Westminster Foundation for Democracy is the UK’s leading democracy-strengthening organisation. We bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.
Our initial goal was to provide support to political parties in Eastern European countries transitioning to democracy. In the 2000s we supplemented our political party programmes by developing a speciality in strengthening parliamentary capacity at both national and sub-national levels. And in recent years we’ve developed a new ‘integrated’ programme concept which combines our two areas of expertise, helping political parties operate more effectively within parliaments.
WFD receives a core grant from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in three-year cycles; the current cycle runs from 2015 to 2018. We use this to ensure a permanent presence in the countries where we operate. This gives our staff a strategic, politically astute view of the contexts we operate in.
Our vision is of the universal establishment of legitimate and effective multi-party representative democracy. We can contribute to this by supporting inclusive governance which strengthens policy-making, accountability, representation and citizen participation.
Many countries around the world are keen to engage with WFD because they want to hear about the British experience. Rather than engaging in large, one-size-fits-all programmes with expensive components, we tailor bespoke programmes which makes small but significant improvements to that country’s democracy – and pave the way for bigger changes.
Our belief is that it’s possible to make substantive improvements to a parliament even in very challenging circumstances. We’re focused on a country’s current situation to aid our context analysis – because we’re interested in where a country is heading and how we can help it get there.
All our 2016 programmes take this approach. Highlights include:
Improving the way political parties operate within the Ghanaian Parliament via an integrated programme utilising UK-Ghana sister-party relationships
Assisting the Georgian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee as it scruntinises the Government’s work towards its Association Agreement with the EU
Working to support the development of the Kurdistan Parliament in Iraq’s Anti-Corruption Committee
Promoting gender equality by supporting of Coalition of MENA Women MPs Against Domestic Violence; engaging with political parties in Bosnia to increase the number of women in politics; and combating FGM, property violations and sexual violence against women in Uganda.
PARTNERING WITH US
WFD has gained a reputation for being a flexible and imaginative implementer, ready to respond rapidly with new initiatives tailored to meet specific political situations.
Now we’re looking to grow our business beyond our core funding and so are open to partnering opportunities as they arise.
Once we’ve identified the countries where our expertise in parliamentary strengthening can have the greatest impact, we look to work with others to make them a success. We finance these by using money from our core grant or by bidding for additional funds, either by ourselves or as part of a consortium. We’ve previously run successful programmes in collaboration with key partners including the EU, UNDP, the British Council, the Arab Partnership Fund, the NIMD and GIZ.
Our portfolio is already expanding as we grow our revenue beyond our core funders, winning contracts from the EU and other donors in countries like Macedonia, Georgia, Morocco and Pakistan.
By operating in more countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, Europe, Central Asia and Africa, WFD is now leaving a bigger footprint than ever before.
By mid-2016 we will operate parliamentary strengthening programmes in about 22 countries, and fund political party programmes in around 40 countries.
WFD plays an important role in election observation, recruiting and training British participants in EU and OSCE observation missions. By training both short-term and long-term observers we give them the skills they need to scrutinise the entire process in order to provide an impartial and independent overview of every aspect of an election.
Our work is underpinned by a solid evidence base which ensures we operate in the most effective way possible. We’ve signed a partnership with the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford which looks to translate the expertise of our implementers into substantive research. WFD is financing a post-doctoral research fellow whose work will examine the political economy of democracy promotion, inform our programming and reinforce the evidence base around democracy-strengthening. We’re also sharing this knowledge via the Westminster Community of Practice, a network of the UK’s democracy assistance community which will raise the sector’s profile among donors.
If you wish to contribute to the conversation about democracy-strengthening – and reinforcing the evidence base which supports our sector – please get in touch.