In an exclusive interview with FOCOS TV in El Salvador, NIMD Executive Director Simone Filippini explains what can be achieved through the transformation of a nation’s political parties.
In this interview, Simone appears alongside Gracia Grande, NIMD’s Programme Manager in El Salvador, as they discuss how nations can go from “talking their democracy”, to “walking their democracy”. She also shares her insights on how a culture based on inclusiveness and regular dialogue can halt the spread of populism, and how any political system can be opened up to the benefit of its people.
NIMD has been working in El Salvador since 2012, where their projects provide assistance in the form of youth education programmes, training for female politicians and facilitating interparty dialogue.
With the training held for the second time in Shan State, 28 state level senior politicians from 14 political parties, along with one official from Election Sub Commission, graduated from MySoP.
During the ceremony, Wouter Jurgens, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Myanmar; Tin Oo, Advocate General of Shan State; and Mr. Htin Kyaw, Chair of Election Sub-Commission (Shan State) gave speeches.
Reflecting on the experience of participating in the MySoP Core Course in Shan State (South), Mr. Jurgens noted in his speech, “When I see this group (of graduates from MySoP core course) I can only be optimistic. You are politicians who know what your voters want. And you also know how to work together in order to make policies that create progress and a better future for Myanmar…I am really happy to be here today to congratulate you as a new generation of bridge builders and I am happy to celebrate together with you.”
Working across party lines, the graduates studied topics such as political theory, gender in politics, election rules and regulations, party programme planning, how to operate as a state level politicians. The participants also carried out a country comparison with Indonesia.
Trainers from Myanmar, the Netherlands and Indonesia conducted the 17-day course from 24 July to 9 August 2018 in Nyaung Shwe township, Shan State, Myanmar.
In Honduras, not many women are involved in politics.
Fátima Mena is an exception to that rule. As a law graduate, she has always held deep convictions based on the principle of justice.
In her handbag, she carries the Honduran Constitution and a bible to remind her that democratic principles always come first, no matter how you look at things.
At the heart of Fátima’s convictions is her experience living in exile. As a result of her mother’s role as a magistrate, her family had received threats of abduction and had been forced to flee Honduras.
Working for a human rights NGO during her time abroad, she came to realize that it is possible to make a difference in the life of others as a professional.
This realization deepened when she became a mother on her return to Honduras. Following the birth, she suffered severe depression, which she blames on the political instability in her country and flaws in the justice system. She started to believe that she was “irresponsible for bringing my son to live in a country with so much corruption”.
It was during this time that she decided to volunteer for the Anti-Corruption Party in Honduras. She climbed quickly within the party, becoming coordinator for the Cortés Department, a member of the national council of the party, and a candidate for the 2013 parliamentary elections.
The NIMD Candidates’ Academy
In 2013, to help her prepare her campaign, Fátima took part in the first ever Women Candidates’ Academy, organized by NIMD in cooperation with NDI, UN Women, UNDP and the Instituto Nacional de la Mujer (National Institute for Women, INAM).
The Academy strengthens the capacities and knowledge of women candidates on topics such as gender, communication and political strategy.
Fátima found the experience very helpful. She admits that, before she participated, her political knowledge had been limited, based mainly on her own perceptions and experience.
With the support of the Candidates’ Academy, Fátima ran a successful political campaign with only scarce resources. She based her campaign on proposals that were achievable, tangible and believable for citizens.
She focused particularly on the fight against corruption, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
She was able to use the knowledge and skills she learned in the Academy in various phases of the electoral process, from planning her campaign, to formulating and communicating her messages, taking part in multiparty debates and becoming a fierce advocate for women in politics.
This experience allowed her to profile herself as one of the most important political leaders of her party and region.
At the age of 31, she was elected to Congress, with the second highest number of votes of any Congressperson in her Constituency, and with the most votes ever won by a woman from an emerging political party.
In her position, she was able to put another learning from the Candidates’ Academy into practice. Besides increasing her skills, the Academy had also made her realize the importance of multiparty cooperation.
So, as a Secretary of the Committee on Equality and Gender, she helped woman parliamentarians from different political parties to coordinate their efforts to put gender equality on the agenda of parliament and promote women’s political and economic rights.
Barriers to growth
Fátima’s pioneering role was not always easy. She recognizes that “Being a woman, being young and being part of a political party against corruption is a big challenge, especially in a society whose culture is both machista and caudillista”.
