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An unconventional convention

The small, but ambitious Zambian opposition party, NAREP, kept the doors wide open to the public during their 2nd national convention in December 2016.

By Bent Nicolajsen, Danish Liberal Democracy Programme (DLDP).

It is Saturday morning in a fairly simple assembly hall in a school in of the suburbs of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. The hall is filled with delegates from most corners of Zambia. It is only the second time for the seven years old National Restoration Party to hold a prober convention. Prayers and national anthem has been handled, and the president of Narep, Elias Chipimo Jr., is opening the convention.

Mr. Chipimo is not only welcoming Narep-delegates from 10 out of 11 provinces. He is also acknowledging the presence of several handfuls of journalists as well as various independent observers. It is not the order of day in Zambian politics, that political parties having important meetings like conventions open the doors to the public. That is just one of example of how Narep is trying to preach and practice a different approach to politics in Zambia and in Africa at large.

Venstre - Zambia - NAREP - dec 2016

In his opining speech, Elias Chipimo, mentions three objectives of the convention. First of all, the convention shall decide on a new constitution for Narep. Secondly, the convention will elect a new leadership of the party. Finally, a new strategy for nationwide local mobilsation will be launched.

The passing of a new party constitution is not just a walk in the park for the party leadership. Delegates are not satisfied –among others things with the fact, that they will not get a direct say on who is going to hold which positions in the National Executive Committee. But the leadership shows a great degree of flexibility and the draft constitution is amended to accommodate the wishes of the many vocal delegates who were not happy with it. This move from the leadership changes the atmosphere at the convention completely, and delegates feel that they are being listened to.

With the constitution in place, the gathering can now go on to elect new leaders. Elias Chipimo is reelected for the position as party president with a clear majority but not unopposed. This is democracy at work. A new national executive committee is also elected. The election is happening in a very correct and transparent manner and according to the independent observers present, Narep cannot learn much from the Electoral Commission of Zambia – rather the other way around.

Venstre - Zambia - NAREP - dec 2016

After the election the newly elected National Executive Committee attends a mini-workshop. The new NEC-members share their expectations to the tasks and cooperation in the Committee. They have a discussion on the roles of the NEC and write letters to themselves, which will be kept for one year. At that time the NEC-members will be able to re-visit their hopes and aspirations as newly-elected NEC-members.

The convention ends at a very active note. The Party President, Mr. Elias Chipimo, introduces a new mobilization strategy. The strategy seems to be a very useful tool for the local structures in their preparation for the 2021 general election in Zambia. And since Elias Chipomo is an unconventional leader at an unconventional convention, is he not just speaking to the masses, he is facilitating a process involving the participants.

Life as an opposition party in a first-past-the-post-system like Zambia is not easy. Narep does still not  have any representatives elected at the local or national level. On the other hand, the convention –and the way it was conducted – was important step forward for a small party with big ambitions.

Venstre - Zambia - NAREP - dec 2016

More information

Read more about the Danish Liberal Party’s (Venstre) partnership with NAREP in Zambia.

Contact Programme Manager at the DLDP, Bent Nicolajsen:

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal:

To friends and partners of DIPD


DEPPYN: Maiken Kristensen (LAU), Mahmoud Said (Egypt Freedom) & Ahmed El-Sayed (Egypt Freedom)

Dear friends and partners of DIPD.

Among many inspiring events during 2016, we would like to mention a few highlight: Danish youth politicians visited Myanmar; two regional Women in Politics seminars in Myanmar and Nepal; politicians from Danish municipalities conducted trainings in Kathmandu; party representatives from Palestine, Swaziland, Bhutan, Tanzania and Bolivia visited Denmark.

However, it has been a year of much suffering around the world. The Nordic and Global Political Party Peer Meeting took place at Utøya, where 69 young people meeting in the Social Democratic youth wing were killed in 2011. Welcoming us, the former Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, stressed the importance of protecting the democratic space and values that underpin our work.

Let that be a reminder to all of us that we are part of a global community committed to finding peaceful and democratic solutions to the challenges facing societies and humanity.

On behalf of the DIPD Team, I wish you an enjoyable and peaceful holiday period!


The battle for democracy in the kingdom of Swaziland continues

One of the Social Democratic Party’s most progressive international collaborations is our DIPD-financed partnership with the social democratic party ‘SWADEPA’ in Swaziland. Although the party is only five years old, it has already become an influential force in Swaziland.

This story is written by Charlotte Van Dorn Bernhard, International Intern at the Social Democratic Party, and was originally published in the Social Democratic magazine ”Socialdemokraten” in December 2016.

