On 15 September, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the UK Embassy to Macedonia launched an enhanced partnership with the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia.
The partnership will support an agenda of reforms to ensure parliament fulfills its role of representing the people and holding the executive to account following a time when public confidence in democratic institutions was low.
The Freedom House overall democracy score in Macedonia has been steadily deteriorating since 2011. In spring 2017 only 5% of Macedonian’s felt that the political situation was peaceful and stable in response to prolonged crisis and violence in the parliamentary building. However, according to a new International Republican Institute survey in August the percentage increased to 44%, following the formation of a new government.
While recognising this increase in optimism, the Assembly has decided to undertake internal reforms to regain and retain public confidence.
WFD has been present in Macedonia continuously since 2008, working with the parliament and civil society organisations. The Foundation currently works to strengthen engagement between civil society, state agencies and decision-makers to improve public policy and enhance transparency.
The new programme, funded by the UK Government, and implemented by WFD will support reform initiatives led by the offices of the Speaker and Secretary-General, including:
1. Assisting in developing budget, strategic planning and human resources capacity.
2. Enhancing financial oversight through detailed assessments and implementation of recommendations.
3. Improving the culture of openness and transparency through improved internal and external communications.
Working closely with parliamentary groups, staff and the media, the programme will produce recommendations, strategies and plans to improve the performance of the Macedonian parliament as the central institution of democracy in the country.
Better planning, monitoring and communications will help build citizens’ trust and, in the long term, improve the quality of democratic governance.
Launching the new partnership, President of the Assembly, Mr. Talat Xhaferi, said:
“With this Memorandum of Understanding, we renew and continue the cooperation with the UK and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. The signing of this Memorandum demonstrates commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and above everything, strengthening of the function, the role and the responsibility of the Assembly as a legislative body which is directly elected by the citizens.”
Charles Edmund Garrett, UK Ambassador to Macedonia, said:
“The UK will continue to support Macedonia in its reforms for democracy and rule of law. As long as you see NATO and EU accession as strategic goals for enhancement of your stability, security and progress, we will support you in this regard. Our countries share the same interest in theses aspects.”
The Ambassador also noted that the timing of the programme launch could not be better as it coincided with the International Day for Democracy.
Attending the launch, Anthony Smith, WFD Chief Executive, added:
“In every country, democracy needs to be built every day, that democracy needs to be refreshed every day, and that democracy needs to be re-energised every day. For that, we need strong, inclusive and open institutions of democracy – parliaments, judiciary, audit authorities. We also need active and engaged civil society, and an open and free media. Democracy is everyone’s responsibility”.