Indeed, after a short time in Parliament, internal problems in her political party and being in the spotlight took their toll on Fátima as Chair.
Media coverage questioned her professional capacity and integrity rather than reporting on her performance as a politician and Member of Congress. In addition, the party underwent a crisis in 2017 which led to a permanent split and the forced resignation of the party leadership.
This series of events, far from demotivating Fátima, drove her to continue her political work.
She participated in a series of projects to promote the rights of women and young people.
She put together a parliamentary group to support the fight against corruption and continued her work in the Equality and Gender Committee, handling initiatives and reforms in favour of Honduras’s women and girls.
In November 2017, Fátima was elected as a councillor in San Pedro Sula, one of Honduras’s largest cities.
Throughout her political development, Fátima continued to receive NIMD’s support. The organization was proud to provide tools to help Fátima overcome the gender barriers and stereotypes that she faced.
The example of Fátima’s empowerment and the recognition of her tireless work to promote women’s rights, have positioned her as a leader.
And this paves the way for other women to participate actively in politics and break down the cultural and social barriers that obstruct their political work.
NIMD is now carrying out Democracy School training sessions in eight municipalities in Colombia, training a total of 800 young leaders in political participation
Over the course of six months, these participants will receive training on conflict resolution, the Colombian electoral system, social mobilization, peace and negotiation among other topics.
The most recent training sessions took place on 27-28 July in the municipalities of Chaparral and Montería.
Colombia’s Democracy Schools
NIMD’s Democracy Schools provide a space for young and potential leaders to strengthen their political skills and knowledge.
In Colombia, the schools are part of the Democratic Action for Peace Project, financed by the European Union. This project aims to deepen democracy in Colombia in the context of the implementation of the Peace Agreement.
The eight multiparty Democracy Schools bring together civil society and (aspiring) politicians from all parties in the regions most affected by the conflict in Colombia. By encouraging dialogue, and by promoting democratic values, NIMD hopes to help heal past wounds.
NIMD’s Benin office has held the second training session of the 2018 School of Politics. The training ran from 29 June to 1 July and focuses on the challenges of decentralization in Benin.
Participants learned from Camille Dossou, expert in local governance and Vincent Acakpo, Mayor of the town of Dogbo.
The NIMD Democracy Schools and Schools of Politics bring politicians and future leaders from across the political spectrum together. From day one, the participants acquire the skills they will need to become political leaders. And they study key democratic principles such as equality, ethics and inclusion.
In addition, they study key challenges for their country, such as decentralization in Benin, to gain a deep understanding of the context and issues that will be important in their work.
Just as importantly, by working together across party lines, the participants get to know each other well; they build relationships and learn to trust one another. This lays the foundations for a broad and strong network of democratic leaders.
Shan State is home to many ethnic groups. It is the largest of Myanmar’s 14 administrative divisions by land area and covers almost a quarter of the country.
The Core Course will be attended by 28 trainees, namely state-level senior politicians from 14 political parties along with one official from the Election Sub Commission (Shan State, South).
During the opening ceremony, keynote speeches were given by H.E. Riikka Laatu, Ambassador of the Embassy of Finland in Myanmar and Htin Kyaw, Chair of the Election Sub Commission (Shan State, South).
“The multiparty system is an effective mechanism introduced to Finnish political parties to retain peace and development in the country” said H.E. Laatu, reflecting on the political history of Finland. “I am happy to come to MySoP Core Course events and have the chance to meet with state-level politicians and we look forward to supporting future MySoP core courses.”
“In democracy, political parties and Election Commission work together to ensure elections are held accountably and peacefully,” said Mr. Kyaw. “As the MySoP Core Course is a multiparty setting embracing the opinions of all political parties based in Shan State (South), I encourage all trainees to respect and listen each other opinions and have constructive dialogue during the course.”
MySoP is one of NIMD’s numerous schools around the worlds. Run jointly with Demo Finland, the school strengthens the democratic functioning of political parties and promotes multiparty dialogue at the regional and state levels. The 17-day long training programme enhances the political knowledge and capacity of the participants, and supports dialogue among the different political parties based on the principle of multiparty democracy. The course emphasizes political theory and multiparty cooperation as well equipping participants with skills such as policy-making, speechwriting, political dialogue, debate, and campaigning.