Many may find it difficult to imagine a Denmark in 1848; a time before our democratic constitution, when our king had absolute power. Seen from a democratic point of view this is the reality in Swaziland today, where the government is appointed by the king; a king who also holds the country’s final power in decision-making. SWADEPA’s mission is to promote social democratic policies to improve the conditions for the people of Swaziland, who are suffering under the current regime. A mission that becomes more real as the party develops – a development that has already given it influence on current legislation and the capability to mobilize other progressive voices in the struggle for a democratic multi-party system.

A partnership with benefits

If you look closer at the party’s development over the last years, it is, according to SWADEPA President, Jan Sithole, impossible to ignore the importance of SWADEPA’s cooperation with the Danish Social Democrats: “This cooperation is the best thing that has ever happened to SWADEPA” Mr. Sithole declares without hesitation. Such a statement is not just empty words but an observation made by a man who has followed the party from it’s very beginning. A journey which has really gained speed since the international cooperation began in 2012. “More than anything the cooperation has enabled us to act out the mandate the party is based on. A mandate to be the needed change and influence, which will benefit both the population and the democratic process” Mr. Sithole explains. He continues: “It has given us the resources to influence legislation on human- and women’s rights, areas that are still highly neglected in our society“.

Jan Sithole (SWADEPA) adressing the Social Democratic Congres.

Jan Sithole (SWADEPA) adressing the Social Democratic Congres.

“We are ready for 2018”

One of the main priorities for SWADEPA and President Jan Sithole is to have the resources to build alliances and thus affect concrete legislative proposals and decisions in parliament. This, the President hopes will be improved by an expected greater acceptance of political parties ahead of the election in 2018: “We see ourselves as an alternative government, but in the case of a lack of majority, we will certainly also be an effective opposition: There is a need for both an accelerator and a brake in a well-functioning system” he concludes.

The youth is the future

Today SWADEPA consists of the mother party, a Women’s Wing and a Youth Wing. The two wings have emerged as the unofficial membership has grown exponentially in recent years, where particularly a large percentage of young people have joined the party. “The cooperation with the Social Democrats has given us the opportunity to reach people in the entire country and to begin a dialogue with them about what it actually means to be a part of a political party. One must remember that the government has demonized political parties as long as people can remember, so there is a lot of preparatory work needed before you can start a democratic process” explains Youth Secretary General Manqoba Zamokuhle Jonga. On the ground the Youth Wing specifically do campaigns at three different levels, beginning with informal meetings with young people in local communities, where after they arrange more permanent and planned activities for those who show interest and desire to participate.

S-SWADEPA partnership

Ideas that can inspire: youth engagement in Denmark

“The young generation will play a key role in the future of Swaziland. Therefore, it is important that SWADEPA has a strong and responsive Youth Wing” Jonga firmly states drawing on his experiences from a recent visit to Denmark: “We have DSU [the Social Democratic Youth of Denmark] to look up to now so both our expectations and ambitions are high”. In September Jonga and four of his fellow activists visited Denmark, where they attended the Youth Folk Meeting and visited DSU Valby to learn more about their way of campaigning. “Denmark as a well-functioning democratic monarchy is a very inspiring country for young Swazis to visit. It was all a great experience – even the small sausage-selling vehicle on the street corner” he concludes, smiling.

More information

Here you can read more about the Social Democratic Party’s ongoing partnership with SWADEPA.

Contact International Consultant at the Social Democratic Party, Iben Merrild:

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal:


Cooperating for a democratic future

In late November 2016, a cross-political delegation with representatives from the Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s party (SF) and their youth organizations travelled to Malawi to meet with the five parties represented in Malawi’s parliament. This is Vice-Chairman in SF Tonni Hansen’s report from the visit.

This article is written by Vice-Chairman in the Socialist People’s Party (SF) Tonni Hansen.

Being politically active has provided me with many joys and challenges. But that I might have been involved in the rewriting of a nation’s history, is something that I never imagined.

The Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Socialist People’s Party (SF) have joined forces to establish a democracy partnership in Malawi. It is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a democracy formed as recently as 1994.

From Denmark, Benedikte Ask Skotte (Liberal Party), Anders Bach Hellerøe (Liberal Youth), Anja Søndergaard (SF Youth) and Marianne Victor Hansen (project leader at SF) joined me on a trip to Malawi, where we had the chance to share how we have developed political youth organizations, and how closely the mother and youth parties now cooperate, while the youth still maintain control of their own political work.

SF Vice-Chairman Tonni Hansen sharing experiences in Malawi.

SF Vice-Chairman Tonni Hansen sharing experiences in Malawi.

