Since 2019, Iraq’s streets have regularly filled with protesters. In the capital, Baghdad, but also in the southern Basra and in northern cities, young people in particular are calling on politicians to implement political reforms. And to commit to jobs and better services to citizens.
How can the Netherlands contribute to democracy in Iraq, and support these young people so that they know they are not alone?
On 8 June, we’ll team up with experts and Dutch politicians to explore.
The role of the UN cannot be overlooked in any conversation about Iraq. That is why we are pleased that UN envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert will join us. She will address the challenges faced by the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and reflect on the opportunities for reform.
The Dutch Ambassador to Iraq, H.E. Michel Rentenaar, will also speak at the event, and will share his insights into the current situation in Iraq.
Our third guest speaker, Arabist and lawyer Laila al-Zwaini, believes enormously in the strength of young people in Iraq. She sees a growing civil movement starting to emerge amidst all the chaos and violence. The Arabic word for civil is ‘madaniya‘ and this concept, which is rooted in cultural values and traditions, could guide these groups as they build their homeland.
NIMD’s 2020 Annual Report, The Promise of Democracy, is now available! Inside you can find an overview of our work in 2020, including key results and a reflection from our Executive Director, Thijs Berman.
The promise of democracy in 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a year that no-one expected. It was a hard year for democracy, in many ways, with unprecedented rollbacks of democratic freedoms.
At the same time, 2020 shone a spotlight on the inequalities within our societies. We have seen, first hand, the unequal toll COVID-19 has taken on the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies. Perhaps, based on everything we have seen, our societies will start to call for more inclusion and equality.
And some might even see the key role democracy can play in this, as the only political system where every individual counts.
In the end, we won’t stop the pandemic unless everyone, in all corners of every country, has access to the right treatment and, ultimately, to a vaccination. Democracy will be crucial in ensuring the level of inclusiveness that can make this possible.
NIMD in 2020
As a network, we see the increasing importance of our work in this context. We worked hard in 2020 to adapt to the changing restrictions and demands of the world around us.
For example, we are proud of our work to ensure continued citizen oversight in Kenya, supported much-needed electoral reforms in Honduras… And – across all our programmes – we have continued to bring politicians and citizens together in dialogue.
The 2020 Annual Report presents our main results, and delves into the stories of some of the inspiring people we have worked with.
Political pluralism is a cornerstone of any democracy. And the political party system is a way of channeling the diversity of voices and interests in a society. But, despite this, support to political parties and multiparty systems has traditionally been an underdeveloped part of the external assistance of the EU and its Member States.
Today, the EU is recognizing that it needs to step up support to the political party system. And it understands that this will be crucial, if it wants to meet its development and foreign policy objectives, like policy reforms or conflict mediation.
We also include a list of recommendations to EU policy-makers to help them develop future actions and frameworks.
COVID-19 has deepened existing trends of restricted democratic space. These trends include polarized political debate; the rise of populist discourse; and restrictions on political and civil rights. Political parties play a key role in this. Because they can influence these trends, or find themselves on the receiving end of restrictions.
Organizations who run programmes to support political parties see limited financial resources.
Improve inclusion in political parties is key. For this, strengthening the ability of under-represented groups to have a seat at the policy-making table is key. And it is important to address the written rules and unwritten practices that exclude these groups from participating in the political arena in the first place.
To improve electoral integrity, we need long-term efforts to ensure that political parties promote a level playing field.
Inter-party dialogue and multi-stakeholder dialogue will be key to improving dialogue and cooperation. And these are highly relevant in the context of EU objectives.
Integrate political actors and parties into development programmes. This can be done by engaging parties in development programmes, or streamlining party work into programmes on thematic issues.
Think and act long-term. Improving political action and behaviour takes place in the context of slow moving cultural and institutional practices.
Programme with parties’ incentives in mind. Triggering structural change within parties in favour of inclusion, electoral integrity and cooperation is possible. But it is important to consider the needs and interests of politicians in order to successfully challenge the status quo.
Do not focus exclusively on political parties. That means that donors and political party support organizations must remember that future aspiring politicians often emerge from other organizations or organized groups.
Work directly with parties themselves, and set clear parameters to work with them.
For complete list of recommendations, see the full paper here.
Before his inauguration as US President this year, Joe Biden committed to holding the world’s first international “Summit for Democracy”. The global Summit represents an opportunity for partners across the globe to reaffirm the importance of democratic governance after 15 years of democratic decline. Given the internal challenges facing democracies of all stripes and the challenges on the international stage, the time is ripe for reflection and for action.
That’s why NIMD has joined our fellow members of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), a network of not-for-profit organizations working on supporting democracy worldwide, to sign a statement on the Summit for Democracy. Together, we call for steps to be taken to ensure the Summit for Democracy fulfils its potential to support real democratic change.
