Shaping democracy: Update from WFD’s openDemocracy debate

In February 2016 Westminster Foundation for Democracy launched our editorial partnership with openDemocracy with the goal of seeking to encourage a discussion about democracy assistance.

From torture in Georgia to corruption in Mongolia, a range of issues have arisen from the debate since our last update in June. Here’s a quick overview of the direction the debate has taken…

Mari Valdur, previously of SOAS and currently on the Doctoral Programme in Anthropology at the University of Helsinki, shines a light on some of the realities for citizens living in transitioning democracies. With the spotlight on Mongolia, the role of corruption and how this shapes citizens’ perceptions on what democracy can bring was analysed.

“While people say it’s very nice to have democracy, the reality is that [our] salaries are among the lowest in the world. The government provides very minimal services to citizens.”

WFD is proud of the support we have given to the Georgian Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, tasked with reporting on the torture violations exposed in Georgian prisons by civil society and international NGOs. Mairi Mackay, Senior Editor at openDemocracy, met with Eka Beselia, Chair of the Committee and former public defender, to discuss the systematic torture taking place in Georgia’s prison system before 2012.

“After that, [the] repression [started]. I remember when I met the prisoners, they had always been tortured. We defenders could not help [them], because this happened everywhere, it was a systematic programme.”

In the most recent piece, Bram Dijkstra, policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute, introduces the idea of election observation and the weight international organisations hold in pushing for compliance with international standards.

“Foreign donors must pay attention to the rapid release of the rule of law – and the EU should lead them. The EU, together with its member states, is Zambia’s biggest donor of foreign aid, a major trade partner, and maintains regular political dialogue with Zambian authorities.”

If you want to respond to any of these articles, get in touch by emailing mairi dot mackay @ opendemocracy.org.

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Young people need democracy – and democracy needs young people

(Above: Social media training with Youth Ambassadors from the East African Legislative Assembly)

Well-functioning democracies can help young people tackle the biggest problems they face – and Westminster Foundation for Democracy is working to help them do so.

But across all kinds of democracies, the disconnect between young people and those that represent them seems to be growing.

Just look at the recent EU referendum vote in Britain. Despite being a decision which would impact on young people’s future for decades to come, fewer people aged between 18 and 24 turned out to vote than did those aged over 65.

Across the Atlantic, both the Democrat and Republican parties have seen popular anti-establishment candidates driven in part by dissatisfied young voters.

And in the Middle East and Africa, young people out of work are demanding to know why youth unemployment is not being tackled – and increasingly using social media to make their dissatisfaction heard.

Young people need effective and inclusive governance because policies in areas like education, climate change, healthcare and job security will have a fundamental impact on their futures. The young face huge debts, inadequate services and a planet whose natural resources are quickly running out. Engaging in politics is key to ensuring that what they care about is addressed.

At the heart of much of WFD’s programming is an effort to involve young people. Their representation and involvement in the political process lies at the core of an effective democracy.

So this International Youth Day we wanted to highlight some of the ways we’re supporting young people’s engagement in politics. Here are five examples which show what WFD does for young people around the world.

(Above: Africa Liberal Network at London Youth Academy 2016)

Political party youth networks

Youth engagement features prominently across the work of all the political parties whose programmes are supported by WFD.

From the Labour Party support to young social democrats in Moldova to the Conservative Party development of the International Young Democrat Union, long-term efforts are being made to train the next generation of political activists.

Supporting and developing the skills of young people to play an active and effective role in party politics, decisions, and representation at local, national and international levels is fundamental to political party youth networks.

Take the Liberal Democrats support to the Democratic Alliance’s Young Leaders Programme in South Africa. This year they want to build on their previous success, by cultivating a new generation of emotionally intelligent and politically astute leaders within the Democratic Alliance and contributing to South Africa’s political future.

Children’s rights are human rights

Young people can be excellent advocates for change. When given the right encouragement, they can be shown how to engage with parliament and be real champions for progress on human rights.

Civil society organisations supported by WFD’s Macedonia programme are seeking legislative change on a range of issues which affect young people. They’re seeking better child marriage laws and legislation outlawing discrimination in educational institutions.

By showing young people how to achieve change by getting involved in changing legislation that impacts on them, WFD is raising awareness amongst young people in Macedonia about their rights.

An active civil society which can lobby parliament effectively to achieve changes in legislation will also show young people it’s possible to get involved in politics outside of political parties.

(Above: Ben Jones participating in the EU election observation in Guinea)

Training the next generation of election observers

Ensuring elections take place without corruption or manipulation is a fundamental part of any democracy.

WFD wants its cohort of observers to be truly representative of all parts of society, which is why we’re so committed to encouraging young people to be involved in this process.

It was great to see the level of participation from young people at WFD’s training, held in January 2016, on election observation methodology.

Ben Jones , one of WFD’s youngest election observers has participated in missions from Gabon to Serbia, and found the training in January extremely useful. He now wants to share the principles he learnt at the training with the election observation organisation he works with, AEGEE, who are committed to empowering young Europeans to make a direct personal contribution to democracy as election observers.

