Will, space, capacity – keys to building democratic parties

A leading democracy assistance group has launched a new set of tools to help improve the effectiveness of programs to support the development of democratic political parties.

The Toolkit, published by the National Democratic Institute, includes a Political Party Programming Guide and a Context Analysis Tool.  Together, they incorporate accumulated expertise in party assistance as well as the latest innovations in development aid.

The Toolkit is built around the Will, Space, Capacity Framework, which provides a structured approach for examining key factors that influence political party behavior: 

  • Political space: the environment in which political parties operate and how they interact with it;
  • Political will: the incentives that influence political parties and the individual actors within them; and
  • Capacity: the skills and resources that parties need to compete in elections, propose policies and contribute to governance.

ndi toolsThese publications: 

  • Explain the functions parties through which parties fulfill their representative roles in democracies;
  • Outline which principles and core competencies parties need to fulfill that role democratically;
  • Describe three key drivers that can be used to better understand party behavior and prospects for more democratic behavior; and
  • Include tools to help party assistance providers analyze diverse political, social and economic contexts, design effective assistance programs and improve monitoring and evaluation.

 The publications were funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Further information here.

Euromaidan’s ‘new faces’ enter Ukraine politics

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-CRISIS-OPPOSITION-MARCHThousands of Muscovites marched through the streets of the capital Sunday to protest what they see as Russia’s role in fueling the Ukraine conflict, the Moscow Times reports  

As in Moscow’s past protests, statistics of the event varied greatly among different sources. Moscow police estimated that some 5,000 protesters had taken part in the protest, while Russia’s Union of Observers said that more than 26,000 people had in fact taken to the streets. Organizers had hoped up to 50,000 people would turn out to protest Russia’s policies towards Ukraine, which they described as “irresponsible and aggressive.” 

One of the key hopes emanating from the Euromaidan movement was that “new faces” would enter politics, thereby broadening citizen participation in democratic politics, according to the report of an international delegation organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI):

The delegation was gratified to see that several political parties espousing “Euromaidan ideals” are participating in the parliamentary elections. In addition, many young civil society activists and journalists who were active on the Maidan have joined the proportional lists of more established parties. Explaining their motivations for entering politics, these young people cited a sense of personal responsibility for the democratic future of their country and a conviction that they can and should have influence over decisions made on their behalf.

“The 2015 local elections and the ongoing campaign for electoral reform may present further opportunities for a new generation of political leaders to emerge,” the report suggests. “These trends offer encouraging evidence that the energy of Euromaidan is being channeled into constructive and sustainable modes of political engagement.”

The calculus on the Kremlin’s side is certainly that if it implants a frozen conflict – similar to the ones in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia – this will give it in the long run leverage over Ukraine’s development, over its domestic reform process, and over its external international affiliations, according to Dr. Joerg Forbrig, a transatlantic fellow for Central and Eastern Europe at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin:

This calculation doesn’t work 100 percent in light of the Georgian experience for instance, or Moldova. Both Georgia and Moldova have made considerable progress in their association with the European Union despite the fact that both of them have a frozen conflict on their territory. Although there will basically be a frozen state or conflict in the east of Ukraine, this still doesn’t mean automatically that the reform process or the association with the European Union has to be stalled.

International Day of Democracy: Global Legislative Openness

glowTo mark today’s International Day of Democracy, the National Democratic Institute is helping to organize around issues of legislative openness.

The Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW) is being organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which is co-anchored by NDI and the Chilean Congress. The full calendar of activities, which will run from September 15 to 25, is listed here, although a few events are still being added by additional partners.

Mobile technology and social media are changing the way that citizens engage in politics. At the same time, however, many tradition-bound representative institutions have been slow to harness the power of technology to improve legislative transparency or to open the legislative process to greater citizen participation. GLOW is intended to help highlight this issue and to share information on good practices around legislative openness. Parliaments and civil society organizations in more than a dozen countries are participating in GLOW through in-country events or by helping to share information online regarding their legislature’s efforts to become more transparent and to better engage citizens.  

Several organizations are also using GLOW to advocate for greater legislative transparency in their countries. The Sunlight Foundation is coordinating a number of advocacy efforts to coincide with the event, including this letter which has been translated into multiple languages and will be sent to presiding officers of legislatures and parliaments around the world. NDI has not signed on to the letter because it is not a parliamentary monitoring organization, but it is supportive of the effort. To date, the letter has been endorsed by more than 80 organizations in more than 40 countries.  

While there will be a fair amount of activity on the hashtag throughout the week, there are several “tweet talks” being held using the hashtag at specific times throughout the week:  

  • Sept. 19, 10-11 AM EST/ 6-7 PM Tbilisi: Money in Parliaments, Best Practices for Financial Disclosure, moderated by Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International Georgia.
  • Sept. 22, 10-11 AM EST:  What Commitments Can Your Legislature Make? Expanding Open Government Partnership Action Plans, moderated by the National Democratic Institute.
  • Sept. 23, 3-4 AM EST/ 9-10 AM Prague/5-6 PM Sydney: Analyzing and Visualizing Parliamentary Data, moderated by KohoVolit.eu.

Please feel free to follow and participate in these discussions and to follow the hashtag throughout the week.    

More information on the week’s events can be found at openparl2014.org, or by contacting Sarah Welsh on NDI’s governance team at swelsh@ndi.org.  

Democratic governance ‘gives Africa a face-lift’


President Obama announced billions of dollars in new public and private investment in Africa’s rapidly growing markets — on everything from construction to banking to clean energy infrastructure — at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, PBS reports. Gwen Ifill (above) talks to Chris Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute and Torek Farhadi International Trade Centre about the growing partnership.

A wave of attachment to democratic governance across Africa has given the continent a face-lift, says Fomunyoh:

Obviously, the narrative still needs to be fully written. And there are still countries that are struggling both in terms of economic development, as well as with democratization and putting in place institutions that can really guarantee that a lot of this worth that is generated through trade and investment can actually be spread to the African populations that really need it the most.

However, when you look back at what has transpired in the continent in the last 10 — in the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been a lot of — there’s a success story that can be told for most of Africa

NDI is one of the core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Afghanistan fraud charges ‘may jeopardize democratic transition’




Afghanistan‘s presidential election has been plunged into crisis after one candidate demanded a halt to vote counting, suspended cooperation with election authorities and called for a UN commission to mediate over “blatant fraud”, The Guardian reports:

It was an unexpectedly strong challenge to an election that had initially been celebrated as a qualified success, with high turnout in both the first round and a 14 June run-off, despite Taliban threats and violence.

Former foreign minister and mujahideen doctor Abdullah Abdullah had already signalled that he was unhappy about preliminary turnout figures for the second round, and wary of large leaps in voter numbers in the strongholds of his rival Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat.

The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Fahim Naime called on the electoral commissions and presidential candidates not to harm the election process, Deutsche Welle reports.

“We call on the IEC and Abdullah Abdullah to resolve this issue as soon as possible, because as time passes the crisis deepens. If it continues this way, we might reach a point where the commissions won’t be able to resolve these problems,” Naim told DW. He also called on the IEC to take steps in order to restore trust with Abdullah Abdullah.

“In the meantime the candidates should respect the votes of the people and not take such actions that can harm the election process,” Naime said.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, says in a DW interview Abdullah has made a dramatic accusation while presenting no substantive evidence. In order to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, Kugelman adds, Afghan election officials probably won’t start to investigate these allegations until the vote counting process has concluded.

An election observer mission from the US-based National Democratic Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] concluded two days after the poll that “the problems it observed did not appear to be widespread or systematic”.