Democracies are fragile plants that need much tending and, untended, decline – at first gradually and then, like all gardens, suddenly. For more than 30 years now, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) has been the constant gardener: actively helping democracies to grow stronger, so that freedom and prosperity can flourish.
As the devastating war in Ukraine persists, the need for WFD as the UK’s public body dedicated to strengthening democracy around the world, has never been clearer. I am grateful for the hard work of WFD’s Chief Executive, Anthony Smith, my fellow Governors, and Team WFD for their work on this great good cause. I hope the stories here inspire you as they have me.
Richard Graham MP, Chair of WFD's Board of Governors
2021-22 marked the final year in our 2017-22 strategy period. Throughout this period we have been committed to four objectives in supporting democratic governance:
- Promoting inclusive political processes
- Enabling accountable political systems
- Supporting the protection of freedom and rights
- Fostering pluralist societies
Despite the global challenges facing democracy and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, WFD made progress across each of these areas.
Over the last year WFD is proud of the progress we've made working with partners to deliver 87 programmes in 39 countries and territories. On this page, you can find out about the impact of our work and download our 2021-22 annual review as a PDF.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has violently illustrated what is at stake in the struggle between democracy and autocracy. For those in my generation that doubted it, we can now see clearly that our freedoms are at stake too, and that democratic values are a strategic priority. Democracy and human rights are not luxuries. They link directly to our national security. And not just our security. Democracy and human rights are essential to our prosperity, our wellbeing, and our ability to thrive.
That was the message in the UK’s Integrated Review published in March 2021, and WFD’s work helps to implement the conclusions of that review. The resilience and dedication of WFD’s staff, and their commitment to supporting democracy, never fails to inspire me. This year is no different. As democracy defenders and advocates, WFD teams have built networks of liberty across the globe. Together, we dedicate our lives to democracy because we know that too many people have died for it.
Anthony Smith, WFD's Chief Executive
We developed more than 500 products
Our products include studies, guides, policy briefs and toolkits.
We worked in 39 countries and territories
Our offices are staffed by local experts.
We supported 6 election observation missions
We also trained over 50 new observers and pioneered new approaches to observation that focus on inclusion.
We engaged 635 MPs
Through our programmes and activities, we support MPs as they build their skills, knowledge and networks.
Our 30th anniversary has given us the opportunity to reflect on our impact so far as well as what happens next. In the global context of the war in Ukraine, and recent data showing that democracy is in global decline, we believe that our work, and that of our partners, is more vital, urgent, and relevant than ever.
In October 2022, we will launch a new three year strategy. It will include a renewed vision and mission, a refreshed theory of change, and a new results framework and set of strategic objectives. We will take an adaptive approach designed to respond to the challenges of conflict, climate change, global health and an economic downturn. In this context, we know that the accountability, inclusion, and transparency that democracy helps ensure will be essential.
The UK and other democratic countries are stepping up their work to support and defend resilient democracies and WFD intends to play its part, focusing on the real problems that our partners around the world are encountering.
Our impact in 2021-22
Supporting the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU)
Despite the outbreak of the war, WFD continues to work with parliament on a range of initiatives, including post-legislative scrutiny, improving support to law drafting, full policy cycle, hybrid and online procedures, and co-operation between parliament and the government.
WFD’s work with Kenyan political parties, funded by Demo Finland, helped ensure persons with disabilities (PWDs) are included in political parties’ governing committees. It also helped to remove barriers so they can actively engage in the contestation of elections ahead of the Kenyan general elections in the summer of 2022.
This year, our Global Equality Project (GEP) built on the success of our previous project on equality in the Commonwealth. Alongside the Kaleidoscope Trust, WFD worked in 18 countries and territories to help ensure women, LGBT+ people and other intersectionally disadvantaged groups can influence policy and law reform processes.
Supporting women’s leadership
We support women’s political leadership at local, regional and national levels across the globe – from the newest democracies, to more established ones. We have seen substantive results that make a difference for individuals and for societies. In Uganda, following training and mentoring organised by WFD, women MPs who had never spoken on the floor of parliament raised issues including teenage pregnancy and harassment of opposition women leaders by security forces. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the “More than a Quota” mentorship and networking programme brought together 40 women leaders across eight political parties at all levels of politics to build their skills and relationships, providing training on topics from personal branding to campaign strategies. Thanks to the participants, as of next year, registration of small businesses will be free in the Tuzla Canton – just one example of the local impact of women’s leadership.