Advocating for Iraqi children’s future

Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s support for Dar Al- Khebra Organisation (DKO), a think-tank based in Baghdad, has led to numerous policy proposals being put forwards which had the promise of helping young people, from legislative ideas protecting orphans to proposals to improve the country’s national curriculum.

One promising policy change now submitted for consideration within the Iraqi Education Ministry is a legislative amendment which would finance a major push to improve Iraq’s schools infrastructure.

This potential change in policy has not yet occurred – yet by influencing the Council of Representatives and the executive, the WFD-supported DKO is helping improve representation of young people’s interests.

Our new programming in the country works to support the country’s Anti-Corruption Commissions, which will also help its representative institutions better represent the interests of Iraq’s youth.

Engaging Youth Ambassadors with the East Africa Legislative Assembly

Understanding how young people communicate is key to getting them more involved in politics – especially in the context of rapid growth in social media.

The commitment of the East Africa Legislative Assembly to reach out to citizens, especially the young, has led it to seek to modernise its approach to communications with WFD’s support.

Our programme trained EALA Youth Ambassadors on the importance of social media and how this can be used for three-way interaction between civil society organisations, citizens and the Assembly.

Videos and a new website accompanied the training in a bid to increase knowledge amongst young people about what the Legislative Assembly could do for them.

Young people bring an enthusiasm for innovation and change where communications technology is concerned. This should inspire politicians to connect through the channels that are the most effective.

This is exactly what has happened at the East African Legislative Assembly. It’s the kind of change which WFD, committing to improving the representation and engagement of young people around the world, is delighted to have helped bring about.

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The Cost of Politics: From selection to election

(Above: Rushanara Ali, MP and Vice-Chair of WFD’s Board of Governors, moderates the first panel of the day with the authors of the case studies in Macedonia (Gordan Georgiev) and Nigeria (Adebowale Olorunmola).)

On Monday July 18th WFD launched new research into the cost of parliamentary politics, exploring six case studies assessing the situation in Macedonia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.

“How do we make politics more affordable?” was the central question being asked by George Kunnath, WFD’s Regional Director for Africa and Europe, at our conference exploring the increasing cost of politics.

Take Ghana. As George explained, “people have done the numbers and realised it is not worthwhile for them to get into politics” – especially when an MP is compelled to spend £750 a month supporting funerals in their communities. These associated costs mean political life is intrinsically linked to corrupt practice, whether through securing re-election through the exploitation of state resources or the increased power that comes with the role.

Our new research project explores the whole cycle faced by candidates – from getting nominated to fighting the campaign and maintaining a parliamentary seat – and what associated costs individuals face at each stage of this journey.

Getting nominated – how to get on the ballot?

Gordan Georgiev, former MP in Macedonia and author of the research into the cost of politics case study, explained the crucial role that political parties play in the selection process for candidates.

“Getting on the ballot has certain costs,” he explained. “Some are typical, some are pretty innovative and some are surprising” – like the 30,000-80,000 euro cost to change your party membership, or the ability to buy 100,000 votes for ten million euros. This climate, Gordan argued, is responsible for the lowest levels of trust in politicians across Europe to date.

Adebowale Olorunmola, author of the Nigerian case study, said trust is also an issue in Nigeria. He pointed to the “gulf between the parties and people” that currently exists. It’s a gulf created in part by the huge costs associated with selection, but also by the motivations of current politicians who “get into political office to serve personal interests, leaving well-intentioned citizens, with ideas to move society forward, without access”. In Nigeria, to simply get on the ballot paper you must pay an initial 25 million naira fee (approximately £64,000).

(Above, left to right: Lisa Klein, formerly of UK Electoral Commission, Jamie Hitchen, Africa Research Insitute and WFD’s Director of Research Graeme Ramshaw)

Fighting the campaign

With the initial costs of getting on the ballot being so high, it’s equally – if not more – damaging that the expected levels of spending associated with running a campaign are also excessive.

Campaigning costs in Britain remain relatively low. “The UK is quite blessed to have an affordable political system,” George Kunnath explained in the opening address. Elsewhere, however, running a campaign can be so costly that it creates a barrier to access, as our second panel of the day found.

Jamie Hitchin, from the Africa Research Institute, drew on the recent Ugandan elections as an example, where “money trumps ideology” as the success factor for political parties. One hundred and seventy-five million US dollars were spent in Uganda by all parties in the run-up to the most recent presidential elections. This, Jamie added, was almost double the health budget in Uganda for 2015/16.

These high costs associated with running for office undeniably shape citizens’ perceptions of their representatives and what is expected of them – generating money for election, not improving public services for all.

Jamie added that the cost of politics and associated corruption is driven not just by politicians giving out money, but also by “citizens who are expecting to be given money” during a campaign. Changing this attitude is key to changing the associated cost of politics and making it more accessible.
The costs of sitting in Parliament

The challenge of raising the funds to run a successful campaign places huge pressure on elected representatives to recover some of their expenses when in office, either financially or through their patronage and privileges.

The cultural context and perceptions of the role of an MP emerged as a recurrent theme throughout the day. Emma Crew, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, argued that the relationship between politicians and constituents is key to decreasing the cost of politics and making it more accessible. “By deepening democracy beyond parliament and strengthening civil society, including the capacity for research and scrutiny,” Emma suggested, will be vital to changing attitudes on what the role of a sitting politician is.

