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Finding Common Ground on the Egyptian constitution

Together with the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, DIPD has supported two Egyptian NGO’s in piloting long-term political education programs. The programs were started in August 2012, and the first trainees will have their certificates in February and March this year.

Simulating the Egyptian parliament

The liberal, islamist and leftist participants negotiated their own constitution. And they actually all ended up voting for it!”

Rafeef Harbia’s eyes shine behind the purple classes, while she proudly explains about the accomplishment of the participants in the political education program at the Egyptian Democracy Academy (EDA). They have spent a session in the fall simulating the constitutional assembly where they have been acting as the people’s representatives for drafting the new constitution for Egypt. They discussed the publicly debated articles in mixed groups with young activists from the whole political spectrum, and they ended up with a a draft that they could all vote for.

Today they are discussing the issues of public transport in Egypt focusing on Giza governorate. The tinted windows send a yellow glow over the room, where the young trainer engages in discussion with the class of trainees.

For six month the 30 trainees have spent all their weekends in each other’s company at EDA’s office to obtain knowledge about local government, national budgets and many other themes that will prepare them to be even more engaged as critical citizens and political activists in the Egyptian transition process.

Clashes in the classroom

At the end of November, the Egyptian president Morsi declared that he was “authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security”. This statement led to severe clashes between the opposition and supporters of the president in front of the presidential palace.

These clashes were mirrored in the classroom of EDA in that period, where supporters of president Morsi received training shoulder by shoulder with his most severe critics. The EDA vice program manager Mohamed Fadaly facilitated a session where he acted as a representative of the president, asking the opponents to throw their arguments at him instead of at each other. In this way the overall present conflict was debated without the trainees turning against each other. Mohamed Fadaly says:

Afterwards they were joking with each other as usual in the break. It is one of our most important mandates; to create a space where all the very different people of Egypt can stay in the same room and listen to each other’s opinions.”

Teaching for Egypt at CCHD Implementing Agency

Teaching for Egypt at CCHD Implementing Agency

Teaching for the sake of Egypt

This kind of education is important for building up democratic institutions in Egypt. If people do not understand the budget they are not able to hold the government accountable.”

Dr. Abdullah Shehata states this when asked why he would spend his whole weekend teaching young people about the Egyptian national budget. Dr. Abdullah Shehata was last week nominated to be Deputy to Minister of Finance. He adds:

I love teaching. To see that people understand. And this is a very active crowd!”

He refers to the trainees at the program called “Partners in Dialogue” – a political education program which is being implemented by the Cairo Center for Human Development (CCHD).

They are right now taking a break on a Saturday afternoon in the delta region of Egypt. They are eating their lunch while chatting energetically with each other. Some of them are volunteers in international NGO’s. Some of them are affiliated with political parties. One thing they have in common is their eagerness to influence the shape of the future state of Egypt.



Holding together in crisis

DIPD activities in Nepal are governed by a Steering Committee (SC) consisting of 12 persons, two from each of the six parties. The SC met in Kathmandu when the DIPD Director visited.

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Martyrs, Madhesis and Marginalization

DIPD Representative for Nepal, Shrishti Rana, and DIPD Director, Bjørn Førde, were invited to participate in a local branch meeting of the Tarai Madesh Democratic Party (TMDP) in Bara district. TMDP is one of the six parties in the platform DIPD is supporting in Nepal.

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DIPD gets legal status in Nepal

In a ceremony on 15 January in Kathmandu, in the office of the head of the Social Welfare Council, DIPD signed a so-called General Agreement, which provides the Institute with the necessary legal status to move forward with its activities in Nepal.

Role of the Social Welfare Council

The role of the Social Welfare Council (SWC) is to keep track of both national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) operating in Nepal, with the objective of ensuring that resources, activities and programmes contribute as positively and effectively as possible to the kind of development envisioned in national development plans.

Nepal is a country with many NGOs as well as INGOs. There are probably around 30.000 plus national NGOs, although observers say that no more than 15% are active. There are more than 300 INGOs in the country, and most of them are active. All of these work under the umbrella of the SWC.

For the large majority of NGOs and INGOs, activities focus on the areas of social and economic development, preferably in the most disadvantaged rural districts of the country. But some also operate in the fields of support for civil society, good governance and the democracy strengthening sector, which is the one DIPD belongs to as stated in the General Agreement. However, there are relatively few institutions active in cooperation for capacity building of political parties in the manner which DIPD intends to work.

Mr. Bjørn Førde, DIPD Director, with Member Secretary Mr. Rabindra Kumar to his right and Advisor to DIPD, Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal, to his left.

Mr. Bjørn Førde, DIPD Director, with Member Secretary Mr. Rabindra Kumar to his right and Advisor to DIPD, Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal, to his left.

 Role of the Agreement

The agreement makes it possible for DIPD to continue developing a detailed project document in cooperation with the intended partners, a group of some of the most important political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly.

This will have to be done in such a manner that DIPD can be accountable to both its partners and the authorities. We must account for the different types of resources we bring into the country, and we also need to be able to offer evidence of the impact the activities implemented will have in the country.

The agreement does not change the key role of the political parties, and the SWC is not replacing the Steering Committee of the political parties, which will be the main decision maker in the activities that will be planned for the future.

Bhutan: Leadership programme for future women MPs

While some parts of the world celebrated Christmas, 24 women – most of them aspiring to run for Parliament – spent almost a full week in Phuentsholing, Bhutan, to prepare themselves to be effective politicians in the upcoming elections. Read more