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Danish and Egyptian Political Youth Preparing for Local Elections

Last week, 24 youth politicians from Denmark and Egypt gathered for a seminar in Northern Jutland, Denmark, to look in to the Danish local democracy and government structure and dynamics. During the seminar, the Networks visited the local municipality of Struer, the Danish Social Democratic Annual Party Congress and the Egyptian Ambassador to Denmark, among many other things.

The Network

The Danish-Egyptian Political Part Youth Network is a 4 year old cross-political programme and consists of youth politicians of different political and ideological background from both Denmark and Egypt. Some of them have been part of the network since its origin in 2012, just after the Egyptian revolution, and several of them was part of the enormous youth uprising that led to and fought for the revolution.

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Photo: Network during a seminar session

Local Election and Government

The network was established in 2012 and has focused on many different issues from a youth political perspective. At a meeting earlier this year in Aswan, Egypt, the network decided to focus on local government and local election, because of the upcoming 2017 local elections in both Denmark and Egypt. Furthermore, a greater restructuring of local government is on its way in Egypt, and the political party youth representatives wanted to learn more about the Danish structure, to inspire their input to this process. Egyptian participant, Mohammed Soliman, explains as follow: ”We are in the process of having municipal election in Egypt in 2017, so it is enriching for us to have this experience in Denmark in order for us to see how the system works, so we can take this back with us to Egypt”.

The network visited the municipality of Struer, where the mayor, Mads Jakobsen(form the Liberal party), showed the members the local library, which also functions as the citizens’ entry point to the local government and administration. The Mayor also invited the members to city hall, where he gave an in-depth presentation on the structuring of local government and democracy.

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Photo: Struer Mayor, Mads Jakobsen(V), presenting Danish local governance sturcture 

Mads also gave a good insight into the tradition of coalition building and cross-political cooperation in Danish politics: “we make better political decisions if the whole council is behind it, instead of a small majority. I am from the Liberal Party, but I am the Mayor of the whole council and the whole Municipality”. He then explained how he had gained the support to his budget from all political parties represented: “it is not like everybody agree on everything, but there is something for everybody”.

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Photo: Struer Mayor, Mads Jakobsen(V), talking to two of the Egyptian participants

Social Democratic Party Congress

On Friday, the network attended the opening ceremony of the Danish Social Democratic Annual Party Congress. This included the opening speech of the party leader Mette Frederiksen, the speech from the Norwegian Labor Party Leader, Jonas Gahr Støre, and from the leader of the Danish Social Democratic Youth, Lasse Quvang Rasmussen.

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Photo: Party Leader, Mette Frederiksen, opening the Party Congress in Aalborg

Later on, the Deputy Secretary General of the party, Matias Bredde, gave a presentation on the organisation of the party, and MP, Peter Hummelgaard, explained and debated the party’s stand on different political issues such as refugees and the EU, with the network members.

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Photo 1: Social Democratic Party Leader, Mette Frederiksen and network member, Tamer Samy

Photo 2: Egyptian delegation at the Social Democratic Party Congress. 

 Meeting the Egyptian Ambassador and the Political Youth Branches

Back in Copenhagen on Saturday, the network was kindly invited to meet the Egyptian Ambassador to Denmark to discuss the network and political and cultural exchange between the two countries.

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Photo: Danish-Egyptian Political Party Network and the Egyptian Ambassador to Denmark

Later on, three of the Egyptian members gave a public presentation on themes such as the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt and the role of social media during the 2011 revolution. The public meeting wash primarily attended by members of the Danish political party youth branches.

For more information

Contact Project Coordinator Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk

The Kathmandu Conference on Women in Politics and Social Justice

The Kathmandu Conference

A two-day conference on Gender Equality and Social Justice was organized by the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) in partnership with the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Legislature-Parliament on 22 and 23 September 2016 in Kathmandu. Members of Parliament, prominent political leaders and civil society experts from Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal participated in the conference. Mr. Manu Sareen, the former Minister for Equality and Ms. Lone Loklindt, former MP from Denmark also attended the conference.

Chair of Parliamentary Committee at the Opening Ceremony of the Katmandu Conference on Women in Politics and Social Justice 2016

Chair of Parliamentary Committee at the Opening Ceremony of the Katmandu Conference on Women in Politics and Social Justice, 2016

The main aim of the conference was to explore practical ways of encouraging more women to enter leadership roles in key institutions of multiparty democracy and, generally, to promote the participation, representation and recognition of women in the political arena. In addition, the conference also encapsulated the following goals:

  • To change the current political culture, which is guided by patriarchal norms and values.
  • To generate effective recommendations, which promote gender equality in political parties.
  • To lobby the parliamentary committee to petition Parliament to enact the reforms necessary to promote gender equality
  • To motivate men to engage in the campaign for gender equality.