In Malawi, we had the chance to meet all five parties represented in Parliament and their young members. We “grown-ups” shared how the Liberal Youth and SF Youth are organized and how they work. We shared how our mother parties approach the collaboration with the youth and the benefits we see in having strong and independent youth parties. Afterwards, the participants formed groups on which they shared challenges and worked together on suggestions for solutions. We finished the day with us “grown-ups” arranging a mock press conference, where we interviewed the party leaders on how they and their party leaderships will take action on the issues the youth had brought up during the day.

Considering that most of the participants are either born or raised in a dictatorship-like one-party system, it was fantastic to experience the commitment they show for developing their own democracy.

Anja Søndergaard (SF Youth) & Anders Bach Hellerøe (Liberal Youth) during visit to Malawi.

Anja Søndergaard (SF Youth) & Anders Bach Hellerøe (Liberal Youth) during visit to Malawi.

Malawi’s young politicians are highly impressive: they defy the structures, the history and their predefined prospects. They have both the will and the ability to form their own future, and they bear the impatience of youth.

After our 3-day “road show”, we were left encouraged by our meeting with the people of this friendly and accommodating country. On our last joint meeting with the party leaderships, we established a forward-looking dialogue on the importance of including youth in democracy.

On the last day of our visit, we participated in a “Youth Camp”, where the participants practiced writing party statutes.

The Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party together with their partners in Malawi.

The Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s Party together with their partners in Malawi.

Every part of the visit went way beyond my expectations. We were told that we contributed to the rewriting of history in Malawi and that the five political parties’ youth organizations will be established within the next year with inspiration from the Danish experiences, we shared. The parties were so happy with our work, that they invited us back in August or September 2017, so they could show us their progress and we could continue our dialogue on how to involve youth in politics in Malawi.

Even though Malawi is far from Denmark, the wish for democracy is universal and therefor equally relevant wherever in the world you are. And even though Benedikte and Anders represented a different ideology than Anja and myself, we still had a fantastic trip in each other’s company, as we are all formed by a shared understanding of the value of a well-functioning democracy.

Tonni Hansen, Vice-Chairman, Socialist People’s Party

YOUTH WINGS: Working together to strengthen youth involvement.

YOUTH WING: Working together to strengthen youth involvement.

More information

Read more about the Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s Party’s ongoing partnership with CMD Malawi and the five political parties.

Contact project leader at SF, Marianne Victor Hansen:

Contact programme manager at the Liberal Party, Bent Nicolajsen:

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal:

Friends and colleagues bid DIPD Director Bjørn Førde farewell

At a reception in the Danish Parliament on December 15, friends and colleagues alike thanked Bjørn Førde for his efforts through 40 years in international development cooperation and for his 6 years as Director of DIPD.

As 2016 turns 2017, Bjørn Førde retires as Director of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, after leading the institute through its first 6 years of existence. After 35 odd years in MS ActionAid and UNDP respectively, Bjørn was named the first director of DIPD upon its formation in January 2011. Before handing over the Director’s chair to Rasmus Helveg Petersen on January 1st 2017, friends, colleagues and partners took the chance to celebrate Bjørn in the heart of the Danish democracy, Christiansborg.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 e

Former minister Eva Kjer Hansen congratulating Bjørn Førde after delivering her speech.

Here members of all the Danish political parties, former ministers, colleagues from the development community and lifelong friends gave him a festive goodbye and offered testimony of the friendly democratic culture that Bjørn has formed DIPD around:

“Under your leadership, DIPD has in many ways been the bearer of the best aspects of the cooperating Danish democracy. Who would have thought, that the Socialist People’s Party and the Liberal Party could run a joint project on youth engagement in Malawi? And who would have thought, that the Danish People’s Party and the Red-Green Alliance trustfully could cooperate on how to best utilize tax payers’ money on democracy support?”, Chairman of DIPD, Henrik Bach Mortensen said.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 b

DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen thanking Bjørn Førde for his 6 years as Director of DIPD.

“Bjørn’s loyalty has not been pledged to one party, but to the democratic space, where political parties can form and unfold. And thereby to all democratic parties, both in Denmark and in all our partner countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

“We thank you and we will miss you”, Henrik Bach Mortensen concluded.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 d

DIPD Director Bjørn Førde at his farewell reception at Christiansborg.

A born globalist

At the end of the reception, Bjørn thanked his guests and all of DIPD’s partners in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, for their part in his career:

“When I applied for my first job at Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (now MS ActionAid), I had no idea how privileged a professional life I would embark on, getting the chance to travel and work all over the world, meeting so many wonderful and inspiring people”.

“I was born a globalist. With a Danish father and Norwegian mother, in the aftermath of the Second World War. This is the place from where I have met the world. And I remain a true globalist.”

The DIPD secretariat, our partners and colleagues wish Bjørn Førde all the best in his retirement.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 a

All smiles as DIPD Director Bjørn Førde gives his farewell speech.