What does power asymmetry mean for decentralisation?

Graeme Ramshaw, Director of Research and Evaluation

An organic milk factory in the rural heartland of Ukraine may seem an unusual place to contemplate the impact of power asymmetries. However, on the way to a workshop on the local experience of decentralisation, I witnessed a sense of physical exclusion that was connected to a feeling of political disempowerment among participants.

This location provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on the forms of power asymmetry identified in the 2017 World Development Report: exclusion, capture and clientelism.

We were greeted by the local mayor, newly elected following the process of community amalgamation that was the subject of our visit. He was clearly proud of his town but also acutely aware of its limitations and challenges. There were ambitions among the local council to use decentralisation as a means of reducing the impact of exclusion, but this would not be a simple endeavour. Early evidence from surveys in Ukraine suggest that initial reforms are improving service delivery and increasing citizen trust in local government. Yet, despite this progress, the process of decentralisation remains incomplete, with key legislation stalled in the national parliament.

The main stumbling block for decentralisation in Ukraine is clearly the conflict in the east. The process has now become linked with the implementation of the Minsk II Agreement, meaning that action in any direction is bound to alienate either the Russians or significant sections of the Ukrainian public who don’t wish to see any concessions made to the separatist regions. Below these context-specific headlines, however, the political manoeuvrings around the rollout of existing decentralisation legislation are all too familiar and illustrate two further elements of power asymmetry explored by the WDR17: capture and clientelism.

There is a temptation among development actors to perceive decentralisation as principally a technical exercise, to be addressed through the provision of capacity-building. Ukraine’s experience suggests another approach is needed. While there is undoubtedly a need for expertise in local structures to manage the new financial and service provision responsibilities, the main obstacles to the institutionalisation of decentralised governance are largely political. Different sides of the debate believe that the other is trying to capture the decentralisation process. Proponents of decentralisation see the government’s plan to appoint ‘prefects’ as local executives as a power grab by the central state, designed to undermine local power. By contrast, critics of decentralisation argue that local elites will or have already captured the existing financial decentralisation process and are undermining efforts to reduce inequality and exclusion. Reconciling these competing visions will require political, as well as technical, support.

But this is complicated by the kinds of clientelism highlighted in the WDR17. At the local level, Ukrainian politics is dominated by prominent individuals who shop around for a political party with which to campaign, based on likelihood of victory not ideology. As such, the relationship for constituents operates at a personal rather than party institutional level, facilitating the formation of patron-client linkages. Many of these emerging leaders are likely to play a prominent role in the 2019 elections. At the national level, politics is immensely expensive, not only excluding vast swathes of the population but also distorting the incentives of politicians once in office. A WFD report on the cost of politics in Ukraine found that while the situation was improving from its nadir in 2012, there is still a long way to go. In the past, the Ukrainian legislature has passed a modest number of relatively well thought-out laws that were supposed to prevent the spread of political corruption in the country. Unfortunately, many of them were never implemented.

This is a common theme in Ukraine. The parliamentary culture is very legalistic, with even minor changes to process or policy requiring legislative action. WFD’s recent work providing research and evidence to the parliamentary committee on local self-government is likely to result in a flurry of bills; the extent to which they will be implemented in is less clear.

So what about decentralisation in Ukraine in the coming years? The mood on the ground is mixed. Local and international actors are pleased with the progress made on fiscal decentralisation and the community amalgamation process that has begun. There are concerns, however, that even these gains are under threat as the 2019 elections approach. As long as the outstanding constitutional amendments remain stalled, the sustainability of Ukraine’s reforms seems tenuous. Those looking to move the process forward will need to operate within the tight confines of international diplomacy dictated by the Minsk II Agreement. But they will also have to consider the power asymmetries that operate beneath this top-level, whose influence is likely to play a far greater role in determining whether even the existing decentralisation reforms will last.