We believe the Summit has the potential for supporting real democratic change, focusing minds on specific priorities and setting the stage for increased commitments. The organization of the Summit also brings up a number of key questions that have a bearing on its eventual success and impact.
What issues should be addressed? Where will it be held? Will it be a one-off event? Who should be invited?
All of these questions are perfectly valid considerations for the international community, in particular because it is vital that the Summit process does no harm to efforts to support democracy. The credibility of the Summit rests on a shared commitment to addressing the challenges facing democracy everywhere.
In this spirit, we recommend that European governments, the European Union institutions and our non-state partners:
1. Support the preparation of a Summit declaration that both recognizes the challenges to democracy and puts in place a number of concrete commitments
The Summit must aim for more than a declaration on the importance of democracy. A shared understanding of democratic challenges is needed to underline that the Summit is not simply a foreign policy exercise. As such, all participants will need to be prepared to debate uncomfortable domestic issues. This should help to contribute to a forward-looking Summit that helps to set the agenda for democracy globally.
Governments and non-state actors should be obliged to make specific commitments in relation to joining the Summit (either political and/or financial, both domestic and international), on a few well-defined dimensions. We stand ready to contribute thinking and ideas for these commitments based on our assessments and research on internal and external challenges. Given these challenges, the commitments must reflect the urgency needed to support democracy around the world.
2. Ensure that the Summit is part of a wider campaign of greater international cooperation on democracy support
We believe that the event would be more likely to succeed if it forms part of a much wider campaign to support and protect democracies. This process could include a series of run-up and follow-up events linked to the Summit. We stand ready to contribute to this.
3. Already prepare follow-up to the Summit
In order for commitments of participants to hold any value, they should be accompanied by some form of independent monitoring mechanism that could also offer support. The Summit should prompt states to accept mutual support in strengthening their democracies, e.g. through regular peer reviews. This does not need to entail the creation of a new body but can be streamlined into existing international structures.
4. Avoid the temptation to limit the Summit to one particular policy area or key component of democratic governance
We support taking a broad approach to the theme of the Summit. There is a danger that focusing on one specific issue could limit the effectiveness of the Summit. Discussions should therefore address 1) threats to key aspects of democratic governance – like inclusion, freedom of expression, polarization, anti-corruption, electoral integrity and 2) the key policy challenges that democracy must help address – like climate, global health, digital communication, economic recovery and social justice. Only by combining both areas can the Summit itself help set the international agenda for democratic protection and renewal.
5. Prioritize the inclusion of a wide diversity of actors from across the world
Given the potential pitfalls linked to the selection of official delegations, the Summit should be open to non-state actors. We support looking at ideas such as ensuring governments invite their political opposition. The Summit should also have a clear civil society dimension, where governments enter into dialogue with non-state actors, and where international civil society can present and debate a comprehensive set of recommendations to governments.
This is important both for the political signal it sends and for building the forward-looking and wide coalition that is needed to address democratic challenges.
Today – 12 April – marks the launch of our new Democracy School pilot for young, promising and future leaders in Iraq.
Through the Democracy School, we aim to impart democratic skills and knowledge to these (aspiring) leaders, to help them forge their careers. By bringing together young leaders in a multiparty setting, we will also help them to build up a network, which they can use to share and build on democratic values across political divides.
NIMD is excited to be entering into this pilot project alongside our partner WEO – an NGO dedicated to enhancing the social, political, economic and cultural participation of women and marginalized groups in Iraq.
Between now and June, the pilot project will consist of six workshops on democratic knowledge and skills, and will bring together 25 promising future leaders.
These young people are a combination of active and aspiring leaders. They represent an equal mix of women and men, and a wide geographical spread from across Iraq.
Local democracy experts, and democracy skills trainers from further afield will provide the training. For the latter, we have counted on the knowledge and expertise of our long-term partner in Tunisia, Centre des Etudes Méditerranéennes et Internationales (CEMI). CEMI was able to provide invaluable support and resources based on their experience of implementing the Tunisia School of Politics for almost 10 years.
Why a Democracy School pilot?
In 2019, we supported Clingendael Institute to conduct an analysis to identify possibilities for working in Iraq. We uncovered that youth could play an important – and often overlooked – part in building a viable democracy in the country.
Through the Democracy School, we hope to give young people the tools to take up this role in strengthening their democracy.
In the knowledge module, they will learn about the political system in Iraq; the ideas and values behind it; and the similarities and differences with other countries.
In the skills module, they will get a taste of what it means to be a leader, and how to navigate difficult political issues.