Distinguished speakers from Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal gave their remarks during the Opening/Closing Sessions on both days. Among others, they included the Hon. Sushil Shrestha, Chairperson of Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Legislature Parliament, , Hon. Tshewang Jurmi, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children, Bhutan, and the Hon. Mya Thaung, Chair of Women and Children Rights Committee, Myanmar.

Watch DIPD Director, Bjørn Førde, deliver his opening remarks at the conference:

Panel Discussions

Members of Parliament and influential political leaders from Bhutan, Denmark, Myanmar and Nepal including the Hon. Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister for Works & Human Settlement shared their insights on the topic. Mr. Sareen shared the strategies to engage men into the campaign on gender equality. Ms. Loklindt spoke about the representation of women in political parties of Denmark; she informed that major parties of Denmark have been successfully led by women. Similarly, Ms. Chitra Lekha Yadav, Member of Parliament, Nepal shared the story of Nepal’s progress in relation to women’s representation in Parliament which increased from less than five per cent to around 33 per cent.

Panel including former MP Ms. Lone Loklindt

Panel including former MP Denmark, Ms. Lone Loklindt

A documentary on Ms. Asta Laxmi Shakya, Member of Parliament, Nepal was also screened during a session called “When Women Lead.” The documentary showed a personal story of Ms. Shakya depicting the ways she overcame the harsh challenges that she faced as a woman politician in Nepal.

Apart from politicians, renowned experts on gender issues from Nepal also shared their insights. They included Ms. Chandni Joshi, former Regional Director of UNIFEM (now UNWomen), Ms. Wenny Kusuma, Country Representative, UNWomen, Ms. Bandana Rana, Expert Member, UN CEDAW and Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chief Election Commissioner.

Most of these sessions were moderated by the Steering Committee members of JOMPOPS and chaired by the members of the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Legislature-Parliament.

Working Session

A working session to generate practical recommendations on the five themes were conducted on Day Two. The five themes and the major recommendations drawn from the conference are as follows:

1) How to make political parties gender-equal?

  • Initiate amendments in the political partieWomen in Politics and Social Justice working session exchange between participants from Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Denmarks’ internal Constitutions as per the spirit of the new Constitution of Nepal that stipulates full gender equality.
  • Ensure that meetings and activities of political parties are responsive to the needs of women (for e.g. avoid too early or too late time for the meetings/activities)
  • Allocate budget inside the parties for enhancing the necessary skills for women politicians

2) How to encourage the participation of women at the local level?

  • Sensitize men on the importance of women’s participation in politics at the local level
  • Introduce easier entry criteria for women members at the local level vis-a-vis men
  • Train women candidates at the local level to compete in the elections

3) How to enhance regional co-operation to promote gender equality?

  • Create cross-country internship programme for capacity building
  • Create a platform to share the necessary experience with each other and give continuity
  • Share and update the regional gender equality index

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4) How can the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee promote gender equality?

  • Instruct the Government of Nepal to enforce provisions relating to women’s rights in the new Constitution
  • Ensure equal access to education
  • Direct the Government of Nepal to take necessary actions to promote gender equality and to end violence against women

5) How to ensure gender equality measures in Parliament?

  • Ensure 33 per cent women’s representation in all the committees of the Parliament
  • Effectively implement IPU Declaration 1997 and the SDG goal No. 5
  • Introduce gender friendly practices in the Parliament

Kathmandu Declaration

Before the closing session, all the participants including the visitors from Bhutan, Denmark, and Myanmar signed the Kathmandu Declaration committing to implement the agreed recommendations of the Conference to practice.

The next step for JOMPOPS, therefore, is to start the implementation of major recommendations inside the Parliament as well as inside their respective political parties.

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Regional Collaboration Asia

A Progress on Regional Collaboration

The Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) hosted sixteen delegates from Bhutan, four from Denmark and ten from Myanmar last week in Kathmandu.

In addition to the members of Parliament and influential political leaders from Bhutan and Myanmar, the visiting delegates comprised of the Hon. Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister for Works & Human Settlement, the Hon. Tshewang Jurmi, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children, Bhutan, Mr. Manu Sareen, the former Minister for Equality, Denmark, Ms. Lone Loklindt, former MP, Denmark, and the Hon. Mya Thaung, Chair of Women and Children Rights Committee, Myanmar.

