Three things we learned in 2020

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. It was a hard year – a year which deeply affected all our lives.

It was also a year that required us to grow and learn. At NIMD, for example, we have had to find new ways of working; staying connected as a network; and continuing to bring together political actors and citizens, in a world where chances to meet face-to-face are all too rare.

Here are some of the lessons we learned in 2020:

1. Inclusive democracy is more important now than ever.

Respect for every individual, for human rights and for democracy cannot be set aside in the global fight against COVID-19. It is the key to the solution.

Early last year, it became clear to us that Coronavirus was driving inequality, amplifying differences and providing a pretext for some leaders to corrode human rights. But we also saw an opportunity for change: the opportunity to show that inclusive democracy and open dialogue could lead to jointly supported policies to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent social tensions.

That’s why NIMD’s Executive Director, Thijs Berman, joined forces with NIMD Colombia, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Akina Mama wa Afrika and the Gorée Institute to publish a statement and short video on the crucial importance of democracy in the fight against Coronavirus and beyond.


2. Resilience, flexibility and innovation are key to our work.

As we saw the importance of our work to support inclusive democracy growing, we also became increasingly aware of our resilience as a network.

Around the world, NIMD offices and partners were adapting their work to the new context. From ensuring continued citizen oversight in Kenya; to providing people with advice and guidance on how to spot fake Coronavirus news in El Salvador; to our new and innovative DemoLab in Colombia, which helps Bogota city council increase transparency and involve citizens in policymaking.

“DemoLab: A space to make Bogota a more open and democratic city.”

At NIMD, we’re in it for the long-haul. We know that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (which we have outlined in this paper) will be far-reaching and long lasting. We will continue to adapt and respond to these new realities, and we feel more equipped than ever to do so.


3. Being part of a network means constantly learning from each other.

One of the key reasons we have been able to face up to the new challenges is the wealth of expertise and knowledge within the NIMD network. Across more than 20 countries, our colleagues and partners have been able to learn from each other and share experiences. With limits to travel in 2020, we have explored new ways of staying connected online and harnessing the possibilities within our network. For example, as our offices and partners explored ways to continue dialogue activities online, they were able to share their observations across the network, so that others could learn from their research and decisions.


Read more about how NIMD is working throughout the pandemic towards more inclusive democracies in our #NeverLockdownDemocracy web series.