Pioneering the environmental democracy approach
After the official launch of WFD’s environmental democracy programme in 2020-21, WFD has already seen some impressive results. For example: working with the Climate Change Committee and Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change in Uganda, WFD’s programme helped forge consensus to get a crucial climate bill passed. 2021-22 ended with WFD’s flagship Conference on Environmental Democracy, which brought together over 300 people to discuss why our planet needs democracy.
Helping parliaments and citizens hold political leaders to account
Embedding the practice of reviewing laws to assess their implementation and impact – a process known as post-legislative scrutiny (PLS) – was a common thread through WFD’s programmes in 2021-22. WFD worked to develop the capacity of parliaments to conduct PLS in countries including Jordan, Pakistan and Ukraine. In many programmes, WFD took a thematic approach to PLS, helping review and assess laws from a gender or a climate perspective. In a year when public debt continued to soar in response to crises, WFD developed a unique, free e-course for parliamentarians and MPs on public debt management, supporting parliaments’ oversight of public debt.
This year, the Women’s Academy for Africa (WAFA) supported social democratic women to enter politics through training opportunities in Africa. WAFA is a regional network that aims to change the face of politics by identifying, educating, and empowering women in Africa.
In Malawi, the WFD SNP programme’s work with the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus continued, supporting the development of a four-year strategic plan which provides a clear roadmap for the country to achieve gender related targets on girls’ education, women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence, and women’s political participation.
Working with experts from the Liberal Democrats, the MPO has trained candidates from nine different African countries. Following this training, participants were elected to national office and senior leadership positions in their political parties or selected as candidates for upcoming elections
Throughout 2021-22 the Conservatives’ party-to-party programme facilitated training to upskill newly elected MPs, ensuring they are equipped to function as legislators and have the tools to provide a high standard of representation to their constituents.
Supporting free and fair elections
Through our electoral assignments we helped to deliver commitments made in the UK Government’s 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (Integrated Review) to build UK capability to support international election observation.
Working for openness and participation
By giving civil society and citizens a more direct role in setting policy agendas and shaping the public decisions that affect them, democratic institutions become stronger. In 2021-22 WFD helped countries to put participation at the heart of their democratic institutions.
Helping decision makers include everyone
Where discrimination and inequality hinder societies’ ability to thrive, WFD is helping decision makers include people who are often overlooked so that everyone’s voice is heard, and no one is held back. In 2021-22 our work on political inclusion focused on ensuring young people, people with disabilities (PWDs), women, and LGBT+ people have access to decision making.
WFD’s research programme is building an evidence base for what works when it comes to strengthening democracy. Drawing on its experience working across parliaments, political parties, civil society and elections, WFD’s research also aims to improve the quality of the work the organisation, and its partners, undertake.
This year, WFD focused on developing the evidence base for doing development democratically, producing papers including an outline by Professor Heather Marquette of how to “do anti-corruption democratically” in poor and rich countries in ways that are politically informed.
WFD teamed up with the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) to launch a new website hosting joint research on the cost of running for and staying in elected office in different countries around the world. This provides a valuable resource for people who agree that the cost of politics is a problem that impacts the overall strength and quality of democracy.
WFD’s publication with the Foreign Policy Centre provided detailed analysis and practical ideas for how the UK can operationalise its renewed commitment to being a force for good in the world – defending openness, democracy, and human rights necessary for shaping the open international order of the future.
WFD country teams are using their impressive political acumen, insight and convening power to support the increase in women’s representation and influence in decision-making…This is supported by some powerful examples of parliamentary capacity building, technical support and brokering of ‘relationships that no one wanted to have’."
The merits of post-legislative scrutiny have become more widely recognised internationally, not least due to the efforts of Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), with various national legislatures implementing some form of post-legislative scrutiny or oversight."
WFD’s Global Election Support Centre has produced benefits, includ[ing] influencing the debate about post-election reform, helping create more space for citizen observers, and adjustments being made to development programming to the benefit of the election process."