The main purpose of their visit was to attend the second regional conference on promoting women in politics; the first regional conference was held in Myanmar in March 2016. The visit also focused on strengthening overall collaboration among three DIPD’s partner countries in the region.

Informal Interactions

A number of informal interactions were planned by JOMPOPS during the visit in order to foster a deeper connection among politicians from the three countries. After the introduction meeting on the day of arrival on 19 September 2016, the visiting delegates went to a local resort outside Kathmandu for further interaction.

In the resort, the visiting delegates from Bhutan and Myanmar along with JOMPOPS members participated in the presentation sessions on Communication Skills by Mr. Manu Sareen and on Leadership by Ms. Lone Loklindt. These presentations were based on the practical insights from the Danish leaders thereby the participants said that they found them useful and asked many questions which had immediate relevance to their day to day political work. The delegates also attended a session on Moderation Skills by a local expert; this session was focused on preparing the moderators for the conference.

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Similarly, the visiting delegates were invited to the Steering Committee meeting of JOMPOPS. That occasion was used to update each other on the political situation as well as to explain DIPD’s supported activities in all the three countries. The intention behind these sharing was to inspire and encourage each other.

On the eve of the conference, a dinner was organized by JOMPOPS attended by the high-level political leaders and other prominent national and international guests. It was also the opportunity for the visiting delegates to meet with the members of the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Parliament – the host of the two-day regional conference.

On the final day of their visit, again all the delegates along with JOMPOPS members came together in a local restaurant to reflect on their visit, to share their inspirations and their insights.

Parliament Tour

The Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Legislature-Parliament invited the visiting delegates from Bhutan, Denmark and Myanmar for a tour in the Parliament and hosted a small interaction event.

The Committee took the delegates to the old Parliament building in Singha durbar, Kathmandu. The staff members explained that the Parliament was shifted to a new premise in Baneshwor because of the space constraints. After the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the number of parliamentarians increased from 205 members in the lower house to around 601 members. Since the old Parliament could not accommodate the additional members, the Parliament was shifted to a new building.

In a brief interaction event presided by the two Secretaries of the Parliament Secretariat, the participants got to know about the history and background of Nepal’s Parliament. The Secretaries explained that the first Parliament of Nepal was elected in late 1950s so Nepal’s Parliament now has a long history of nearly 50 years.

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament Lone Loklindt

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament, Ms. Lone Loklindt

 

A Progress

Coming together of the three countries in Myanmar for the first regional women’s conference in March 2016 was a beginning of the regional collaboration. It was the first opportunity for the three countries to be introduced and to get to know each other.

The second regional conference gave further opportunities to understand each other and deepen the regional connections. All the three countries have now signed the Kathmandu Declaration together through which they commit to work towards promoting gender equality. Therefore, the Kathmandu visit should be considered as a progress in the regional collaboration.

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

The success of this regional collaboration will be tested in the third regional conference in Thimpu, Bhutan. This success would depend on if the three countries are ready to work together on implementing their commitments to practice. As aptly said by Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning;

Keeping together is progress;

Working together is success.

Tanzania one year after the election – seen from the oppositions’ view

Tanzania one year after the election – seen from the oppositions’ view

In October 2015, Tanzania held its most competitive election to date. The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), won as it has done at every election since the Independence in 1961. Still, major changes have ensued. The new president, John Magufuli, by many seen as a party outsider, has set about changing the face of Tanzanian politics and society. His crack-down on corruption is hugely popular – so is his emphasis on a higher work ethics in government offices. However, these changes come with an authoritarian streak. Opposition party activities are banned; opposition politicians are arrested; a newspaper has been closed and freedom of expression is under threat. Moreover, political problems on Zanzibar continue to plague the Union.

At this seminar Monday, 26 September, representatives from the opposition party, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), will analyse the governance issues that these changes have brought about. Moreover, an analysis of major political differences on burning social, political and economic issues between CHADEMA and CCM will be presented.

CHADEMA is in Denmark invited by the Conservative Party as part of their Party-to-Party partnership under the Democracy Assistance Programme of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy DIPD.

Speakers

Vincent Mashinji, Secretary-General, CHADEMA

John Mrema, Director of Publicity & Foreign Affairs, CHADEMA

Ole Therkildsen, Emeritus Researcher, DIIS

Programme

14:00-14:05      Welcome

                            Ole Therkildsen

14:05-14:25      How is it to be an opposition party in today’s Tanzania?

