The Middle East and North Africa has a poor image when it comes to democracy. Revolution in 2011 sparked a wave of optimism but then came conflict and doubt.
WFD’s work shows that people and politicians want more democracy and they want it to work better. Each year, WFD supports more initiatives throughout the region. This support to parliaments and citizens’ groups leads to better laws and more accountable governments.
The ‘Arab Spring’ reflected a widespread appetite for governance changes in countries which, for many years, had suffered as a result of corruption, instability and social inequality. In the years since then, their leaders’ responses have varied. Some have resisted change. Others have shown themselves willing to embrace reform, recognising that citizens’ expectations about economic growth and social freedoms cannot be suppressed indefinitely.
Middle Eastern and North African states face common challenges in undertaking these reforms. All of them need to strengthen the capacity of all the institutions responsible for ensuring and enabling good governance. Parliaments and political parties are an essential part of this. Between them they provide arenas where citizens, particularly marginalised groups like women and young people, can participate in debates and have their views represented. They are both critical ingredients in ensuring good oversight, improving policy and strengthening accountability. Countries responding to 2011 by implementing governance changes which ignore parliaments and political parties risk failure.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy offers pragmatic, practical support to Middle Eastern and North African countries seeking to improve their governance – and we are proud of our work in the region and the relationships we have built since our establishment in 1992. We bring together British parliamentary expertise from Westminster and the devolved assemblies, while fostering sister-party relationships between British politicians and their Arab counterparts. Our drive to help parliaments achieve great things for their citizens has helped us broker fruitful links between officials and politicians across the region, prompting regular events which share best practice in areas like financial scrutiny, research centres and women’s rights.
In the three years to 2018 WFD’s programmes are set to span across the entire region. We are continuing to build the capability of the Research Centre we established in Jordan; supporting a Public Accounts Committee in Morocco and a financial committee in Tunisia; providing a range of assistance in Iraq, including to the Kurdistan Government in Iraq’s Anti-Corruption Commission; and growing the capability and activities of the Coalition of Arab Women MPs combating violence against women.