The Democracy is also a chance for the participants to learn from their peers. The school is an opportunity to form a strong network of democrats from around the country that together, despite their differences, will strive for a stronger and more democratic Iraq.
“You are the future of this country and I am proud to support you. We hope you will learn from your peers and form a strong network of young people from very different backgrounds.” NIMD Director, Thijs Berman, speaking at the launch.
This is a very important aspect of all of NIMD’s Democracy Schools around the world. Of course, participants learn to listen to and respect each other’s views. But schools are also the place where trust can be built, and friendships can emerge, which participants can use later on in their career. Our Democracy Schools are about long-term impact and change.
That is why this pilot is only the first step. Based on the results, we will evaluate the possibilities of continuing this project. We hope that the pilot will be the start of a longer process, where we can work together with all parties and empower more young people.
The Democracy School launch was attended by the new participants of the School; the Dutch Ambassador to Iraq, H.E. Michel Rentenaar; and the new trainers.
“Today is the first step towards a very different personal future for all of you”. Dutch Ambassador to Iraq, Michel Rentenaar.
Following welcoming speeches by H.E. Rentenaar, and the Directors of NIMD and WEO, the participants were introduced to their trainers and had some time to get to know each other.
We wish the participants good luck for their coming months of training and network-building.
The Tunisian School of Politics (TSoP) has strengthened the skills of young politicians and helped them advance in their careers. It has also made a significant contribution to multiparty dialogue in Tunisia.
These are TSoP’s main results, according to a recently completed external evaluation for the period 2016-2020. The evaluation was carried out by FIANT Consulting Oy.
Throughout the years, TSoP has fostered inclusive multiparty dialogue and strengthened the skills of young politicians by organizing training and events.
TSoP was founded in 2012 by NIMD, Demo Finland and Centre des Etudes Méditerrannéennes et Internationales (CEMI). It is a space for politicians to work together in a multiparty setting and learn the skills and knowledge they need in a multiparty democracy. By learning together, politicians from across party lines get to know each other, This increases mutual trust and encourages multiparty collaboration. TSoP was founded very soon after the Jasmine Revolution that kick-started Tunisia’s democratization. And it quickly established its place in the political field of the country.
Below, we will present some of the work TSoP has been doing over the past 9 years. And we will delve into some of the main findings of the external evaluation.
TSoP: Some key information
TSoP’s basic courses consist of 5-7 training weekends during the year, accompanied with homework and a final exam. Topics covered include public administration and local government; citizenship and civil rights; and budgetary principles. The selection criteria for participants include equal representation of men and women as well as wide geographical coverage.
Between 2016 and 2020, 192 politicians from nine different parties graduated from TSoP while the overall number of alumni throughout the decade is around 500.
Joint statements and friendships across party lines
According to the evaluation, the increase in multiparty dialogue and cooperation has been one of the most important results of the Tunisian School of Politics. CEMI always runs TSoP courses on a multiparty basis, which has given young politicians the opportunity to get to know representatives of other parties.
TSoP alumni have reported increased co-operation with politicians from other parties and with civil society. Thanks to the TSoP courses, they have formed friendships and are in regular contact across party lines.
What’s more, in 2016, CEMI, Demo Finland and NIMD set up a multiparty dialogue platform. This platform brings together high-level representatives from 13 political parties to discuss issues of mutual interest. Its aim is to increase trust and familiarity between political actors. The platform has succeeded in creating a safe space for multiparty dialogue and has offered politicians and party leadership an opportunity to listen to different points of view.
The evaluators estimate that its establishment has been a good achievement in itself. But, in addition to this, the platform has also managed to produce a number of joint statements over the years. These include multiparty statements on, for example, the ratification of the law on decentralization and ethical election campaigning.
In addition to the dialogue platform and training courses, multiparty co-operation has also been promoted by several political debates and events organized by TSoP. Annual regional seminars have brought together politicians not only from Tunisia but also from Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco.
Quality training increases the capacity of youth to take part in politics
The core activity of TSoP has always been providing comprehensive training on politics for young politicians. According to the evaluation, the participants have particularly valued the content and quality of the training. They have been able to use their increased skills and knowledge in their parties, and that has allowed them to proceed in their political careers.
The participants also highlight that TSoP helped them to strengthen their soft skills related to, for example, debating and influencing. Trainings have also increased their self-confidence and motivation to be active in their parties. And their ability to accept diversity and act constructively in politics.
One-third of the alumni have obtained more influential positions in their parties following training. In fact, 54 of Tunisia’s current 217 MPs have attended TSoP activities. In the 2018 municipal elections, 61 out of the 400 alumni ran as candidates, and 27 were elected. These numbers are encouraging especially for the Parliament.
