Political parties are key as well as a key challenge in any democracy. The setting up of DIPD is therefore long overdue in terms of completing the toolbox for development assistance from Denmark in supporting democratic developments.
Appointed the first chairman of the board of DIPD, Henrik Bach Mortensen presents the view that this particular field of support has been lacking in Denmark’s international support to democratic developments in developing countries.
“Political parties play a vital role in a democratic society providing a platform for the likeminded. When successful, parties provide a consolidation of interests in a peaceful and an organizedmanner. At the same time, however, political parties are likely to be the weakest link in a democratic society”, says Henrik Bach Mortensen.
Himself an active member of the Danish liberal Party (Venstre) since the age of 15, Henrik Bach Mortensen speaks from extensive experience.
With the establishment of DIPD, members of Danish political parties can actively engage in the Danish assistance to developing countries. Interview with Henrik Bach Mortensen, chairman of the board of DIPD.
“Parties congregate people, who share the same ideological vision about the society they live in. They have no scientific evidence to back them, nor instruments of power to enforce their vision. They solely rely on the legitimacy granted by the people in the form of memberships or votes in elections.”
One-size does not fit all
“As a consequence there is no one-size-fits-all way to run a party. It all depends on the people involved, the society in which they live and historical and regional circumstances in general. Danish support will therefore be demand-driven, meaning it is up to political parties in any given country to identify and express their needs”, says Henrik Bach Mortensen.
In Denmark it is up to the parties and DIPD to review the requests and offer assistance in areas, where Danish parties and DIPD have particular experiences and insights to offer, stresses Henrik Bach Mortensen.
“All parties in the Danish Parliament have been completely devoted to setting up a system whereby all activities will be based on thorough assessment of needs and a critical eye on what we have to offer, as well as where we might fall short”, he says.
What do Danish parties have to offer?
According to the strategy of DIPD, support to sister parties, i.e. between parties in Denmark and a given nation that share the same ideological standpoint, as well as multiparty support should seek to benefit the organisation of a party or the party system as a whole.
Within this context Henrik Bach Mortensen believes that Danish parties have much to offer in terms of organisational setups, the relation between the constituencies and the headquarter of a party, constituency building and advocacy campaigns as well as participatory approaches to formulating party programs.
In terms of the political system, he stresses the long-standing Danish tradition for political exchange in a peaceful and orderly manner and to cordially basically agree to disagree.
Meetings are crucial
This is where the involvement of Danish politicians is absolutely key, explains Henrik Bach Mortensen. Again speaking from many years of experience within his own international network of liberals:
“The meeting between individuals, the conversation between likeminded forms the perfect setting for exchange of experiences. Peer-to-peer is where we learn, because we are driven by a self-interest to learn from others in order to improve our own performance”, he says with conviction.
“DIPD has no intention of exporting or transplanting the Danish way in any country. Quite the contrary, says Henrik Bach Mortensen. From his professional work in The Confederation of Danish employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening), he knows better than most that it is a dead end.”
For a number of years he hosted guests from abroad who came to Denmark to learn about the way, in which the Danish labour market works – the so-called “Flexicurity” model. But Henrik Bach Mortensen soon found that the context on the ground in each country is so complex that it made no sense to blindly copy the Danish model to another country.
“In terms of the mission of DIPD, we will represent one among several offers to parties in developing countries. We may offer our advice and share our experiences based on a Danish historical context, but at the end of the day, our partners should be in the driving seat in terms of telling us, how – if at all – we can help.”
DIPD five years on
Indicators of success will be set up for each activity approved for funding through or by DIPD. In terms of the success of the concept of party support overall, Henrik Bach Mortensen says:
“It’s an illusion to expect results within the first phase. But it is my hope and ambition that we will be able to demonstrate the ability and the necessary professional skills to operate in this field.”
Asked whether DIPD will exist beyond its first three years, Henrik Bach Mortensen nods with determination:
“The accumulated need for support to political parties is well documented, and the commitment among Danish political parties to engage actively leaves no doubt in my mind that DIPD is here to stay.”