Demwozie Mammie is a senior civil servant and the advisor on legal matters at CAFFEE, the legislative branch of Ethiopia’s Oromiya State. He studied law in Ethiopia and the Netherlands and has served in several influential positions, including President of the Supreme Court of Oromiya Regional state, and Head of the office of the Commission in charge of Constitutional Interpretation at CAFFEE Oromiya.
As well as being one of the drafter’s of the Oromiya regional consititution, Demwozie was requested to come to CAFFEE during its establishment as its legal advisor and he helped in drafting preliminary laws and regulations that established CAFFEE as the independent legislative body of Oromiya State.
A timely opportunity
Despite his extensive experience, Demwozie had never been able to attend professional training in legislative drafting. Therefore, when NIMD began its programme in Ethiopia in 2017, Demwozie realized that this was an ideal opportunity to formalize and further enhance his skills.
He acknowledges that the programme came at a time when he and his colleagues needed to sharpen their skills in legal drafting. More than anything, Demwozie recognized the need for skilled drafters in Ethiopia. Demwozie saw an opportunity for this training to equip drafters in parliament with the necessary skills so that they could support individual MPs to draft their own bills and critically analyze the bills brought to them in the near future.
“I personally appreciate the flexibility of the programme to accommodate the needs of our parliament and its demand-driven nature. The programme is tailored to the Ethiopian political context and it came at the right time when Ethiopia was undergoing political transformation.” Demwozie Mammie
The NIMD training
Based on these considerations, Demwozie attended his first Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop on legislative drafting, organised in March 2017 under the auspices of NIMD’s Strategic Partnership programme in Ethiopia. This workshop, held on the request of Ethiopia House of Peoples’ Representatives and the CAFFEE Oromiya, aimed to create and equip a pool of trainers in legislative drafting who would then go on to train their colleagues in the same field.
“Demwozie has become one of our most dedicated participants.” Solomon Kirunda, head trainer.
This workshop gave Members of Parliament and key staff an opportunity to increase their aptitude in contributing positively and proactively to law-making and carrying out their over-sight responsibilities. It also helped MPs and other staff to build the necessary skills to scruti-nize the draft proposals for legislation in accordance with each Parliament’s norms and standards for legislative drafting.
“I was very impressed by the ToT on legislative drafting because it addresses all aspects to be taken into account when drafting legislation. It begins at an ele-mentary level and then provides more technical drafters materials. It has en-hanced my overall understanding of legal drafting processes. This is one of the areas where our country needs support even at the national level. I believe the training will contribute much in improving the quality of draft bills and eventually the quality of laws at Caffee.” Demwozie Mamie
Reeping the benefits
Demwozie credits the training for his enhanced ability to analyze laws. Since the training, he has been able to provide critical comments on the draft law seeking to strengthen the judiciary admistrative councils as well as the draft law on the utilization of irrigation systems in the Oromiya region.
The training he had received on how to structure a bill helped him to ensure that these bills were structured in a standardized way.
In December 2017, when time came to pass on the learnings from the training on legislative drafting, Demwozie’s name appeared on the list of selected trainers, recommended by both the speaker and the lead instructor during the ToT.
Passing on the skills
So Demwozi, along with another ToT participant, delivered a three-day workshop for MPs from CAFFEE and zonal administrators involved in legal drafting. The training was designed to equip participants with necessary skills to better research, analyze and draft laws in their constituencies.
During the ToT, Demwozie had been trained on best practices for imparting knowledge to others. The participants learned how to structure lessons, prepare presentations and deliver training in a very interactive way. Such skills, combined with Demwozie’s professional experience, helped him deliver the workshop in an effective and structured way.
Before the training, Demwozie translated all training material from English to Afaan-Oromo, which is the official language and widely spoken in Oromiya State, allowing the recipients to get much more out of the workshop. Training in the local language was very beneficial, because not everyone speaks English. The participants were given the opportunity to learn effectively and interactively in a language that they are fluent in.
“Demwozie made our learning experience more interactive because the workshop was conducted in our local language” said one of the participants who confessed that he wouldn’t have learned much had the training been conducted in English.
Demwozie enjoyed the experience and has gained confidence. He is excited to continue imparting the knowledge he acquired through this programme to his colleagues and beyond.
“Drafting laws will not be enough, law enforcement is very important as well. During and after the adoption of the law, we also need to understand the adaptability of new laws to the Constitution. We need another training on parliamentary functions to understand the role of parliaments in the implementation/enforcement of the laws.” Demwozie Mammie
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.”
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.
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
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.
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