In addition to providing an opportunity for experience sharing between political parties, the programme has also included international exchange of experiences. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted international travel, a group of promising young TSoP graduates made a study visit to Finland or the Netherlands every year. The visits have offered them the opportunity to get to know different democratic practices and share experiences with local politicians.
Young politicians are the main target group of TSoP. But the school has also organized training for MPs and Executive Bureau members of political parties. In addition, TSoP piloted multiparty training for parliamentary assistants in 2020.
Added value in combining capacity building and multiparty dialogue
Tunisia’s political field has been in a constant state of upheaval since the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. According to the evaluation, there is a growing need in the current context to develop the skills and competences needed in politics and for the facilitation of multiparty dialogue. TSoP is working towards meeting this need. Its main strengths are its high-quality training content and multiparty approach.
Alongside the school, the high-level dialogue platform is a unique space for multiparty co-operation and dialogue. The evaluation also notes that the programme has a unique approach: It provides capacity building for political actors and, at the same time, facilitates a safe space for them to collaborate.
TSoP will continue this highly appreciated multiparty approach. The programme is constantly developing, and we currently have plans to reach young people outside of political parties.
All in all, TSoP seeks to strengthen the active engagement of youth in the society. This will ensure that their voices are heard in the democratic development of their country, and that any reforms take their needs into account.
In addition, we will debate the political representation of women and the international equality agenda for the coming years.
And, since it is election time in the Netherland, we will also enter into discussion with a series of candidates. They will explain why and how they want to work for gender equality and women’s rights if they are elected as MPs.
NIMD’s Director, Thijs Berman, will open the event by introducing the theme of women’s political representation, and Laila Ait Baali, Director of WO=MEN, will moderate the session.
12.20 – Login and setup
12.30-12.35 – Opening remarks and welcome, Laila Ait Baali
12.35-13.00 – 4 years of Gender MPI – taking stock and looking forward
13.00-13.25 – The political representation of women and girls worldwide, Kirsten van den Hul, Zohair El Yassini, Pascale Plusquin (electoral candidate, PvDD) and Thijs Berman
13.25-13.30 – Introducing the electoral candidates
13.30-13.55 – The equality agenda for the coming term – Kirsten van den Hul, Zohair El Yassini, Salima Belhaj (MP, D66 party) and Daniëlle Hirsch (electoral candidate and MP, Green Left party)
13.55-14.00 – Closing remarks and takeaways
The Gender MPI Elections Special is a collaboration between the Gender MPI, WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform and NIMD.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) and its members (including NIMD) organized a public event on 4 March to celebrate inspiring women whose leadership contributes to a more equitable and inclusive society.
This event offered a platform for presenting and celebrating the journeys and achievements of women leaders. Through these stories, we aim to inspire action and the sow seeds of change for equality and justice.
We heard the personal journeys of these leaders; their experience of overcoming political and societal barriers; and how their work enables the next generation of women across the globe to follow in their steps.
Watch the full webinar:
We were delighted to be joined in this conversation by:
Imarn Ayton– Actress, activist and leading voice in the #BlackLivesMatter UK protests, and founder of the Black Reformist Movement
Tamara Adrián– Venezuelan lawyer and academic, and the first trans woman to win a seat as a member of the country’s Congress
Sidita Zaja –Executive Director of the NGO ProLGBT, fighting for the rights of the LGBTI community in Albania
Sophie Heesen– Politician and Councillor for the Dutch Labour party (PvdA) in Gouda, campaigning for LGBTI rights, anti-discrimination policies and gender equality
Krishala Tamang– One of the youngest elected Vice-Chairpeople of Doramba Rural Municipality in Nepal’s Ramechhap district, and national-level martial arts expert
Nabila Ramdani, award-winning journalist and broadcaster and one of the WEF’s 2012 Young Global Leaders, will moderate the discussion.
So, join the conversation about women changing the world with our hashtag #WomensWave!
The School will bring together political journalists, and social, political and community leaders. Over five sessions (each lasting four hours), they will gain knowledge and skills in leadership and political innovation. They will also learn how to build shared open governance programmes.
As such, the school will equip these leaders to contribute to conflict resolution. And they will learn how to make public policy recommendations, though collaboration with citizens, the authorities and other leaders.
The first edition of the school will target the regions of La Guajira, Cesar and Córdoba, in the north of Colombia.
Protecting Leaders for an Inclusive Democracy
The new School for Dialogue, Innovation and Leadership is part of the EU-funded “Protecting Leaders for an Inclusive Democracy” programme. NIMD and MOE are implementing this programme together.
The programme is based around dialogue with political institutions, and training for political, social and community leaders. Its aim is to promote an inclusive democratic culture that rejects violence and protects the human rights of Colombia’s leaders.