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Expert Meeting on Political Party Assistance

The challenges of taking on board political programming and measuring the impact of political party assistance were some of the key topics discussed at the two-day expert meeting on political party assistance hosted by Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and International IDEA 22-23 June in the Hague.

How should support to political parties be – and not be – provided was the overall theme at the expert meeting on political party assistance, which touched upon issues such as the challenge of working within an inherently political field, the link between parties and parliament and the more operational side of planning and measuring the impact of assistance to political parties.

The two-day expert meeting took place within the so-called Effective Party Assistance Framework: a network of donors and assistance providers, including DIPD, that are involved in political party assistance. The network has since 2009 gathered in Stockholm, Wilton Park, Paris and now The Hague.

Day 1: Challenges to Political Party Assistance

Day 1 of the expert meeting focused, with International IDEA as lead anchor, on political party assistance. The IDEA report ‘The Challenges of Political Programming: International Assistance to Parties and Parliaments’ by Global Partners and Associates (GPA) served as a basis for discussing common challenges and goals.

The report was presented by GPA Director, Greg Power, who highlighted four challenges: translating strategy into in-country activity; the challenges when working within an inherently political field (‘political programming’), establishing (and measuring) politically realistic objectives and finally; integrating support to democratic institutions.

The subsequent group discussions focused on the question of ‘political programming’, that is, taking on board the task of designing programmes with political reform in mind, and link between parties and parliament.

Download report from day 1

Day 2: The Impact of Political Party Assistance

NIMD took the lead on 23 June, where the report ‘Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation for Political Party Assistance’ laid the ground for discussions on how to identity the goal and measure the impact of political party assistance.

Pepijn Gerrits (NIMD) started the discussion off with a presentation of the state of play of work on Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation (PME). Key points from the presentation include the need to focus on impact rather than just output, the importance of using the right indicators, and the need to distinguish between programme outcomes (short-term goal) and changes in political culture (long-term goal).

The following group sessions focused on the so-called conceptual frameworks, also known as “result frameworks” or “logical frameworks”, as a tool for monitoring and impact assessment of programmes.

Discussions touched upon the need for flexibility in conceptual frameworks, the importance of a clear definition of the audience and their needs & expectations, the challenge in translating a country specific framework into a global working framework and the balance between donor objectives and the needs of partners in the South. Also, the need for a ‘theory of change’ i.e. defining what change is needed to get to the desired goal, was identified as key basis for a monitoring and evaluation strategy. Finally, the choice of indicators and how to measure impact of programmes were discussed.

Download report from day 2

Follow-up: Between Now and Washington DC

At the end of day 2 participants agreed that a strong foundation for further cooperation had been build on Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation in the field of political party assistance. The group jointly decided upon the agenda ‘between now and Washington DC’ (meeting planned from 3-5 October 2011).

The following key issues were prioritized as tasks to move forward in a collaborative setting: the concept of a theory of change, a joint set of indicators, and sharing of results of studies that validate an intervention.

DIPD and International IDEA will for the next meeting in Washington in October 2011 propose follow up actions on the question of joint indicators.

For more information on the expert meeting, please see the attached reports with points of discussion and conclusions from the expert meeting.

NIMD Director’s Farewell

Director of Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) through 9 years, Roel von Meijenfeldt, has retired from NIMD. In his farewell address he stresses the universality of democracy and need to focus on the vital role of political parties in emerging democracies.

“Emerging democracies are too often either dominated by one well established party, set to perpetuate its dominance, or by parties which are the chiefdoms of individuals who own the party as a potential gateway to power” Roel von Meijenfeldt stresses to friends and colleagues, attending the farewell reception on 22 June, hosted by board and staff at Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

Read Roel von Meijenfeldt’s farwewell address: “No Nation is born a Democracy, no Nation is assured to stay a Democracy”

Given the struggles of political parties in upcoming democracies, von Meijenfeldt points to the linking of the development of political parties and support of multi-party systems of NIMD as both an innovative and proper approach.

