The DIPD Annual Report 2013 is not just another annual report, but an effort to bring together the many lessons learnt during the first three years of work by the Danish political parties and the institute. What ideas did we start out with? What changes did we make?
In the foreword called “Doing it the Danish way”, the Chairman and the Director write the following:
DIPD was established in 2010 by the Danish parliament with a mandate to support political parties and multiparty platforms in developing countries to become more effective and democratic. This was a new feature of Danish democracy support, and also a feature that was much debated and questioned among academics and development practitioners. Three years later we believe we have proven that DIPD can make a difference.
The first DIPD partnerships were initiated in mid-2011, and we knew that it would be impossible to deliver results immediately. We first had to establish a trusted relationship with our partners. Following this we knew that the major challenge would be to identify ideas that could inspire our partners to establish a more democratic culture inside the parties and among parties.
When the Board met for its last meeting in 2013, it had the opportunity to discuss the conclusions of the first external review of DIPD, made by a UK based consultancy group for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Board members were naturally happy to read conclusions like these:
“DIPD has made impressive progress in establishing effective party-to-party and multiparty projects in a range of countries.”
“DIPD has developed a well-regarded programme of multi-party projects organized through local partners and in collaboration with like-minded organisations, and it has supported the Danish political parties to create party-to-party partnerships in a wide range of different countries.”
Such statements are obviously important for a new institute. But the most significant challenge highlighted in the report is really that now is the time for DIPD to clarify our distinctive features and strengths in the field of party assistance. Part of this is also to improve our thinking about the results we would like to achieve, and the manner in which we think this can be done.
The Board is working on a new strategy, to be finalized in mid-2014. Discussions so far indicate that doing it the Danish way will no doubt be part of the strategy; not because we believe that Danish experiences can solve all of the democratic challenges faced by our partners; not because the Danish way is better than the Norwegian, German or American way; but simply because the Danish experience is the experience Danish political parties, resource persons, and facilitators know best.
Over the last three years, we have learned that this establishes a strong platform for open and honest dialogue about the ways and means our partners must consider when trying to strengthen and deepen their own democratic culture.
Doing it the Danish way is therefore not only about the substance of our democracy support, but also about our approach. Together they help define what we understand the concept of a partnership to be, which is much more than the technicalities and procedures involved. Our experience over the last three years indicate that for a partnership to work, it must be based on a good mix of trust, confidence, patience, mutuality, honesty and openness.
It is easier to state the principles than to deliver in practice. But the municipal election study tour 2013 is an example. We brought together 50 political party representatives from 10 countries, representing around 25 different political parties, to learn about the history of Danish democracy, to observe the municipal election exercise, and finally to plan for specific action when returning to their countries.
What was particularly welcomed by participants was the deliberate intention to present the challenges facing democracy in Denmark right now, and the challenges to local democracy in particular: recent municipal elections have shown a downward trend in voter participation; the difficulty in getting women on the list of candidates; and the serious lack of interest in politics, political parties and elections among the youth. All of these challenges were discussed in heated debates over the week of the study tour, contributing to a shared understanding of the many challenges we have in common.
So while the mandate given by Parliament is about supporting political parties in developing countries, there is no doubt that the Danish political parties engaging in these partnerships also feel that they benefit from the dialogue and search for solutions. This meeting of political cultures is certainly part of what DIPD would like to develop further in the next three year phase starting in July 2014.
Because we have spent time during the last year digesting the experiences and learnings from the first years, this is more than an ordinary Annual Report 2013. It is really a report about some of the ideas we had when the work was started, and now trying to get an idea about the changes we made during the first phase of our partnerships.
None of the changes we can point to will make a difference in the numbers scored by various countries in the annual Freedom House or Economist Intelligence democracy indexes. There are many other organisations working with similar objectives; it can be difficult to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that DIPD is the organisation that should be credited for a certain success; and success at the level of a political party does not automatically translate into success at the country level.
But we do believe that this report shows that small changes are possible, and that working for such changes is meaningful.
Henrik Bach Mortensen, Chairman
Bjørn Førde, Director
Download the Annual Report 2013: Annual Report 2013
Read the Annual Report 2013: Annual Report 2013