 

(Photo: embroidery festival and organic milk factory in a local community outside of Kyiv, Ukraine)
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Hope for democracy: young people and politics in sub-Saharan Africa

George Kunnath, Regional Director, Africa and Europe

Sub-Saharan Africa has a youth population of 265 million. By 2045, the population of people under the age of 25 across the African continent is expected to rise by over 40%. Africa is full of young men and women with huge potential, eager to help build the continent’s future.

The continent’s young leaders are inspiring, ambitious and passionate. However, many of them are denied any real political voice or influence. Yet their role is essential in addressing the continent’s major problems of youth unemployment, underemployment and the lack of education, healthcare and basic social services.

According to the World Bank, Youth account for 60% of all African unemployed. While most African economies are growing, they are not growing fast enough to solve the problems of unemployment. The outlook is not much better for those in employment, as the region continues to report the highest youth working poverty rates globally at almost 70 %. The number of poor working youth has increased by as much as 80 per cent since 1991.

That’s why WFD is committed to supporting young people to engage in politics. To borrow the words of Mohamed Jalloh, who runs our programme in Sierra Leone: ‘we have a generation of young people facing the harsh realities of unemployment, limited space in decision making, exposure to sexual risks, crime, violence and a lack of opportunities for quality education. The energy, talent and determination of youth can be used to sustain development.’

“Despite making significant progress in the last five years, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the lowest levels of youth development in the world. All of the ten lowest-ranked countries in the 2016 Youth Development Index are from Sub-Saharan Africa.”

2016 Global Youth Development Index

The problems of unemployment are linked to education. Young people in Africa are receiving education in industries that have stagnated and have not kept up with global trends. Structural unemployment remains a major problem and governments need to start linking the education system to match the demands of the labour market.

Unless young people have a voice in the legislatures and the spheres of influence their needs will continue to be ignored until the problem spills over into conflict. Critical to giving the youth a place at the table is the reform of political parties to become more inclusive. Parties that offer the youth real leadership opportunities. This is a major challenge as the status quo has served the aging political elite well.

Yet, all is not lost in Africa. The youth of Africa has shown increased political awareness and a willingness to make their voices heard. Credit must be shown to youth of the Gambia who played a significant role in protecting the outcome of the 2016 elections. And let’s not forget, that in 2012 the Senegalese opposition mobilised the youth around the issue of unemployment to defeat President Abdoulaye Wade. Young leaders are waking up to realise that in a few years the youth vote will determine the outcome of every African election.

A window of opportunity exists to help mainstream youth into the governance structures of African countries. Unless the investment is made to support Africa’s youth, there is the ever-increasing risk that many will be led away into tribal, ethnic, religious or political conflict. That is why WFD’s Africa team considers strengthening youth political participation and inclusion as the key pillar of our African strategy.

As our Country Representative in Nigeria, Adebowale Olorunmola put it: ‘Democracy thrives when citizens, regardless of age, gender, and social status, are involved in decisions that affect their lives and the society they live in.’ This is why young leaders must get a seat at the decision-making table and why WFD programmes in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda are working to do just that.

 

 

 

 

Photo: Jo-Ann Kelly

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Re-thinking governance for development

Graeme Ramshaw, WFD’s Director of Research and Evaluation, participated in the European Partnership for Democracy launch event of the World Development Report 2017  in Brussels last week. Here are his takeaways on what this means for democracy support.

The World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report “Governance and the Law”, encourages its readers to rethink governance for development. The authors are upfront in admitting that very little of its content is new and draws heavily on the efforts of those who have been arguing for a more political approach to development for more than a decade. But that the World Bank has taken the leap in endorsing a thinking and working politically framework is highly significant. For institutions like EU, the principal audience for the launch event last week, the opinion of the World Bank carries weight in ways that we as smaller implementers do not.

For those of us already converted to the political approach to development, the report offers a useful framework for challenging commonly held assumptions around the challenges of institutional reform. How many times have we heard these phrases?: ‘the reform failed because it didn’t follow best practices,’ ‘the reform failed because of a lack of capacity,’ or ‘the reform failed because of a lack of political will.’ These are the go-to excuses for many unsuccessful governance programmes and are littered throughout the copious evaluations of this sector. But how explanatory are they?

