Synchronizing approaches to democratic change and sustaining peace

On 16 November, NIMD and the International Peace Institute held an expert meeting in New York, USA. The meeting focused on the theme of synchronicity, broadly defined as ‘the fact of two or more things happening at exactly the same time’. In this context, this refers to how to improve coordination between peacebuilding and conflict-resolution on the one hand, and democracy assistance efforts on the other.

As such, the meeting brought together:

  • UN staff working on the implementation, strategy development and funding of political reform in fragile and conflict-affected settings
  • International NGOs working on democratization in these settings and political party assistance organisations, as well as the diplomatic representatives of countries involved in this field.


With this diverse group of experts and practitioners, NIMD aimed to analyse success factors as well as identifying challenges that have limited the most optimal cooperation up to now.

As well as building stronger networks among the international peacebuilding community and democracy assistance providers, the event also provided a space for these experts to discuss different perspectives and develop more effective strategies for political reform.


The day was be split into three sessions. During each session, democracy assistance organisations provided insights into their work on political reform and their experiences working in the same space as conflict prevention actors. The UN representatives were also invited to share their insights and reflect upon the experiences of the democracy assistance organisations. The participants were encouraged to explore each other’s perspectives and identify opportunities for moving towards increased effectiveness.


The discussions throughout the three sessions led to some clear conclusions on how to improve synchronicity in working in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Importantly, the participants called for a change in perspective. It became clear that the divide between democracy assistance, conflict resolution and peacebuilding is artificial: Democracy assistance should be considered part of the peacebuilding process not parallel to it. The participants agreed that it would be more effective to approach the work based on objectives, deciding what each actor is best placed to contribute to each of these.

Secondly, the group agreed that, while there is a plethora of organisations working on democratic change, there is often a focus on technical aspects. Support for the less tangible, but equally important, element of democratic culture is often lagging behind.

These insights will be used to shape NIMD’s knowledge development agenda, sharpen our approach in fragile and conflict-affected settings and design experimental in-country projects.

Background information

Working in synchronicity with international conflict resolution and peacebuilding interventions is one of the six themes under the NIMD Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings (FCAS) agenda.

The concept of synchronicity is not new in the field of development aid. Several papers underscore the importance of harmonizing interventions for complementary, and describe situations that unfolded due to a lack of coordination and communication.

However, within the democratization field, where democracy assistance, conflict resolution actors and peacebuilders work in close proximity, this topic has yet to receive the attention it deserves. That’s why NIMD organized this round table: to bring the relevant actors together to investigate how we can improve our effectiveness in conflict affected settings.