‘It is our experience that people, wherever in the world, want their voices to be heard and be counted.  Hence, the imperative to provide assistance to democracy building.’

Just Peace
President Obama, in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize focused in large part on the concept of a ‘just war’. Yet, his elaboration of the concept of a ‘just peace’ received less attention in the commentary on his substantive speech. In his approach to a just peace, President Obama quoted President Kennedy who once said: “Let us focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions”. He summarized this to entail: strong institutions, support for human rights, investment in development.

European Union accepts framework on democratization
In November the European Union accepted its first policy framework on democracy support (see another article in this newsletter). The framework towards the improvement of democratic governance outlines an Agenda for Action that subscribes to the same three principles -advancing human rights, economic development and building the necessary institutions- in an integrated way. Throughout the past years, NIMD has advocated the need for an EU policy framework on democracy support and provided input.

Working together in CMDs
NIMD supported programmes have contributed to the establishment of new innovative institutions in our partner countries in which the political leadership – from both government and opposition – work together on mapping and implementing democracy reform agendas. These new institutions exist under various names, but are generically referred to as Centers for Multiparty Democracy (CMDs).

The inter-party cooperation in the CMDs does not only result in concrete reform agendas, it also contributes to the building of trust among the key actors in the political processes. The institutions have become catalysts or drivers of change for democratic reform and increasingly function as a link between political society and civil society in pursuing democratization.

Partnership Days

One of the highlights of the NIMD programme last year were the Partnership Days hosted by the Center for Multiparty Democracy – Kenya in June. Partners from 17 countries came together to reflect on the results of our work and the partnership with NIMD. Through story-telling partners shared the outcomes and experiences in their work. Much of that has been recorded and is accessible on www.nimd.org. An interesting new development that emerged, was the drive by our partners to transform the bilateral cooperation with NIMD into a much more international cooperation among the partners themselves. A welcome evolution in a world that is growing smaller and more interdependent every day.

Gradual yes!
In referring to the need for a gradual evolution, Madeleine Allbright warned at a NIMD conference a few years ago in The Hague: gradual yes, glacial no. It is in this spirit that we continue to pursue the cooperation with our partners in the new year. Most partners are deeply involved in pursuing constitutional reforms, amongst which in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, Mali, whereas others are challenged to transform recently accepted new constitutions into new legislation, such as in Bolivia and Ecuador. New political party systems will have to be built in these countries and new balances need to be found between the institutions of deliberative democracy and direct democracy as provided for under the new constitutions. Together with renewing the institutional arrangements and deepening democracy through constitutional process, the institutionalization of political parties and internal party democracy remain at the core of NIMD programmes.

The feedback NIMD receives about its work and how it pursues its mandate will feature high on our agenda in 2010. At the time of writing, two external evaluations are in progress scrutinizing every dimension of the organization and its programme. One of the evaluations includes fieldwork in Guatemala, Mali and Kenya. The evaluations will result into recommendations about NIMDs future work. The results are expected by the spring of 2010 and will feed into a major strategic planning exercise for the next multiannual programme 2011 – 2015.

Looking forward
Building democracy, and providing support for this process, remains a contentious issue because it is not always well understood, it is not always well delivered and, of course, it is fiercely opposed by those who do not believe in democracy. There is also a persistent school of policy-makers who believe that some countries and people are not ready for democracy, that democracy can wait for a later day. However, it is our experience that people, wherever in the world, want their voices to be heard and be counted. Hence, the imperative to provide assistance to democracy building. But we also need to be self-critical about how this assistance is provided. NIMD, therefore, looks forward to this feedback in preparing its future programme following our mandate to advance pluriform democracy.