According to the WDR, not very. These statements do little to interrogate the underlying causes of stalled reform efforts and paper over serious gaps in our understanding of problems and our perceived solutions to them. By allowing ourselves to stop our analysis at this level, we are depriving ourselves of the real learning and depth of engagement that might bring about real change in future programmes.

To remedy this, the WDR suggests three principles for rethinking governance for development:

  • Think not only about the form of institutions, but also about their functions.

  • Think not only about capacity-building, but also about power asymmetries.

  • Think not only about the rule of law, but also about the role of law.

The WDR’s assertion that function matters more than form, in many ways is intuitive. In nature, form generally follows function, yet we, as development practitioners, have laboured for years on the premise that function follows form, particularly in parliamentary strengthening. This WDR asks why ineffective policies persist; a useful corollary might be why ineffective approaches to institutional development persist. For the democracy assistance community, the answer is likely to be one of the following:

Form is simpler than function: We don’t have an ideal parliament in terms of function; there is too much variation in how effective parliaments around the world conduct their business. What we do have are models of what effective parliaments/parties look like. This ‘good form’ is used as a proxy for ‘good function’ to reduce complexity.

“Form is simpler than function: We don’t have an ideal parliament in terms of function”

‘Best practice’ is more measurable/predictable: Work with parliaments and political parties is already viewed with scepticism by many in the development field, particularly in some donor agencies. Being able to present ‘best practice’ provides some reassurance that we can justify our programming and be held accountable for its performance in the context of heavy scrutiny of aid.

Nevertheless, the WDR argues that to see improvements in policies/outcome we need to change people’s behaviour. Rather than view institutions as monolithic entities, organisations like WFD should conceive of them as a conglomeration of individual actors, each with their interests, assumptions, and incentives. Change is likely to come not in transformational bursts but in hundreds of tiny shifts in how individuals think and behave. This is a welcome statement from an institution like the World Bank and validates a lot of what democracy assistance organisations have been arguing for some time. Incremental change is sustainable change.

So, how should WFD and others respond to these recommendations?

The WDR suggests three functions that institutions should master: commitment, coordination, and cooperation. These resonate with a lot of what WFD has highlighted in our theory of change:

  • Commitment – This is about building relationships, creating environment conducive to change. WFD has put this at the heart of its work for a long time, investing its relationships with parliaments and political parties; our new monitoring and evaluation tools now provide opportunities for these activities to be captured more rigorously.
  • Coordination – This is about changing expectations across institutions and individuals: change is the new normal. Parliaments, in particular, have a certain amount of inertia about them. Some new planning methods that WFD is piloting create opportunities for parliamentary leaderships to think creatively about the change they want to see. Our focus on bringing different groups together through networks and communities of practice also helps build momentum for change.
  • Cooperation – The goal of institutional reform is to induce voluntary compliance, encouraging scale up of change out of direct beneficiaries. WFD’s experience is that parliaments and parties respond best to peer learning and learning by doing. We have been working on mentorship programmes that link MPs and political party leaders with counterparts elsewhere. Following this up through alumni networks encourages these participants to share their experience more broadly.

What the World Bank’s WDR is proposing is not revolutionary. The Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice has long been championing a programming model that emphasises process and function. But if we apply the WDR’s logic on reform to changing development practice, this report represents a rallying point for progress toward coordination and cooperation around a political approach to governance work.

Prioritising function over form requires a change in programming for many democracy support organisations. Capacity-driven models, while remaining part of the toolkit, can no longer be the default option when designing interventions.  Rather we must move toward more adaptive styles that look to improve function by whatever means, in whatever form that emerges.

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Why does research on democracy support neglect success?

Susan Dodsworth, Research Fellow – University of Birmingham 

If we focus too much on examples of failure, how can we learn to succeed?

This question sparked debate on 9 June, at a ‘Policy Day’ hosted by the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department (IDD). The Policy Day featured research from the Political Economy of Democracy Promotion Project – a collaboration between IDD and Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).