This anthropological approach was supported by Kojo Asante, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Democratic Development in Ghana, who acknowledged that “if you don’t understand why people carry on doing what they are doing” then change will be difficult to achieve.

He pointed to Ghana’s “interesting cultural sanctions”. MPs are expected to pay for office space, textbooks and funerals. If they do not, they risk forfeiting the community’s support when it comes to re-election. This shifts the focus, Kojo said, from governing and providing adequate services for constituents to “always preparing for the next election”.

(Above: Emma Crewe, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, delivers a presentation about the anthropological elements that contribute to the cost of politics.)

Steps towards reform?

Attitudes, cultural practice and expectation clearly play such a fundamental role in shaping citizens’ expectations of parliaments – so addressing them, particularly within broader global anti-corruption reform efforts, should not be ignored.

Enforcement and regulation of party finance was a key theme throughout the day, but as Peter Wardle, former CEO of the UK Electoral Commission explained, this is not always enough. “You introduce rules, and people find a way to get around them,” he said, referring to his experience of introducing party finance legislation in the UK. “You can have the best rules in the world, the UK rules look good – but if you can’t enforce them they do not work.”

This is where parliaments can come in to help fight corruption at any level. “Parliaments are part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Phil Mason, Senior Anti-Corruption Adviser at the Department for International Development, said. Something as simple as effective note-taking, like the UK’s Hansard, can go a long way to explaining “what those functions [of parliament] are, of educating people about the roles and functions of MPs and parliaments”.

Stephen Twigg, MP and Chair of the International Development Committee concluded that political parties – a major part of WFD’s work – are part of the solution too. “They can help get a range of people in to politics,” demonstrating how important WFD’s work with parliaments and political parties is in addressing corruption.

Following the UK anti-corruption summit in May, Britain is taking the lead on the global stage in addressing this issue. Now, thanks to this research project, the UK has opened up another avenue to explore change.

 

The six country case studies and synthesis report are available here. 

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From Georgia to Westminster: The reform of human rights committees

(Above, Left-right: Nicole Piché (Coordinator All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights), Eka Beselia (Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee in Georgia),  Anthony Smith (CEO, WFD), Les Allamby (Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission))

“Parliaments share a responsibility to protect and realise human rights,” notes WFD’s new research paper sizing up parliamentary performance on this critical issue. As Georgia’s positive experience shows, effective oversight of human rights can make a big difference.

The findings of the report were the subject of the fourth meeting of the Westminster Community of Practice in the Houses of Parliament this week.

Ms Eka Beselia, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee in Georgia, kicked off the discussion by explaining how WFD’s programme supporting the Committee to engage with civil society had benefited from the assessment.

She spoke of the absence of “institutional experience” within the Georgian Parliament to tackle human rights abuses when she started in her role as Chair in 2012. But now, she said, people see the work of the committee “as a normal and ordinary process”.

The paper, ‘Strengthening Parliamentary Capacity for the Protection and Realisation of Human Rights’, presented the findings of assessments into the effectiveness of parliamentary human rights committees in Macedonia, Serbia, Tunisia, Uganda and Ukraine, as well as Georgia.

The research is based on the outcomes of an ‘assessment tool’ developed by WFD, in partnership with the Parliaments, Rule of Law and Human Rights project at the University of Oxford.

Reform was “very difficult”, Ms Beselia added, “but if you want to change reality, it is possible.” The Georgian Parliament’s acceptance of the recommendations from the Georgian Human Rights Committee based on the WFD assessment tool demonstrates this.

However, this success does not detract from the difficulty of seeking initial reform on a sensitive and decisive subject. This was something which Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Nicole Piché, the coordinator and legal adviser for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights in Westminster, both had experience of.

Les recalled the “long and slow, but nonetheless important, journey with bumps in the road” that Northern Ireland embarked on following the end of conflict there. He spoke passionately about engaging parliaments on human rights work. Rather than dictating views on human rights, he urged the importance of starting “where people are, and gently persuade them over to international standards.”

This approach was supported by Nicole, who outlined how the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights participates in “frank but respectful exchanges” with representatives from countries with poor human rights records. Giving “credit where credit is due” is essential, Nicole believes, especially when considering the “long road, with obstacles that can be frustrating, unpopular and time-consuming” that developing countries have to embark on.

Both praised Eka Beselia and her colleagues for their work on the Georgian Human Rights Committee, agreeing that political will was vital when seeking any reform to the parliamentary response to protecting human rights.

Ms Beselia explained how the political will in Georgia changed after the 2012 elections. The systematic problems with key institutions like the judiciary, police and penitentiary in Georgia led to “society wanting to change human rights standards.” Nicole Piché added that “entrenched vested interests are hard to change” without political will and the support of citizens.

Engaging citizens in the work parliaments do on human rights can be challenging. However, Les Allamby suggested that placing an emphasis on economic and social rights, can help put civil and political rights on the agenda. He emphasised the need to find out “what resonates with people’s lives, and start there.”

And this applies in Northern Ireland as much as it does in Georgia or Uganda, demonstrating what WFD has to offer transitioning and developing countries the most. “The UK,” as Anthony Smith concluded, “has a real diversity and richness of experience working on human rights which is good to share and learn from.”

