Western Balkans Democracy Initiative

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Western Balkans Democracy Initiative

The Western Balkans Democracy Initiative (WBDI) works with eight parliaments, public institutions, political parties and civil society organisations across six countries to improve representation of women, young people and persons with disability in political processes that impact on their lives. WBDI will support political parties to make their internal structures more democratic and responsive to marginalised groups policy needs.

We have offices in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia that work at the national level to improve democratic process in the region. WBDI is based and managed out of Belgrade.

Context

The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and the creation of six separate states exasperated ethnic tensions and nationalist rhetoric that to some extent still frame politics in the region today. As the region’s countries move towards European integration, well-functioning institutions that pass quality legislation, monitor the work of governments and, critically, represent and promote the interests of all citizens, is essential.

Intended Goals

The overall aim of the programme is to:

  • Encourage political parties to be more policy-focused and orientated towards voters’ needs and desires;
  • Develop more effective parliamentary practice which leads to better quality legislation, closer scrutiny of the executive and a greater focus  on service delivery in line with voters interests; 
  • Enhance democratic culture with greater interaction between state and non-state actors on challenges effecting citizen’s lives. 
Institutional support

In recent years, our institutional support across the Western Balkans has: 

  • Exposed legislatures to UK parliamentary practice and enhanced links between the UK and the region’s decision makers; 
  • Enhanced financial oversight practices including the establishment of two parliamentary budget offices in Serbia and Montenegro;
  • Supported parliaments to restructure and revive their parliamentary services, introducing modern human resources practices;
  • Assessed parliamentary capacities to promote and protect human rights to support strengthen these functions;
  • Built parliament’s capacities to communicate effectively with citizens and be more open and transparent institutions. 
Engaging civil society organisations

Our engagement and support to civil society has: 

  • Enhanced the ability of our partners to research and produce evidence-based policy papers for engagement with institutions and policy-makers;
  • Promoted civil society engagement with parliamentary committees to advocate for legislative change. 
Strengthening political party systems

Our work with political parties has: 

  • Built party structures and systems; 
  • Enhanced women and youth political participation; 
  • Provided education, support and advice relating to campaigning and elections; 
  • Given opportunities for networking and engagement, including exposure to UK and European counterparts. 
Parliamentary Boycotts in the Western Balkans
This research study “Parliamentary Boycotts in the Western Balkans” explores the increasingly common use of official and unofficial boycotts of the main legislative institutions in the region and the impact this has on democratic governance.

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