On the day, Duncan Green – a Senior Strategic Advisor to Oxfam – pointed out that the solution to getting researchers and practitioners to work better together is not always more research. I agree with Duncan’s argument that practitioners may often benefit more from some kind of ‘institutional memory support,’ than new research products. However, I also think there are questions to be asked about where academic research tends to focus, and how that might limit the utility of that research to policy makers. Specifically, we need to be wary of the tendency to focus on failure, and pay more attention to cases of success.

Caryn Peiffer, a Research Fellow at IDD, dealt with this in her presentation on anti-corruption initiatives – pointing out that research tends to focus on why such initiatives have failed. In contrast, her project on ‘Islands of Integrity’ is deliberately engineered to explain success, focussing on institutions that have made a surprising degree of progress in implementing anti-corruption reforms. As Caryn pointed out, it’s worth paying attention to these ‘positive outliers’ because they may help policy makers to design better interventions in the future.

This struck a chord because – just like research on anti-corruption – research on democracy support often centres on explaining why things went wrong, or just failed to have any impact at all. There are several reasons for this. For a start, academics worry they’ll undermine their credibility if they look like ‘cheerleaders’ for policy makers.  There are also more fundamental reasons grounded in methodological concerns. Academic ‘best practice’ is to avoid selecting cases on the basis of their outcomes (the ‘dependent variable’), but this sometimes creates problems. When dealing with something like democracy support – where the difficulty of the task makes success rare – this means we look at failure far more often than we look at success.

This has been a big issue in research on closing civil society space. Governments around the world – some already quite authoritarian, some less so – are increasingly using a wide variety of tactics to restrict, control and harass civil society organizations, particularly those seeking to improve the quality of democracy in their countries. So far, most research on this topic has focussed on cases like Russia, Egypt and Ethiopia, where efforts to defend that space have clearly failed. This goes some way to explaining why we’re still struggling to develop sustainable, long-term interventions that ‘get ahead of the curve’ (a problem that Richard Youngs recently pointed out in a review for the European Parliament).

Our project’s next policy paper for WFD – which we’ll be launching in Brussels this autumn – will tackle this problem head-on, paying more to cases in which international and domestic actors have worked together to persuade parliamentarians to defend civil society. This will not only ensure we’re getting the full picture, it will make our findings more valuable to policy makers. It’s useful to be told what not to do, but – ultimately – it’s far more useful to have advice about what to do instead.

 

(Photo: Democracy success story: following the 2011 Tunisian revolution, the country held the first direct presidential election in 2014 © Aya Chebbi (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence))
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UK MP’s constituency work inspires Ukrainian MPs to engage with public

“It  was extremely interesting and useful to learn more about how British MPs work in their constituencies”, says Yuri Levchenko, Member of Parliament in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (VRU) reflecting on his experience in the Westminster Foundation for Democracy exchange programme.

By bringing together Ukrainian MPs with their UK counterparts, the programme aimed to motivate new MPs in Ukraine to move away from the poor practices of the old Parliament. “One of my priority goals as a politician is to increase the general public’s trust towards Ukrainian politicians”, Mr Levchenko added.

Partnering with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine (Westminster) and the UK-Ukraine Friendship Group, the programme engaged a group of 5 Ukrainian MPs from different political groups. Ukrainian MPs were twinned with a cross-party group of Westminster MPs and witnessed parliamentary life in Westminster as well as the work of UK MPs in their constituencies. Policies relevant to the Ukrainian MPs political interest were also explored as part of the visit.

“As a member of the Budget Committee, I was particularly impressed by the level of legislative oversight in select committees”, Mr Levchenko reports. “All these matters are dealt with differently in the Verkhovna Rada. I believe the standards of Westminster are far more preferable”, stresses Yurii.

The innovative approach mixing institutional access and peer-to-peer support allows for on-going discussion and mentoring between the members of parliament. Initial feedback from the MPs involved points to successful outcomes. The WFD programme has, in the words of Ukrainian MP Nataliya Katser-Buchowska, “established a solid platform for further dialogue between parliamentarians in our respective countries”. It allows an “in-depth understanding on how discussions within the British parliamentary committees are conducted”, she added.

