Background

Democracy starts with dialogue. Our experience has consistently shown that when political groups come together in dialogue, reforms, peace agreements, and nation building all stand a far greater chance of success. NIMD as an organization is the outcome of dialogue and cooperation between seven Dutch political parties, which has a defining impact on the way we work.

Approach

In the course of our work supporting meaningful dialogue that enhances democracy, NIMD has set up and facilitated interparty dialogue platforms around the world. These are safe and informal spaces where dialogue between parties can take root and begin to thrive. Here we bring together actors from all political denominations, so that actors may lay the foundations for working together as an effective democratic government.

Through dialogue, parties can also establish a basic level of trust between one another, and NIMD assists participants as they find consensus on democratic reforms they want to enact. This often translates into real policy change that enhances the democratic system of a country.

For more information on how NIMD uses dialogue to bring parties together, read our related publications below or contact us.

Background

A thriving democracy has parties and institutions that understand the needs of their people, and pass effective legislation to supports those needs. Working as an MP, party officer or campaigner in a multiparty democracy is like every other profession – it requires specific skills and expertise. NIMD works in countries where democracy is young and therefore still fragile. Oftentimes, political actors lack the experience to carry out their role within the context of a democratic society. What’s more, parties can be based on leaders’ personalities rather than genuine political programmes or policies. It is for this reason that NIMD helps political parties and actors to build their capacities in several ways.

Approach

Having supported more than 200 political parties around the world, NIMD has a diverse toolkit to help us in this work. For example, we provide specific support for policy analysis and offer training to help parties develop clear and realistic policy positions. We also bring parties closer to voters by helping them draft manifestos, democratize their candidate selection process, and improve the representation of women and marginalized groups.

To learn more about our work in this area, take a look at the related videos and publications below or contact us.

Democratic innovation

NIMD works with political parties all over the world. Political parties and popular support to parties are not static. It continuously changes, even from election to election depending upon the political situation prevailing on the eve of elections. Therefore, innovation is one of the key aspects in political party assistance.

Technological developments
From apps that promote citizen participation to social media that keep citizens informed, there is no doubt that the role of political parties is changing. We see this both in established democracies as well as in developing democracies. In the United States, President Obama used data to specifically target voters during his 2012 campaign. Another example is DemocracyOS, which is an open source platform that was developed in Argentina a few years ago, that allows citizens to directly participate in policymaking. Other examples include the Arab Spring, where digital and social media was used to expose government corruption and police violence, and the Ushahidi.com initiative in Kenya. This website was put together during the political crisis of 2007-2008 to track outbreaks of ethnic violence in Kenya. Today, it is a professional platform used for monitoring elections.

Exploring examples in the field
These are just a few examples of how innovation and technology is changing the way democracy works and how citizens interact with their governments. NIMD follows these developments and tries to bring together key players in the emerging field of democratic innovation. In December 2016, for instance, we organized a conference on innovating democracy, where organizations from all over the world presented their ideas on the role of political parties and citizens.  In 2016, we also conducted research on participatory budgeting as a form of bridging the growing gap between politicians and the citizenry. It is based on three case studies of participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Maputo, Mozambique.

All this input is used to set up pilots on innovation in our country programmes. By being in the forefront of the debate we ensure that we can provide parties in developing democracies with the latest insights and support them to function effectively in their countries.

Tailor-made education programmes

Political education is one of our instruments to anchor democratic values and ideas in the work practices of politicians of all political currents. NIMD has democracy schools in 11 countries. Our democracy schools aim to further develop democratic skills, knowledge and practice of high-potentials from political parties and civil society to enhance their capacities for constructive, policy-oriented engagement in politics. By bringing these actors together in a multiparty or multi actor setting and allowing them to practice their democratic skills together, we support a culture of meaningful dialogue.

What do democracy schools provide?

Tailor made approach
All the schools are embedded in the local context of the countries we work in. Furthermore, the curricula are tailored to the specific needs and particularities of the country and/or region and are locally developed and carried out by local experts.

Learning by doing
Our curricula provide both a theoretical and practical basis of democratic politics. Furthermore, students engage with actual problems and learn to apply democratic practices in real-life situations. Training courses focus on knowledge and skills development, campaigning and advocacy as well as policy formulation.

Long-term commitment in a multiparty setting
The training courses require long-term and frequent participation. In addition, long-term commitment and working in a multiparty setting are guiding principles of NIMD. We therefore work with participants in multiparty settings, engage them in school activities and design specific alumni activities.

Examples from the field

Background

Over the past fifteen years, NIMD has gained experience in assisting political parties in diverse settings around the globe. One specific context in which NIMD has increasingly been involved is that of fragile and conflict-affected settings: settings in which the political environment is extremely polarised and divided due to a lack of trust among political actors.

This lack of trust, together with the divisions between political groups that characterize such contexts, often has its origins in violent conflict. NIMD’s strategies on political party dialogue and capacity building are highly valued in these settings, where the strengthening of political legitimacy is viewed as a pre-condition for sustainable peace, stability and development.

Defining fragile and conflict-affected settings

NIMD’s use of the word ‘settings’ indicates that fragile and conflict-affected contexts often coincide with state borders but may also pertain to specific areas within a state, or to regions encompassing the borders of several states. Such settings are characterized by two interconnected and mutually re-enforcing elements: fragility and conflict-affectedness.

NIMD’s work in fragile and conflict-affected settings

Based on its overall experience with political parties, NIMD has identified six focus areas in fragile and conflict-affected settings:

1. Building trust between political rivals
2. Supporting the conversion of former armed movements into political parties
3. Fostering inclusive political settlements
4. Working in synchronicity with international conflict-resolution and peace building interventions
5. Advancing women’s political participation
6. Understanding the impact of Illicit networks on politics in fragile and conflict-affected settings

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Looking to the future

International support for the development of political legitimacy in fragile and conflict-affected settings is crucial, but it must also facilitate sustainable local ownership of the political processes. NIMD has developed significant experience with how to engage political parties in such settings. Together with our partner network, we invest in key processes like capacity building, trust building and consensus building.

NIMD wants to further develop specific tools and deepen its skills and expertise to enhance its work in fragile and conflict-affected settings. We are keen to broaden our international network and develop partnerships with other expert organizations that can provide complementary expertise on key focus areas for political party assistance in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

We are always open to new partnerships, linkages and political networks. Please contact us if you would like to discuss and share experiences or explore possible future collaborations.

Approach

An inclusive democracy means that all citizens should feel represented and be heard. However, many political parties across the globe structurally exclude minority and marginalized groups. As a result, the political representation, participation and leadership of women, young people, and members of indigenous and other groups remains low.

That is why diversity and gender equality are important focal points in NIMD’s work. Through our programmes we aim to contribute to the active participation of all groups in society and the equal distribution of power and influence between women and men, regardless of their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic background.

Roadmap to inclusive political parties

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