                            Vincent Mashinji

14:25-14:45      Major political disagreements between CHADEMA and CCM

                            John Mrema

14:45-15:00      Coffee break

15:00-16:00      Q&A

                            Chair: Ole Therkildsen

Practical information

Venue:

DIIS ∙ Danish Institute for International Studies

Gl. Kalkbrænderi Vej 51A – 2100 Copenhagen

The seminar will be in English. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. Please use our online registration form no later than Monday, 26 September 2016 at 10.00 am. Sign up

Briefing the Prime Minister of Bhutan

Briefing the Prime Minister of Bhutan

Following a week of meetings with partners in Bhutan, the Director of DIPD met with the Prime Minister of Bhutan to brief him on the progress made on women in politics and multiparty dialogue.

 When DIPD started its work in Bhutan in early 2012, the Honorable Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan, was the leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly elected in the first democratic elections involving political parties in 2008. Of the 47 seats in the Assembly, his party won only 2 seats, leaving 45 for the ruling party. However, in the 2013 National Assembly elections, roles were turned around. The Peoples’ Democratic Party, led by the Prime Minister, took 32 seats – leaving 15 for the former ruling party of DPT. This was seen as an unexpected victory by many observers. But apart from the fact that the wheels of government changed hands, it also resulted in a better balance of members between the ruling party and the opposition party, which at least in theory should allow for a more vibrant democratic dialogue in this still new democracy of Bhutan.

From the very beginning, the Prime Minister has been a good friend and supporter of DIPD, and he has received the different Danish politicians that have come to share their experiences with our Bhutanese partners over the years. DIPD Director Bjørn Førde was therefore happy to be able to respond positively, when the PM asked if the week of meetings had been useful.

With regard to the support for women in politics through BNEW, the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women, we are still waiting anxiously for the outcome of the 2nd local government elections taking place on 27 September 2016. BNEW has for several years supported women all over the country to come forward and engage in local level politics, and more than 3.000 women have participated in capacity development of different forms. Not all of them have been able to go all the way and stand for election this time around, but we are still positive that the target of a 20% representation could come true on election day. And should this not be the case, it can still be considered a monumental step in the right direction.

DIPD Director meeting with the staff of BNEW, the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women. For the last several months, the staff led by Coordinator Phuntshok Tshering (on the far left) have worked exceptionally hard and travelled the country to support women candidates standing for election in the local government elections.

DIPD Director meeting with the staff of BNEW, the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women. For the last several months, the staff led by Coordinator Phuntshok Tshering (on the far left) have worked exceptionally hard and travelled the country to support women candidates standing for election in the local government elections.

This is also acknowledged by the Prime Minister, who has been very supportive of involving more women in the political life of the country. After becoming PM, he appointed the first woman ever in Bhutan to hold the post of Minister, the Honorable Lyonpo Dorji Choden, who is also the chair of the National Commission on Women and Children, NCWC. She visited Denmark at the invitation of DIPD in 2014, and she has since been an important example of what women in Bhutan can achieve. She is also part of the Bhutan delegation going to Kathmandu to participate in a regional ‘women in politics’ conference on 22-23 September, initiated by DIPD and the multiparty platform in Nepal, JOMPOPS, and hosted by the Parliamentary Committee on Social Justice and Gender Equality.

The Director informed the Prime Minister that a similar regional conference will take place in Bhutan in the first part of 2017, and he indicated that DIPD would be happy to see the key stakeholders in Bhutan cooperate with BNEW on this event – like the NCWC, the Department of Local Government which has been extremely supportive in the work on women in politics, the Parliament and the platform of political parties called Bhutan Democracy Dialogue, BDD.

The exchange of views also touched upon the event organized by the multiparty platform BDD, the Election Commission of Bhutan and DIPD the day before, to celebrate the International Day of Democracy. This involved a debate, moderated by the DIPD Director, among the five parties on the theme of a vibrant and harmonious democracy – the Bhutanese model. One challenge to the new multiparty democracy is the structure established by the Constitution, which involves a primary round election among all registered parties, and then a final run-off among the two doing best in the primary round. This has resulted in two parties being represented and being active in the National Assembly, and presently three parties being relatively inactive on the sidelines.

But as agreed at the end of the meeting, Bhutan is still in the early stages of its transition from monarchy to parliamentary democracy with political parties at the forefront, and it will take time to find its final form. The role of DIPD in this process is to offer ‘ideas that can inspire’, and this has already resulted in many strong friendships and partnerships.

Celebrating The International Day for Democracy with a multi party dialogue September 15, 2016 celebration in Bhutan

Celebrating The International Day for Democracy with a multi party dialogue on a Harmonious Democracy – Towards a Bhutanese Model, September 15, 2016 Bhutan