Two-and-a-half decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Central Asia’s transition to democracy remains incomplete.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy was established in 1992 to assist in this process. Now we are renewing our commitment to implementing politically astute programmes across the region as its states confront a range of growing governance challenges.
Voters’ expectations are growing, but they are often disappointed by weak democratic institutions and personality-driven political parties, as well as by the increasing dominance of authoritarian regimes. Corruption is hindering already slowing economic growth, which in turn fuels youth unemployment and exacerbates ethnic tensions. Radicalisation and growing nationalism are both concerns.
Effective and inclusive governance can address all these issues. Whether working on improving financial sustainability, improving accountability, strengthening democratic practices or helping countries prepare for EU integration, Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s engagement aims to be part of the solution.
Our programmes are fundamentally sensitive to their political context. We understand that, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many newly independent states are still in the process of forging their own identity. Frozen or active conflicts, enthusiasm for EU integration and connections with Russia, China and Turkey all play a role. WFD’s aim is to respectfully recognise what this complex set of factors means for each state, and support its parliaments and parties accordingly.
WFD values the relationships it has fostered across the region because they have been key to our successes. The UK parties which run WFD’s sister-party programmes have built long-term partnerships with their counterparts based on trust and open exchanges of views. Our parliamentary programmes have extended this reach among the officials responsible for building democratic practices, facilitated by both expertise from Westminster and the UK’s devolved parliaments. Across all our work, WFD’s success rests on our ability to connect this expertise with leading actors in the countries where we operate. This approach has also helped us broker regional connections like the Western Balkans’ Network of Parliamentary Committees.
In the three years to 2018, WFD’s programming continues working in countries we have assisted for many years. The UK parties’ relationships with sister-parties are now well-established. Our parliamentary programmes focus on financial scrutiny; we are supporting the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office in Serbia and a Financial and Economic Analysis Office in Ukraine. WFD is helping civil society connect with parliaments with programmes focusing on human rights in Georgia and on a range of issues in Macedonia.
The region is also benefiting from our newest programming model – an integrated approach which combines our unique mix of parliamentary and political party support. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are working with both officials and party staff to increase the number of women politicians standing in local elections. And in Kyrgyzstan, we aim to support the link between national and local politics – an essential component of success in the wake of the establishment of parliamentary democracy in 2010.