Viktor Halasiuk, head of the VRU Committee for Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship, reported that observing “the unique combination of stable traditions and rapid development and adaptiveness” was a useful model that he will take back to Ukraine. The Committee’s legislative and oversight operations have now been enhanced through increased outsourcing of research support and tighter oversight mechanisms that Mr Halasiuk was exposed to in the UK. This can been seen through the Committee’s work on draft legislation for small and medium-sized business and the regulation for processing timber.

The success of the pilot program in Ukraine has allowed expansion of the buddying-style scheme in other countries, to which WFD brings the British experience through parliamentary support programmes. Over time, we hope this will encourage behavioural change among a wide range of parliamentary and related participants. Strengthened parliamentary capacity is essential for achieving effective governance changes globally.

(Photo: l to r: Jeffrey Donaldson MP; Sergei Alieksieiev MP; Yuri Levchenko MP; Philip Davies MP; HE Natalia Galibarenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK; Sir Gerald Howarth, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine; Natalya Katser-Buchkovska MP; Jonathan Djanogly MP)
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Are we measuring what really matters?

Susan Dodsworth

Research Fellow – International Development Department University of Birmingham

At Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s recent conference – Deliberating Democratisation: Examining Democratic Change and the Role of International Democracy Supportone of the more contentious panels addressed the role of research in democracy support.

During that panel, I discussed how the quality of evidence available to academics shapes its utility to practitioners and policy-makers.

There’s both good news and bad news in this area. The good news is that there have been significant advances in how democracy is measured. Thanks to work like that of the Varieties of Democracy Project, we now have much more transparent, more finely grained indicators of democracy. The bad news is that measures of democracy only tell half the story. We also need better measures of democracy support.

This is bad news because our primary source of data on democracy support is the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) database on aid flows. For academic researchers, this is the ‘default’ approach to measuring democracy support. Why? Because this is what we can access. Organisations that support democracy are often very reluctant to share their data, in part because it can put those they are trying to help at risk.

Our reliance on OECD data constrains research and limits its usefulness in three ways. First, reducing democracy support to money spent tends to produced recommendations along the lines of ‘spend more on X and less on Y.’ This has some value, but there are limits to its utility. Ultimately, it’s more useful to know how to spend money, rather than how much money to spend.

Second, we are limited by what is – and is not – captured in the coding of these databases. The OECD data only captures the primary purpose of aid. But we know that aid generally, and democracy support in particular, is often multi-purpose. Aid flows have also been reported in a way that creates blind spots. As I pointed out in a recent policy paper, it’s essentially impossible to calculate how much democracy support is invested in civil society – a significant problem given how important civil society is in democratisation.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, we might be missing what really matters. When you talk to democracy supporters about their work they will explain that ‘You can’t buy political will,’ or emphasise that ‘It’s not about the money.’ Instead, they (and their strategic documents, like this one) stress the importance of relationships, or of intangible resources like respect and recognition. The difficulty, of course, is that these things are extremely difficult to measure.

If research is to play a constructive role in democracy support, we need to have better measures of it. The challenge is to work out how we can get those better measures. This won’t be an easy task and, unless researchers and practitioners work together, it will probably be an impossible one. That’s why I hope we’ll see more events – like WFD’s conference – that create opportunities for better dialogue and – hopefully – more sustained collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Highlights from Deliberating Democratisation conference

(Photo: Jo-Ann Kelly)
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The New International Strategy of the Scottish Parliament

Fergus Cochrane

By Fergus Cochrane, Head of Scottish Parliament’s International Relations Office

As a young and evolving parliament, the Scottish Parliament is keen to share its experience with other parliaments across the world and our increased engagement with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) over recent years has contributed to that aim.

The Scottish Parliament’s International Strategy sets out how our international work can support the Parliament’s strategic objectives. We want to maintain our reputation as an open, accessible and participative Parliament, willing to learn from and assist other legislatures whilst supporting the development of our own international relationships.