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Cost of politics Q&A: How do we make political systems affordable?

Ahead of 18 July’s #CostOfPolitics conference, WFD’s Europe and Africa Regional Director George Kunnath has been explaining his approach to this emerging problem – and explaining how we’ll explore it next month.

When and where did you first identify the cost of politics as an important issue that needed more attention?

The first time I started to think about this was several years back in Ukraine, when it became very obvious to me that the majority either came from wealth or was linked to wealth. It was just impossible for an average person to ever make their way into the Ukrainian Parliament, which was affecting its legitimacy. By 2009 the Verkhovna Rada was seen as a place where wealthy people bought positions so as to acquire immunity. The disruption of Maidan reflected this frustration. I slowly began to realise that when the cost of buying your way into politics begins to exclude or marginalise the majority of citizens, it becomes counterproductive to democracy and affected the parliamentary culture within a country.

This issue isn’t just confined to Ukraine, though. You must have realised quickly the cost of politics had similar effects elsewhere.

The countries where this really spoke to me next were Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. The context is different in each, but the impact of the rising cost of politics on the incentives which drive MPs was becoming increasingly clear in all of them. What we were starting to see was the linkage between the cost of politics and the behaviour of MPs. As the cost of politics increases, the behaviour of the MPs changes as they seek to recoup their initial investment.

How can you prove this is the case, though?

WFD has commissioned six case studies examining the situation in the four countries mentioned so far, plus Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. We’re seeking to establish the reality – whether there’s any degree of evidence which underpins what so far has just been a hunch. We’re aware that our case studies don’t provide the depth of research one would want as definitive proof. But maybe they are a step towards a discussion and debate which could prompt much more in-depth research. These case studies give us an idea of what the drivers of the costs are and the sources of funding. They will help frame the direction of subsequent in-depth studies.

How will we discuss these issues in the Cost of Politics conference on 18 July?

What we’ve decided to do is structure the conference around three key areas that are emerging from the case studies.

One of them deals with political parties’ internal governance – how parties are using things like primaries as a means to fleece their members in order to build up war chests. In some instances the primaries are becoming as expensive as the election.

Party financing is a big issue. It needs to be discussed, and openly. It matters to WFD because future programming cannot happen without understanding what’s happening with the parties.

The second area of focus is around the rising costs of campaigning and access to the media during election campaigns. This is an area where innovation can help. Some of the lessons from the UK, which holds elections at a fraction of the price of countries like the US, could be pertinent here.

The third area will focus on the ‘fourth role of an MP’. What is becoming evident is that there is a growing demand, especially in third-world countries, for MPs to provide welfare assistance to their communities paying for funerals, weddings, school fees etc. Normally in the developed world, the state provides welfare support. In the developing world people have tried to find mechanisms such as constituency development funds to try and alleviate the burden this places on MPs but with this has come a range of accountability challenges. We need to discuss this openly, recognise it, and think how best parliaments can work with MPs to address citizens’ often unrealistic expectations. In some cases, MPs do not want to visit their constituencies because they know they will struggle to meet their supporters’ expectations.

Once we have explored these three areas, we will hold a discussion about how the UK can respond to these challenges, and what best practice can be shared.

Tickets are still available, of course.

But they’re running out, so you’d better get yours booked quick.

What’s different about this approach? Isn’t political financing an issue which has already received a lot of attention?

Much political finance work is focused on the electoral process. Our approach to cost of politics is different in the sense that we’re looking at the impact of finances from the perspective of an individual’s entry into public life. The costs associated with this throughout his or her term in office is what matters, not just the costs at elections time.

It’s about applying the logic of an investment approach to a political career. Politicians spend so much to gain a position held for five years; they either end that period with a net gain or net loss. If it’s a net gain, a political career becomes attractive; in some cases if the perception is that politics is rewarding it could lead to increased competition for the wrong reasons. If this is a net loss, many people will be discouraged from entering politics. Our methodology is to ask not just those who have succeeded in this, but also those who have failed to win elections too. We are asking those who are leaving parliament and not returning to contribute. These veterans, of course, have less to lose in being open and honest about the costs of their political career.

Why should organisations committed to democracy-strengthening care about the cost of politics?

I’m a strong believer in conducting effective political economy analysis, because we need to understand the politics around the work that we do. Because our work is political, it is most successful when there is political will – a factor commonly driven by incentives. What we’re learning is that a lot of these incentives are set well in advance and the cost of politics plays an important role in determining the incentives.

This sounds very relevant to the current focus on tackling corruption following the UK Prime Minister’s London Summit on the issue in May 2016.

Often people talk about the link between political finance, the cost of politics and corruption. But we need to avoid an approach that this is about fighting corruption. Instead this is all about developing political systems that are affordable. By making political systems affordable, the need for corrupt practices is reduced. The spirit of our work and the spirit of our conference on July 18th is to try and help countries develop affordable political systems which mean that anyone can enter politics. I do believe most people enter politics for noble reasons, but the reality of the environment forces them down the path of corruption.

What can Westminster Foundation for Democracy offer to assist in this work?

We are uniquely placed to work with political parties and parliaments to openly and transparently help bring around change.