Democracy can not be exported

NIMD was, however, first met with widespread criticism, von Meijenfeldt explains, and points to the deep suspicion about perceived potential foreign intervention in domestic affairs as one of the key accusations.

Scepticism is, according to von Meijenfeldt, understandable when operating within such a sensitive field as democracy support. Therefore, the focus on local ownership has been a vital part of NIMD’s approach:

“Democracy can not be exported and has to grow from within the countries concerned if it is to be sustainable” he emphasises, thus stressing the importance of resting full ownership of the programmes with the prospective partners: the leaders of the political parties.

The Impact of NIMD

As Director of NIMD since the launch of the institute in 2000, Roel von Meijenfeldt is well experienced in support of emerging democracies. Among the many programmes implemented by NIMD over the last 9 years, three lasting legacies are highlighted:

First of all, the institutionalization of the inclusive political dialogues in the form of the Centres for Multiparty Democracy (CMDs), which are platforms where political party leaders regularly meet to analyze and to find agreement about needed reforms and about the agendas for implementation. These have been launched in most NIMD programme countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.

Secondly, Roel von Meijenfeldt points to democratic reforms such as the support of constitutional reform processes and related legislation in countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Mali, Bolivia and Ecuador as among the key achievements of NIMD and its local partners, the Centres for Multiparty Democracy.

Lastly, the democracy education programmes, the so-called democracy schools, are highlighted. Through community meetings, role play, debates, in-class meeting, modules and organizing public debates, the education programmes seek to generate a group of committed, capable and democratically active citizens in the global south.

The Fourth Wave of Democracy: The Arab World

Finally, von Meijenfeldt emphasises the importance of what might turn into the Fourth Wave of Democracy: the pro-democracy revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, which resulted in the resignation of Egyptian President of more than 30 years, Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian counterpart, Ben Ali.

The Arab Spring points, according to Roel von Meijenfeldt, to the fact that people the world over are born with a democracy gene and should as such be welcomed as a historic opportunity to engage with partners in the Arab region.

In conclusion, von Meijenfeldt describes the NIMD model of Dutch parties working together to support the advancement of multi-party democracy in emerging democracies as a most “rewarding laboratory in which innovative approaches have been tested and more tangible impact achieved than could have been foreseen at the start of NIMD”.

NIMD is a democracy assistance organisation of political parties in the Netherlands for political parties in young democracies. It was founded in 2000 and is currently working in 16 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

Conference paper: The future of democracy in Egypt – political parties and the role of external actors

On the occasion of the official opening of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy on 26 May 2011, the Board of Directors has decided that it would be appropriate to organize a conference and a seminar focusing on developments in North Africa in general and the role of political parties in Egypt in particular.

Download the conference paper her (PDF, 2,6 MB) Read more

Strategy 2011-2013: political parties in a democratic culture

The decision by the Danish parliament ‘Folketinget’ on 26 May 2010 to establish the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy has provided Denmark with an additional instrument in the tool box which can be used to support locally driven efforts to develop, strengthen and consolidate democracy in a number of developing countries.

The Strategy presents the vision, mandate, organisation, goals and targets, principles, and the lessons learned that our partnerships  will build on.

Download the strategy (PDF, 1.5 MB). Read more

Strategi 2011-2013: politiske partier i en demokratisk kultur

Folketingets beslutning den 26. maj 2010 om at etablere et Institut for Flerpartisamarbejde (DIPD) har givet Danmark endnu et instrument i den værktøjskasse, som vi kan bruge til at støtte lokalt forankrede bestræbelser på at udvikle, styrke og konsolidere demokratiet i en række udviklingslande.

Strategien præsenterer det nye instituts vision, mandat, organisation, indsatsområder, principperne bag, samt de erfaringer som arbejdet bygger på.

Download strategien (PDF, 1,5 MB)

Read more