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.

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.

Working in complex political contexts, like in the six countries where the Western Balkans Democracy Initiative is active, can be tough.

A region that has experienced many challenges and intractable problems in the recent past, and which is now looking towards European integration, makes designing programmes that have a lasting impact on citizens lives less straightforward.

Slow to respond political systems, endemic corruption and weak institutional democracy are all fundamental problems facing Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

At the heart of the Western Balkans Democracy Initiative is the problem-driven iterative adaptation approach that encourages more thinking, analysis and adaptation of programmes to better understand the long-lasting problems in the region.

In 2018, WFD developed a set of guidelines for analysing these complex problems. The “problem definition test” outlined several steps to make sure we are exploring problems in depth and as defined by a comprehensive set of rules, dynamics and players. Testing included four steps:

  1. Is our identified problem understood in the same way by all the stakeholders involved?
  2. Is it perceived as a problem by parts of the population whose opinions are often obscured from view, such as rural populations?
  3. Are multiple solutions to the problem available?
  4. Is the problem defined as a ‘lack of’ or ‘absence of’ problem? If so, it is likely to lead to premature conclusions about the solution to the problem.

Across six countries, 47 problems were identified, and more than 160 verification activities took place to better understand the nature of these problems. WFD teams met, discussed and interviewed more than 400 stakeholders to inform the design of the programme.

Based on the information gathered, 11 political economy analyses were prepared to tackle these problems. These analyses show which actors are involved, their needs and motivations, the formal and non-formal rules that influence the problem. At the last stage we developed 10 complex packages each consisting of multiple approaches to the problem based on the potential for change identified in the PEA.

Using this data-driven approach gives WFD a unique opportunity to learn and adapt its programme of activities in the Western Balkans based on what works in this specific context. With more time to reflect and learn on what went well, we hope to help solve the problems facing democratic institutions in the Balkans.











Our work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia focuses on the challenges that women face in their efforts to become better represented in political and public life.

We will support women from political parties, civil society, MPs, mayors and ministers to advance policy agendas for women’s needs in employment, healthcare, social protection and education.

Getting more women in to politics in the Western Balkans requires not only quotas but meaningful participation of women in the decision-making process. WFD sees this as one of the main challenges impacting on democratic political processes in the region.











The Balkan countries have among the highest percentage of young people in Europe. However, politics in the region have often meant their demands went unheard. This has led to the alienation of large numbers of young people when it comes to perceptions of politics.

In Serbia and Montenegro, WFD is working to increase the awareness and interest of young people in politics. From analysing the communication strategies of political parties to educating first time voters, we aim to energise the youth who because of their political marginalisation often leave their countries.

Together with our partners we also work to analyse and research the dynamics behind youth emigration trends to better understand the needs of young people.     

In North Macedonia, WFD is engaging persons with disability, one of the most marginalised groups in society, to ensure their needs are at the top of the policy agenda. We are working with the civil society sector that support PWDs to create an alliance for change and engage other actors who can contribute to reform.

We are working with a cross-party group of MPs from the Parliament of North Macedonia who spent time with persons with disabilities and engaged in discussions on the challenges they face everyday. The recent presidential election in the country showed an increased sensitivity on the need to include communication methods and specific tools to engage persons with disabilities. We want to establish this as a standard practice in the political life in the country.

WFD is working with political parties to improve their internal democratic processes.

Our work in Kosovo supports practice that will decrease the amount of legislation passed to pursue party members financial interests.

In Albania, we are working to decrease the high costs of participating in elections for interested candidates. This will make politics more accessible to all citizens.  


























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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 Emil Atanasovski
Emil Atanasovski Regional Representative, Western Balkans
Chris Levick
Chris LevickRegional Director, Europe and Central Asia

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