The factors driving corruption are set well in advance, right there at the beginning with the cost of politics.

If you don’t address this issue, when politicians do come to power they will find ways around the system. That’s the reality. So what we want to do is motivate donors, politicians and everyone else to invest in the harder problem of dealing with the root causes. We want to encourage donors to invest in innovative, sensitive and politically smart projects which can help address these issues. Yes, these are complex and very sensitive issues, but it will be worth it.

Finally, you were in Prague in April for the launch of the Political Financing Community of Practice. What were your impressions?

I think IFES did a great job in convening the community of practice. WFD hopes to host the next meeting of the community following the cost of politics conference. What we need to recognise is that the issues of political financing are many and partners have to work together to have a positive impact. The community of practice is a great way to share knowledge and experiences. We also need to recognise that each country is different and would require a different approach but if we understand each other’s strengths we could all work together to find solutions.

 

 

Photo: Thomas: Coins 
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Uganda is in transition – to a stronger democracy

After an election campaign unlike any of its predecessors, it’s clear Uganda is changing.

Its citizens want a more effective, inclusive governance – and organisations like Westminster Foundation for Democracy can help them achieve this.

Most observers expected that Yoweri Museveni would be returned to power to begin a fifth presidential term. Cynics might suggest this – and the accompanying controversies surrounding polling day and its aftermath – means nothing but business as usual. But as the campaign which preceded it showed, Uganda’s democracy is steadily developing.

For the first time, Uganda’s elections were dominated by three genuine contenders jostling for position. They were vying for support from young voters who are just as interested in what Uganda will look like in 2046 as they are in 2016. In a country where the average age is 15, and amid the rapid growth of internet usage, mobile phones and social media, the style of campaigning felt very different.

It’s clear that the Parliament will play an increasingly important role in connecting citizens with politicians. This really matters because democracy is as much about what happens between elections as it is on the days when votes are actually cast.

Parties united on gender rights

Take gender rights, an issue WFD is focused on strengthening in Uganda. The country has made great strides towards strengthening women’s rights in its first decade of multiparty politics. New laws passed in recent years targeting the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reflect the Government’s determination to improve the lives of Ugandan women.

The problem is that implementing CEDAW has proved challenging, particularly in the north and east. These were, after all, areas devastated by the Lord’s Resistance Army for nearly two decades. WFD believes we can help connect civil society organisations with local and national parliamentarians to accelerate the process of positive change in all parts of Uganda.

Our EU-funded programme is working to enhance civil engagement and political dialogue on the implementation of legislation supporting CEDAW, with the ultimate goal of reducing the levels of violence suffered by women and girls. Our 30-month programme, which started in May 2014, covers Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts in the east, and Gulu and Nwoya in the north. CSOs, local councils and Parliament are participating in activities which help them scrutinise CEDAW legislation more effectively.

Our combination of training events and workshops for CSOs, journalists, district council staff and parliamentary researchers are showing real progress. Our main partners, Gulu Women’s Economic Development and REACH, report that citizens are more aware of their rights because of our combined work. Better public discourse on human rights and democracy is essential, which is why we’re so pleased to have organised the first ever Women’s Parliament in Uganda in June 2015.

“This Parliament empowered me to speak up and defend my position as a leader,” Asio Rose Mary, a member of Malaba Town Council, said of the June 2015 event. “We are fighting problems at the grassroots.” Overturning deep-set cultural attitudes will not come easily, but local leaders like Asio believed they can be challenged and, ultimately, overturned. It’s at the local level where change will take place – but it’s in Kampala, at events like the Women’s Parliament, where the instigators of that change were being encouraged by WFD.

An opportunity for Uganda’s Parliament

Events like the Woman’s Parliament matter because they bring together politicians with civil society stakeholders. Party politics will always play a big role in these exchanges, but our focus is on supporting Uganda’s institutions achieve better outcomes for its citizens. In the five years which follow these elections, WFD has a lot more to contribute.

The great positive we’ve found in our current programme on gender inequality is that politicians of all parties are committed to tracking the implementation of existing laws and policies.

This presents a big opportunity for the Parliament, which can be strengthened as an institution by improving its post-legislative scrutiny function. Better accountability and oversight of broader human rights issues, the justice system and the sound management of public finances are obvious next steps.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment will remain a central focus of our operations in Uganda. But we hope that the positive changes adopted in this area can spread good governance across all areas of public policy, and trickle down to local government officials and civil society too. WFD can use its strong relationships with the Speaker, UWOPA and key international stakeholders to work to strengthen the newly-elected Parliament across all these areas.

WFD’s relationships

That means partnering with both national and international organisations like WFD which want to work in Uganda for the long-term. We’re committed to remaining in the country and continuing the work we’ve started after our current programme ends in December 2016.

Whether it’s strengthening local and national parliaments’ policy oversight, holding the government to account, strengthening representation, or encouraging more citizen participation in fostering change, our work contributes towards our overall vision: a Uganda where inclusive and effective democratic governance makes a real difference towards citizens’ lives across the country.

Our approach applies whoever emerges on top in these elections. What matters is that Uganda is changing – and WFD stands ready to work with Uganda’s politicians, civil society and citizens to help them shape their country’s future.