There are three elements to our Strategy: Policy, Parliaments; and Organisations. The Policy element identifies the issues that are central to us and on which we will seek to develop relationships with, and learn from, other parliaments. Our Strategic Plan ensures that the issues important to us as a Parliament are at the core of our international relations activities. It is these issues which will largely inform why, when and who we seek to work with internationally. However, we have developed strong and meaningful partnerships with other parliaments, through our key partnership with WFD and its parliamentary strengthening programme and look forward to supporting this work in the future. This falls neatly into the ‘Parliaments’ and ‘Organisations’ elements of our Strategy.

A key part of this work has been consolidating relationships with other parliaments in areas where we can offer expert advice such as financial oversight, research support, and strategic planning.
For many of the parliaments we work with, this relationship begins with a visit to Holyrood where delegations are exposed to ‘how we do things here’. As an evolving Parliament, and where there has been a devolution of further powers since 1999, it can be interesting for delegations to see how the Scottish Parliament, as a unicameral parliament, scrutinises the use of these powers. For example, how our committees (and procedures) are responding to the newly devolved tax powers. However, it is also of interest and importance to learn about other parliaments, to hear and learn of their approaches and how they do things.

We have been involved with the Western Balkans network for a few years now although since 2015 that has been focused on the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and its establishment, through the WFD, of a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) which will support more effective financial oversight by the Assembly and government accountability.

Colleagues here have partnered with WFD’s Belgrade office on the preparation and implementation of the first 100-day work plan of the PBO, including developing its training academy and modules, supporting the secondment to the Scottish Parliament of the PBO researchers in March 2016 and general support (and friendship), on-the-job coaching and mentorship sessions.

Jordan is another example where we have provided key support and started to build fundamental relationships. David McGill, Assistant Chief Executive at the Scottish Parliament, has provided instrumental support on strategic planning for the House of Representatives in Amman, meeting with the Secretary General and the leadership of the Parliament as well as all the Heads of Departments. He has been able to ascertain and collate the needs and priorities of parliamentary staff to feed into a strategic plan modeled on the Scottish Plan. By conducting comprehensive sessions on our strategic planning experience, the principles behind strategic planning, and the methodologies for implementation and monitoring and evaluation, David has provided comprehensive feedback and mentoring to the House on the final draft of the Strategic Plan that was submitted to the Secretary General for consideration in late September 2016.

David has also collaborated with WFD in similar work with the House of Representatives in Morocco and in March the Scottish Parliament will proudly host both parliaments for joint discussions on this important issue.

In the coming weeks and months, we will work with the WFD and its programmes in Montenegro, Kenya, Bahrain, and Sri Lanka. We look forward to working with the WFD, and its parliamentary partners, in the future, adding value where we can and sharing thoughts, ideas and experiences.

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New WFD partnership to support historic change in Burma

Burma’s democratic transition was one of the most watched in the world in 2016. After over 50 years of military rule, the national parliament faces the challenge of delivering change in line with citizens’ expectations.

Starting in 2017, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) will partner with Burma’s legislative body, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Parliament), to assist with the development of an efficient and open parliament.

Burma has suffered long periods without a sitting legislature and parliament lacks the facilities and systems necessary to support effective law-making, oversight and representation. Building the capacity of parliament to help a large number of new MPs and parliamentary staff fulfil their functions is also needed.

The WFD programme will offer expertise from the British parliamentary experience in partnership with the House of Commons, provide English language training through the British Council and help develop the systems and infrastructure a modern Parliament needs.

Under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by WFD and the Hluttaw, the House of Commons will second experienced parliamentary specialists to offer day-to-day support and coaching to committee and research staff.

(Above photo: Hon. U Win Myint, Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw, participates in best practice exchange with UK counterpart, John Bercow)

Using a combination of MPs, parliamentary staff and experts from the UK and the region, the programme will share experiences that will support the capacity of the Hluttaw in a number of areas.

To help MPs carry out legislative research and wider learning and to foster international relations, we have partnered with the British Council to provide an English Language Enrichment Programme.

