From opening an office in Albania in January, to kicking off our work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week, it’s been quite a year! We’ve gathered our highlights from each month in our annual review of the year.
WFD to lead new Commonwealth programme on parliamentary accountability and inclusion
WFD will implement a £4 million programme to build trust in democratic institutions and support the political engagement of minorities and vulnerable groups in 18 developing countries across the Commonwealth.
The programme, funded by the UK Government as Chair of the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM), was announced by Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon Boris Johnson MP during the 2018 CHOGM Parliamentary Reception on 17 April.
The 2012 “Charter of the Commonwealth” sets out the values of the Commonwealth of Nations: “Governments, political parties and civil society are responsible for upholding and promoting democratic culture and practices and are accountable to the public [..]. Parliaments and representative local governments [..] are essential elements in the exercise of democratic governance.”
As of 2018, in many Commonwealth democracies the representation of women, young people, people with disabilities and the LGBT+ community remains limited, while the extent to which parliament oversees the executive is weak.
- Women are under-represented throughout the Commonwealth, with only 12 countries having representation greater than the CEDAW-recommended minimum of 30%.
- 50 per cent of Commonwealth members have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which prohibits all discrimination on the basis of disability.
- Almost 70 per cent of Commonwealth members have laws that discriminate against homosexuality.
Over the next two years, this programme will work with Parliaments to help address these issues in 18 Commonwealth Member States across Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia.
The partnership will focus on two main areas: inclusive democracies and accountability.
Building inclusive Commonwealth democracies
In this area, the programme will aim to:
- Get more women to become politically active.
- Promote political rights and engagement for minorities, including youth, LGBT+ community, and people with disabilities.
- Increase respect for Freedom of Religion and Belief.
Building accountable Commonwealth democracies
In this area, the programme will aim to:
- Help Parliaments adopt and implement the new set of Commonwealth Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures.
- Strengthen the ability of parliaments to hold government to account, including working with Public Accounts Committees across the Commonwealth.
- Encourage greater openness and transparency among Commonwealth governments, including facilitating collaboration with the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
The Commonwealth Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures
The Benchmarks provide a minimum standard to be met by all Commonwealth Parliaments and a description of how a Parliament should act, behave and function.
The programme will support partner parliaments who wish to carry out assessments of their own parliamentary culture, functioning and development based on the Benchmarks.
Partnership management and participating organisations
The programme will be managed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), WFD’s sponsoring Government Department and implemented by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), in partnership with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s UK Branch and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
(Photo: David Holt, creative commons)
WFD’s Chief Executive reflects on the importance of strong institutions and good leadership in strenthening democracy in the decades since 1989 and today.
September 15 2019 is International Day of Democracy, a day to step back and think about the state of democracy in the world, celebrate democratic achievements worldwide and consider how we can all stand up for democracy. The day is also a great opportunity for us to reflect on our programmes to support participation, which is the theme of this year’s Democracy Day.