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Party focus: African Christian Democratic Party

We met Grant Haskin, Communications Director for the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) in South Africa, and Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for Lagan Valley and WFD Governor, to see how their parties’ partnership has helped strengthen the ACDP’s approach to communications ahead of the elections scheduled for later this year.

How do the parties in the Multi-Party Office build on their established sister-party relationships? Jeffrey Donaldson (JD): A lot of work in the past has focused on the sister party relationships. However, the Lib Dems and the ALN, for example, are not just working with one party but across a network. The Northern Ireland parties tend to have a single sister-party relationship, so the DUP has been supporting the capacity of the ACDP in South Africa for several years. Our current project is focused on improving their communication strategy. Grant, who is Communications Director of the ACDP, will be looking at the relationship between the Westminster team, the team in the Northern Ireland Assembly and at the local level. He will be looking at the consistency of communication output across the three different levels, which are parallel to the South Africa system.

What have you learnt from the DUP about communicating the ACDP message?
Grant Haskin (GH): There is definitely a lot we can learn, as our electorate in South Africa of course has a lot less experience with democracy in general. We are a young democracy; people are not used to voting, they are not used to translating a belief system into a vote. We are trying to bring a new message that changes that. We want to understand how the DUP over time has substantially increased their support base from a small number of MPs to having a majority – that is our ultimate goal. Our relationship with the DUP has come a long way. Our election results haven’t shown it yet, but the way we do things internally has changed substantially over the years.

Listening is essential for effective communication – how do you plan to engage with perspective voters?
GH: Our own members and our candidates need to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. The people who should vote for us need to understand why, and those who are voting for us must see the new ACDP as nothing different to what they have voted for in the past. Keeping them on the same page is a tricky business!
JD: The challenge we face is that we live in a world that is changing. The world is becoming more secular and less influenced by a faith approach to things. Issues like the economy, like healthcare, like education, are important. People know where we stand traditionally on the faith-based issues, but we don’t put them at the front and centre. If the ACDP are going to reverse the decline that mirrors the reluctance of voters to vote on their faith alone, they must demonstrate what they are going to do on the economy, on health, on education. I think the ACDP needs to get out of, as the DUP had to, the image of being a Christian party. It has to get out there and compete with other parties on socio-economic issues.

How can you keep the ACDP’s traditional support base happy and address the broader concerns of other citizens?
GH: We will do it in a way that does not alienate our traditional support base who expect us to focus on the moral issues. When they don’t hear us saying that they get worried, it’s a balancing act. Ahead of this election we have changed how the ACDP approaches the President’s State of the Nation address and the various budget votes. We have come out very strongly on socio-economic issues, like the drought in South Africa. People are hearing us on issues that they have not heard us on yet. They are seeing us as looking after the people and putting the people first in our approach to governing, instead of the perception that we are putting the Bible first.

In what ways have the ACDP incorporated the support from WFD, and the DUP in particular, into their approach ahead of the elections?
GH: I have already seen an important change in the way the ACDP is gearing itself up for these elections as a result of the focus that this programme is putting on media and communications. We are seeing members and political office bearers who are much more aware of their role. They are all being more consistent with each other. We use social media more consistently; we developed a social media policy and brought it across the country.
The party you experience in one city in South Africa is the same you should experience in a rural village. The capacity that this programme has given me to engage with the rural municipality, the village and the town is important. Now because of the programme I can engage with all of them, and take them from where they are to an improved space of engaging internally and externally within the party. We are training them on how to prepare for media interviews and conduct research; basic things that they never had the opportunity to learn. This has already improved our sense of political confidence going into the election.

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EALA Speaker praises WFD’s ‘dedication and commitment’

EALA office

With WFD’s help, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is using the region’s rapidly growing mobile and internet use to bring citizens closer to its work. More and more people are learning about its effectiveness and representation capabilities – and will continue to do so for many years.

This week saw the closure of WFD’s EALA programme after four years of engagement. Our work has contributed to the establishment of its Public Relations Office, the development of a Strategic Plan, increased engagement with civil society and, in the last six months, increased engagement with social media.

EALA Kidega

Speaker Kidega addresses the debrief event

“The Strategic Plan gave the Assembly a clear intent and direction,” EALA’s Speaker, the Rt. Hon Daniel Kidega, said before the debrief event in Arusha. “To take the Assembly to the people and reaching out was our biggest challenge – but that is what integration is about.” This engagement was illustrated by the recent Burundi crisis, which prompted an “amazing” engagement from civil society and the general public on social media.

That response reflects fast-moving changes across the region. Development across East Africa is gathering pace, while the opportunities for strengthening integration among the region’s five states are growing rapidly. EALA, which produces laws that affect the region’s 120 million citizens, plays an important role in this. Its task is to both foster regional cooperation and represent its citizens. In the coming years, EALA can tap into the opportunities offered by this rapid technological change. “Communicating what we are doing and gaining feedback is very important for accountability, oversight and representation,” Speaker Kidega added.