We will also work with the Irrawaddy Policy Exchange to propose ways in which existing facilities can be better used, to make best use of the space.

On 23 January, the Hon. U Win Myint, Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw marked the beginning of this important collaboration with an official visit to the UK Parliament. The visit focused on the Westminster committee system, how Prime Minister Question Time works, and the role of the Whips office and will inform the next stages of the partnership.

Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, WFD’s CEO Anthony Smith CMG said:

“We are honoured to be working with the House of Commons and the British Council to support the Hluttaw as it increases its skills and begins to play a full part in this country’s political, social and economic development.

“The Hluttaw will play a critical role in ensuring that all citizens are properly represented, that the many policy challenges are fully debated, and that there is clear accountability by government.”

Check out www.wfd.org for regular updates about the programme and follow WFD on Twitter to keep up to date with all of our programmes.

(Top photo: Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between WFD and the Hluttaw)
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“Positive change” in Province Orientale

(Above: Training of trainers event with the RCPP in Kinshasa.)

“The WFD has brought a lot to Province Orientale. With every WFD seminar comes positive change.” So says Mr Germain Mbav Yav, Head Clerk to the Legal and Administrative Committee and member of the Réseau Congolais des Personnels des Parlements/Congolese Network of Parliamentary Staff RCPP. And what’s more, “all the MPs and officials are now committed and eager to improve their work.”

Mr Mbav Yav’s comments came at the end of four years of work by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) supporting the RCPP which was established in 2009 as a network of parliamentary staff across all of the DRC’s legislative bodies. By providing parliamentary expertise to instill parliamentary practices and approaches, the WFD programme sought to support the emergence of a dynamic and vibrant parliamentary culture that would be attentive to the needs of the provinces.

Germain has worked in the senate since 2005 in various positions but since 2012 he has worked in the role of Head Clerk. During this time, he has received various trainings from the French National Assembly and the UNDP but it was not until WFD became involved with the senate that Germain was truly able to realise his potential, “WFD allowed me to put into practice the training that I received in legislative drafting, not only by supporting me in drafting the module on legislative drafting but WFD also went ahead and published my work afterwards.” The example module Germain refers to was reviewed by Alistair Doherty a former UK House of Commons Clerk for over thirty years. Using British parliamentary expertise in this case has led to concrete, practical tools that can be used for learning after the programme ends.

(Above: Germain delivers training on legislative drafting to other members of the RCPP.)

Furthermore, before attending the ‘training of trainers’ seminars, Germain was unsure how to ensure his training sessions were of practical use to the trainees. “The tools of this training provided by WFD have really helped me to focus more on the effectiveness of a training session rather than just simply developing an activity that has no real objective and gets no tangible results,” he says. Instilled with this new level of confidence, and possessing new and effective training insights and skills, Germain has been able to make a positive impact on his colleagues. “Since this training, I make an effort to give my staff advice and suggestions, so that they can express their talents and shine.”

But it is not just Germain who has seen the fruits of WFD’s labour. At a broader level, there have also been noticeable positive changes and improvements. Germain has noted how officials and MPs are keen to learn and improve and, crucially, officials are now more cognizant of the fact that in their official capacity as parliamentary officials they need to remain politically neutral even if they do belong to political parties. Furthermore, following a study visit to the provincial assembly of the former Katanga province, Germain highlights how “MPs are working hard to respect the rule of procedure more consistently.”

The WFD programme has also achieved impact at the national level in the DRC, especially on missions carried out by the RCPP, the operations of the technical unit, the influence of the administrative secretariat and the functioning of the provincial assembly of the former Province Orientale. More specifically, the seminar on parliamentary institutional communications that was organised in 2010 in Matadi by RCPP and WFD, was noted to be particularly successful. As a result of this seminar and the support provided by RCPP and WFD, protocol and communication services began to really take shape in the provincial assemblies. So impactful was this seminar that the Rapporteur of the Provincial Assembly for Bas-Congo (who attended the seminar in its entirety) informed the President of the Provincial Assembly of the work that the RCPP and WFD were doing. Germain was extremely happy to observe that “it was following this seminar that he (the President) came to understand how important it was for the MPs to rely on and work with the administration.”

