weaker than in Georgia. Azerbaijan has a semi-authoritarian government. The whole region is ethnically very diverse which can lead to tensions and Armenia and Azerbaijan are officially still at war over a disputed area of land.
The approach of NIMD in the Eastern European Neighbourhood
NIMD has three programmes in the Eastern European Neighbourhood: one in Georgia, one in Armenia and a regional programme involving politicians from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Since 2010, all of NIMD’s instruments are used equally in the Georgia programme: facilitating dialogue, strengthening the capacity of the parties and stimulating democratic behaviour.
NIMD has supported politicians from different parties to work together by helping them to set up issues oriented multiparty dialogue platforms in Parliament, such as on gender or national minorities. NIMD helps the parties to build their capacity to function effectively by helping them to develop strategic plans and giving them training. NIMD also works on democracy education with democracy schools in 4 different regions, focusing particularly on developing the abilities of political parties, people working for civil society organizations, and local governments to lobby about issues that need addressing.
NIMD started working in Armenia in 2013. The programme has started by focusing on developing the capacity of the political parties to function effectively in a multiparty democracy. The first stage of that work has been helping the political parties to develop strategic plans.
South Caucasus Regional Programme
Each year since 2012 NIMD has run a 12-month programme which has brought together young political leaders from different parties in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. At the start of each programme the levels of trust are very low and a core part of the programme is overcoming that. During the programme the participants work together on joint projects and also learn skills and knowledge for working together in a multiparty democracy. Each programme ends with a regional conference.
The most recent forum titled Future of Democracy in the South Caucasus and Ukraine: The Role of Political Parties and covered a wide range of topics related to political parties and their roles in policy making: inter-party cooperation, democratization in the South Caucasus and Ukraine, impact of global developments on the region, anti-discrimination policy, politics and finances, and the role of civil society in policy decision making processes. Mr. Štefan Füle, the former European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood gave a key note speech.