The first ever Interparty Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) Summit took place on 12 December.

This high-level event brought together Uganda’s political party leaders and Secretary Generals. They discussed how to strengthen multiparty democracy in Uganda, with a focus on four main areas:

  • strengthening political parties to enhance their relevance and effectiveness
  • consolidating constitutional and electoral reforms
  • promoting inclusiveness in national politics especially in relation to the role of youth and women in politics
  • strengthening democratic governance, human rights and observance of rule of law.

The Summit was first of its kind in Uganda, and a chance for the political parties to make a real commitment to continued dialogue in the interests of their country.

The IPOD Summit was attended by the National Chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party Yoweri Museveni, Democratic Party DP President Norbert Mao and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) faction president Jimmy Akena, and Justice Forum’s Asuman Basalirwa.

The leading opposition group, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) pulled out of the summit, backtracking on a commitment they had made earlier. It is the only political party with representation in Parliament that did not attend the meeting.

Dialogue and legislative reforms

Despite the drawback, the IPOD Summit is cause for optimism. The opening of dialogue between ruling parties and opposition groups is a core pillar for political stability and cohesive government.

NIMD hopes that the flagship IPOD summit will open the door to a next phase of dialogue and legislative reforms which have multiparty backing.

IPOD and NIMD

Hosted and facilitated by NIMD, IPOD was set up in 2010 to bring together leaders of all political shades in the country to foster a strong and vibrant multiparty democracy in Uganda based on peaceful co-existence of all citizens to work harmoniously.

The platform brings together all of Uganda’s parliamentary political parties. As equal members of the platform, these parties all have an equal voice.

The parties are also represented in the IPOD council, the platform’s main guiding body. As such they jointly decide on the way forward for the organization.

NIMD would like to congratulate IPOD on organizing the Summit, and applauds Uganda’s political parties for the steps they have taken and the commitment they have already made. NIMD will provide support for continued dialogue in Uganda following the Summit.

Democracy starts with dialogue

For NIMD, the IPOD Summit represents a significant step in Uganda.

Our experience has consistently shown that when political groups come together in dialogue, reforms, peace agreements, and nation building all stand a far greater chance of success.

In the course of our work supporting meaningful dialogue that enhances democracy, NIMD has set up and facilitated interparty dialogue platforms around the world. Here, we bring together actors from all political denominations, so that actors may lay the foundations for working together democratically.

Through dialogue, parties can also establish a basic level of trust between one another, and NIMD assists participants as they find consensus on democratic reforms they want to enact. This often translates into real policy change that enhances the democratic system of a country.

Highlights from Twitter

With its rich cultural history and unique political backstory, Ethiopia has played a defining role in both African and global affairs for a long time. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ascension to office this year has heralded a dramatic shift in Ethiopian politics, with a reform agenda that is already making a mark on the political landscape. Foreign relations have changed with Ahemd’s adoption of a conciliatory policy with Eritrea. The inauguration of his cabinet with a 50/50 gender split and the election of Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s first female President, mark significant steps towards democratization and more effective representation.

But such dramatic political change does not take place within a vacuum. The repercussions of rapid reforms can be complex, with consequences for Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as the rest of the region and the wider international community. As we work to strengthen democracy in the region and improve the lives of its citizens, we must ask: what does the future hold?

In collaboration with the Foundation Max van der Stoel and Foundation for European Progressive Studies, NIMD organized a political café on 27 November in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. The event provided a chance to discuss what these developments mean for Ethiopia, but also what the consequences are for the relationship with Eritrea.

As of last week, Simone Filippini has left her position as NIMD Executive Director. This decision has been made in consultation between Simone and the NIMD Supervisory Council due to a divergence in views on leadership and the best way forward for the organization.

Simone is held in high esteem by NIMD and our partners around the world. We are grateful for the energy, enthusiasm and new initiatives she brought to the organization over the past year, and would like to wish her all the best for the future.

NIMD is now taking steps to find a replacement for the Executive Director role. During this period, we as the Management Team will take all measures necessary to ensure a smooth continuation of our work.

For further information, please contact info[at]nimd.org.

A study carried out by NIMD’s office in Colombia has been instrumental in informing a new bill on political violence against women in Colombia.

The bill was presented to the Colombian Parliament by Senator Juan Luis Castro, who used the NIMD study extensively in his explanatory statement.

Through the bill, Senator Castro aims to put in place robust measures to prevent and sanction violence against women in politics. With these sanctions in place, women will be better able to exercise their political rights and take up their seat at the table.

In our work NIMD promotes measures to stop violence against politics. NIMD Colombia works with the Congress and political parties to encourage dialogue on the topic and consensus towards the adoption such initiatives as legislation.

The study: Women and political participation in Colombia

NIMD’s study into violence against women in politics aims to spread knowledge and awareness of the violence suffered by many women in politics. With a focus on the Colombian context, the study sets out clear recommendations on how to combat this significant barrier to women in politics.

The Colombian context

Colombia is facing a unique moment in its history: the possibility to build and consolidate peace following the end of the armed conflict with the FARC. One of the biggest challenges for the country will be to ensure that politics works for everyone, and different groups are properly represented in inclusive political processes. This includes providing a seat round the table for women and other minorities so that they, too, can help build their country’s future.

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 is teaming up with International IDEA, OSCE/ODIHR, REPRESENT and WFD to organize a conference on “Representation in the age of populism”.

The conference, which is set to take 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 will gather in the Belgian Senate in Brussels. Over the course of 10 sessions, they will address global action on social movements, party innovation, social media and legislation, among other topics.

Speakers at the conference will include:

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

Registration

Register online here. Please note that spaces are limited. We therefore kindly recommend that you register early.  

You can find logistical information here.

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.

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.