The work that WFD has been doing in DRC in supporting the work of the RCPP fits well with the overall mission of WFD. In helping the RCPP to instill effective parliamentary practices and approaches, the work carried out by RCPP and the WFD has resulted in an increased professionalism and more fruitful relationships amongst staff and MPs, and furthermore, as Germain notes, “finally, and for the first time, the DRC has books on legislative drafting, parliamentary chancellery and the drafting of parliamentary documents.”

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Expert engagement series: Tom Carothers & Richard Youngs

(Above: Tom Carothers from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace talks to WFD staff in the latest expert engagement series)

If there is such a thing as a celebrity in the world of democracy-strengthening, as WFD’s Director of Research and Evaluation Graeme Ramshaw put it, then Tom Carothers is probably it. This explains why staff were so keen to hear Mr Carothers speak at WFD’s London headquarters last week.

Mr Carothers first visited WFD one year after its establishment in 1992, at a time when the “air we breathed” was full of positive assumptions. Democracy was full of momentum, had no serious challengers, and doors were wide open to international democracy support.

How things have changed. By the second decade of the 21st century, those assumptions are being challenged. The same doors are “literally being closed to people”. Yet Mr Carothers is upbeat. “There’s something profound about the idea that people can work across borders to help each other figure out solutions to political problems. I still believe that’s possible, and necessary, for a better world,” he adds.

Mr Carothers and his team at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have spent recent years researching ‘rising democracies’: countries like Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia which have begun promoting democracy abroad in their own, distinctive ways. Carnegie’s conclusion on their work is balanced. While these states are doing more in a quiet, under-the-radar way than many give them credit for, their approach is not quite as original as they claim.

“They always say ‘we have a distinctive approach’,” as Mr Carothers describes it. “You say, what is it? What they describe sounds like an EU document on democracy support. They describe a consensual, non-confrontational approach [driven by] values, harmony. They’re working against a caricatured idea of western democracy support.” In extremis, this caricature ties all western democracy-strengthening work to the foreign policy of George W. Bush’s White House. Richard Youngs, a senior colleague at Carnegie Europe who has previously engaged with WFD on his work, adds: “They have a perception of western democracy support as being about regime change, whereas they are defending democratic regimes against an unjust global system.”

(Above: Professor Richard Youngs of Carnegie Europe addresses WFD staff)

Part of the problem, Mr Carothers suggests, is that non-western democracies feel like they are being asked to do the “hard things first”. Why should South Africa transform its relationship with Zimbabwe, for example, because the USA wants it to? Would the USA respond positively to an equivalent request – for it to shake up its relations with Saudi Arabia, for example?

Getting over this barrier appears difficult, but comments from WFD staff at the session suggest it is at least plausible. Much of WFD’s work is about encouraging south-south learning; as with the recent trip by Iraq’s Anti-Corruption Commissions to their counterpart organisation in Indonesia. “Positive peer pressure,” as WFD’s Director of Programmes Devin O’Shaughnessy puts it, can work wonders. But funding this work is difficult. “No-one’s thinking in a more creative way about how we do provide funding to build those kinds of relationships,” he said. “Your research encouraged us to look more at south-south work, to build a community of people who want to defend democracy.”

WFD understands that each country approaches democracy from its own perspective; it’s why we take pride in being able to share the full breadth of the UK’s unique democratic experience, but also why we recognise that other countries’ approaches are just as unique. Carnegie’s new research has highlighted the unique nature of non-western democracies, like Brazil, and the different experience they bring from their own democratic transitions. Brazil, for example, has been interested in peacekeeping, while Korea and Japan see democracy through the lens of economic modernisation.

But, this leaves organisations like WFD left to wonder whether the scope for western democracy promotion is ending. Tom Carothers and Richard Youngs remain positive about the potential role of rising democracies. “We think there is still merit in trying to build up triangular networks with these countries,” Prof Youngs says and WFD agrees wholeheartedly.

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