Flags of the East African Community nations fly outside the EALA building

It’s been the fast growth of social media and online platforms which has been the most recent focus of our support for EALA. Staff, EAC Youth Ambassadors, CSO representatives and Parliamentary Officers from partner states have received training in social media use and the Public Relations Office is in the process of developing a digital strategy. The internet offers a new way for citizens to engage with the Assembly and its work. WFD has facilitated this ongoing, developing relationship by producing educational YouTube videos targeted at primary and secondary school children, which will be broadcast on national television and utilised in schools across the partner states; developing new online platforms for engagement; and redesigning the EALA website, which was launched at the debrief event.

Majda El Bied, WFD’s Senior Programme Manager for Africa, addresses the debrief 

We’re now entering a period of hiatus in our activities with the Assembly as a result of this great progress but hope to return in the future. Following our programme’s completion in March 2016, the Public Relations Office will continue utilising the tools provided by WFD and the Strategic Plan runs until 2018.

The EALA offices – where WFD has been working since 2008

“The lessons WFD has learned on parliamentary communications and outreach work are valuable and can be applied to a range of other contexts,” Programme Officer for Africa Charlotte Egan said.

“WFD is proud of its work at EALA and we will maintain our valued relationships with its leadership in the years to come.”

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Moving Mozambique away from its violent past

A legislative sector approach can help move Mozambique away from its violent past

By George Kunnath, WFD’s Regional Director for Europe and Africa

The legacy of the independence struggle and subsequent civil war in Mozambique still influences and shapes many aspects of its governance. The signing of the Rome General Peace Accord which ended the civil war in 1992 was supposed to bring an end to the war and start the process of healing the country. The 1990 constitution provided for a multi-party state and paved the way for the 1994 elections. The 2005 constitution went further, providing for the establishment of provincial assemblies. These, however, have limited powers over provinces’ administration, which is overseen by central government appointees. The main strength of the Provincial Assembly is its power to approve the Provincial Government’s programme and oversee its implementation.

According to the constitution, Provincial Assemblies should have been established within three years of the constitution’s adoption. Yet it was not until 2009 that Mozambique had its first elections for Provincial Assemblies. The ten new assemblies were underfunded, ill -equipped and their staff lacked training and skills to adequately support their members. Most of the assemblies still haven’t got a permanent home, but rent space from other government departments.

They also don’t have the technical skills to effectively scrutinise the Provincial Governments’ programmes and budgets. They lack the necessary support needed to conduct effective oversight. All Provincial Assembly members are part-time (except the Assembly President). Some tend to hold full-time jobs in the public sector – the very institution they are supposed to oversee.

The assemblies are also hampered by the vast geography of each province, compounded by poor transport infrastructure, which makes the task of oversight very difficult. However, it is important to recognise that provincial assemblies do hold a key to ensuring political representation in Mozambique. Their significance is only likely to increase as Mozambique goes down the route of decentralisation.

Since 2009, the relationship between the two main parties in Mozambique has continued to deteriorate. In 2013, Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) leader Alfonso Dhlakama revoked the 1992 Rome peace agreement and returned to the bush. Former president Armando Guebuza and Dhlakama negotiated a new peace agreement that would secure the 2014 elections when RENAMO succeeded in winning three provincial assemblies – but claimed victory in six.

They subsequently introduced a constitutional amendment which would have allowed for devolution of political powers to provinces. The proposed amendment would allow the winning party to appoint provincial governors. Having had the constitutional amendment defeated in Parliament, RENAMO threatened to take control in those provinces by force. The dominant Mozambique Liberation Front party (FRELIMO) responded to the threats by attempting to disarm RENAMO. The country has since seen an increase in armed conflict between the two parties.

Mozambique has had steady economic growth and is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies following the recent discovery of new natural resource deposits. The country still remains one of Africa’s poorest nations and can ill afford another protracted civil war. The population is also wary of further conflict after the last war. Citizens would like to see their leaders demonstrate greater political maturity in negotiating peaceful solutions.

In this tense political context, it is important for the donor community and democracy partners to bring the focus back to making the institutions of Mozambique’s democracy work effectively and responsively to the citizen’s needs. It equally importantly needs to demonstrate that the decentralised legislative structures at national, provincial and municipal levels can function and bring about equitable levels of development across the country.

For this to happen the donor community must consider working together to support a single legislative sector initiative to strengthen the provincial and national assembly. Mozambique’s neighbour South Africa is a great example of how a sectoral approach has helped to develop national and provincial legislatures. A sectoral approach also provides value for money and looks holistically at the long-term developmental needs of the growing legislative sector.

The Mozambican constitution also requires the President of the Assembly of the Republic to promote institutional relations between the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. The current President does this through the Speaker’s Conference, a meeting between the presidents of the provincial and national assemblies. This forum could be made more effective and play a much more important role in guiding the legislative sectors development.

Another plus for the sectoral approach has been the establishment of the parliamentary training centre, Centro de Estudos e Formação Parlamentar (CEFP), in 2013 with the support of WFD. The Centre’s new strategy is to encourage greater sharing of experience between the assemblies and support ongoing capacity building.

Finally, the donor community must explore ways to encourage the development of the institution of the opposition within assemblies. One cannot expect to develop mature opposition parties without supporting them with the research and skills needed to develop effective policies or to hold the government to account. Donors need to examine the current level of support provide to party factions in parliament and the provincial assemblies. Respecting the role that the opposition plays in an effective assembly is an important part of the culture of a mature democracy.

Armed conflict should never be an option in a democracy.

Photos:

George Kunnath, Regional Director Europe and Africa visits the construction site of the new Maputo Provincial Assembly in Matola accompanied by the Assembly’s President, Joao Muringano Matola.

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Party focus: East Africa Green Federation

Party focus: East Africa Green Federation

We spoke to Green Party project coordinator Jess Northey about her party’s WFD-funded work with the East African Green Federation (EAGF).

When did the Greens’ work with the East African Green Federation get underway?

This is one of our most exciting programmes. It began in 2014, when the Smaller Parties Office of WFD helped put our international coordinator in touch with the European Greens and with Dr Frank Habineza of the African Green Federation (AGF). Over the last few years the AFG has decentralised and organised regional structures, with the idea of being more effective in terms of training, experience-sharing and logistics. Frank Habineza is now part of the EAGF, which was very keen to work with the Green Party of England and Wales. They are very dynamic, interesting and inspiring, so most of our work has been focused on East Africa.

What’s the background to green politics in the region?

For years the East African green movement was dominated by Wangari Muta Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Kenya suffers her loss very deeply, but its green party has a lot of experience. If you go to Kenya you really feel the influence of a strong green political movement on citizen engagement.

The Ecological Party of Uganda was formed more recently, which makes it very dynamic – they’re excited by being a very new movement, they are learning quickly from regional partners. People are beginning to make the link between social justice, economic inequality and protecting the natural world. There are natural linkages between their experience and ours, as we’ve had a huge surge in Green membership in England and Wales

What are the big challenges for Green parties in East Africa?

The discovering of new oil wealth is a big one. Lake Victoria, which borders a number of countries in the region, poses shared challenges relating to natural resource governance. Then there’s the view held by the members and leaders of the region’s green parties that we need to move towards political parties which reject populist, ethnic-based politics and instead focus on good strong policies which tackle both social and environmental injustice. Questions of democratic representation, freedom of speech and the ability to challenge the current system are big issues – the parties are fighting a brave battle on this. They are able to support each other and work together on challenges when, for example, there are large agri-businesses which are polluting water resources.

East Africa Green Federation, Kampala, February 2015

What sort of exchanges have the English/Welsh and East African Greens engaged in up to now?

It’s been a two-way process. We’ve learned very much from the parties in east Africa. What we offer to the parties over there is our technical skills and expertise. What we’ve tried to do is work with the Smaller Parties Office of WFD to organise regional training meetings to develop their strategic planning. Laura Bannister, a fantastic campaigner and very committed member of the GPEW, came over and assisted in a planning meeting.

We also want to support their media and communications strategy. It’s a very different context – African politicians are very bored by our elections. You’d have to up your game significantly and be speaking to thousands and thousands of people. Obviously there’s different scales, and ways they can inspire us: democracy in this country is challenged in a number of ways. We can learn from their very brave campaigners as to how we have to fight to get across these messages and represent people who are at the bottom.

How much experience have you shared about the particular difficulties and opportunities of operating as a smaller party?

We need to look at what are the specific challenges of a smaller party in each of the different contexts. In the UK, it’s hard to get past that threshold to get representation in parliament. That’s not the case in other countries; under a proportional representation system they may be able to grow quicker. In the UK, we’re concerned by the potential changing of electoral borders. We need to learn from what campaigners are doing in Africa, so all parties have a voice and are able to get representation in parliaments.

How is the Green Party in England and Wales’ work with WFD helping achieve our four outcomes – around policy, accountability, representation and citizen participation?

For me, one of the reason why I’m so proud and happy to be a member of the GPEW is the way we make our policy, which while not always easy is a very democratic process at our party conference. We allow all our membership to be part of the process. Our East African colleagues have been invited by the party to the last conference we had, participated in that process, and saw how we function and develop our policies.

In terms of representation, we’re exchanging ideas and looking at how to represent the whole of society – and the country, the planet and natural world that we’re inherently linked to. We encourage young people and women to be very much at the forefront of our political party. We have the youngest greens, the largest young party in the country, and we very much want to encourage that elsewhere. And our leadership is Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas. We have female leaders in part because of the way we function at a local level; we try to aim for 50% candidates across the board, and suggest as much to our African colleagues.

It’s not a one-way process, though. The EAGF may be more representative of the ethnic and social diversity of the country than our party is; we need to increase our black and ethnic minority representation. That’s something we’re working on and trying to improve. It’s a two-way process. We are improving as a party and they can benefit from our experience. In return we can try to share how we captured the passion and the willingness of people to join up and pay fees.

Finally, what ambitions do you have for the East African Green Federation in the year to come? What do you think is possible?

I also work at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, teaching about non-military solutions. Any way I can strengthen the region’s Green parties’ capacities to work on peaceful solutions to conflict – particularly regarding natural resources – is a key ambition for myself. As a Green party member, I’m delighted to be able to help do this directly by working directly with the East African Green Federation. We know we’re operating in very difficult conditions in East Africa, but we also know we will absolutely continue to support them morally and intellectually; I very much see this as a long-term cooperation and exchange programme over the coming years.

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