In Ecuador NIMD works with International IDEA in the joint programme Ágora Democrática that promotes inclusive politics and provides technical assistance to lawmakers. The programme has contributed to provisions for women’s political and economic rights in Ecuador’s new constitution, and helped design a new Electoral and Political Parties law.
Constitution based on consensus represented in the Constituent Assembly
On September 28th the population of Ecuador approved the new Constitution in a popular referendum with a strong majority of 64%. With this milestone, Ecuador is at the point of restructuring its political landscape. The preceding process leading up to this milestone was the National Constituent Assembly (CA) that worked from December 2007 until July 2008. Since Movimiento Pais, the ruling political movement, won around 70% of the seats in the Assembly, it could easily dominate the development of the text. Therefore, one of the main challenges for Ágora Democrática (NIMD-IDEA) (hereafter Ágora) was to strengthen all political groupings in their participation in the Assembly. The CA consisted of 10 commissions each composed of 13 delegates from ruling and opposition parties.
By providing objective information to three of the commissions, in specific number 2, 4 and 6, through the organization of debates, seminars, conferences and direct support, Ágora stimulated a dialogue between the members of the different commissions on issues of political reforms, media policy and social inclusion. The proposals of these three commissions to the plenary assembly of the CA resulted in high quality proposals compared to the other commissions. Moreover, on request of the government, Ágora initiated a working group consisting of organizations, experts and state authorities to develop the new legal framework for the Electoral Law and the Law on Political Parties. Due to these efforts, Ágora made a contribution to the strengthening of the multiparty system.
Political reform proposals on participatory democracy elaborated and discussed
The new Constitution of Ecuador opened the path to a deep political and institutional reform in Ecuador. There are three different deadlines for this reform depending on the urgency of certain laws (180 days, 360 days and 4 years after the approval of the new constitution). These deadlines were established in the “Régimen de transición” (Transition Regime), which prescribes the steps in the legal reform that the different branches of government must undertake in order to implement the new Constitution. In the first period of reform, started in October 2008
(within 180 days after the approval of the new Constitution), together with the Legislative and Accountability Commission, Ágora initiated a working group with representatives of the National Electoral Council, the Tribunal of Electoral Law, the Ministry Coordination of Politics, the Ministry of Justice and national and international experts in order to present a draft of the Electoral Law and the Law on Political Parties, which is currently subject to discussion as the “Code of Democracy” in the Legislative and Accountability Commission. The preparations began in October 2008 and the draft was finished in January 2009. The Law has already been discussed in two different social forums, and has been approved in first debate in the legislative branch of government.
Enhanced knowledge of economic and social policy and the management of natural resources
Ágora has adjusted its programme depending on the political conjuncture and the needs of the political parties and movements in 2008. During the year, there was a stronger need for assistance for the issues of media strategy, social inclusion and systems of political representation. Therefore, the issue of management of natural resources was not a main focus for 2008.
Contrary, on the issue of social inclusion, Ágora made a significant contribution in the development of proposals focused on social inclusion by organizing debates, doing research and producing publications. Moreover, Ágora supported the Forum “Labour, production and social inclusion” organised by the Sixth Commission of the CA and the National Symposium on Urban Development and Territorial Planning by the participation of Manuel Castells and Carlos Hugo Molina.
Institutionalization of multiparty dialogue and co-operation between parties
According to the long-term strategy, NIMD’s main goal is to institutionalise a multiparty dialogue on national level by transforming the Ágora programme into a institutionalised Centre for Multiparty Democracy, where ruling and opposition parties are represented in the board or in a reference group. Since the start of the programme in 2006, the political party system is in total collapse and in the first two years the office mainly focused on creating a space for dialogue between different stakeholders in the political context. Informally Ágora has served as a neutral place for dialogue on certain issues, but this is not structural and formalised yet, especially because the political key players have been very unstable in the last two years; some parties lack an internal structure and others lost their representation.
Transparent political parties better equipped to design sound policies
Due to the fact that most of the political parties disappeared in 2006 and new political movements were founded, almost all political groupings are weakly institutionalised. Most of the parties of movements have no internal structure and are hardly identifiable by ideology. This made it very difficult for Ágora to show a result on the level of transparency and internal democracy of political parties. Moreover for most of the parties, this was not the main concern in 2008 as well. In a year of political restructure, the main focus for these political organisations was the CA. Therefore, Ágora made the strategic choice to relatively put more emphasis on supporting the work of the CA commissions and on socialising the new Constitution. However, in line with the long-term strategy, this objective will remain an important focus in the coming years. Especially, since the new Constitution prescribes certain requirements concerning internal democracy and financial transparency in order to be able to participate in the elections in 2014. Therefore, Ágora made a low-profile start in 2008 and will increase its efforts on this objective in the next years.
Enhanced representation of traditionally marginalized groups
Ágora, in cooperation with the municipality of Quito and FLACSO (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences), implemented a regional training course for women in local governments and politics. Previous editions of this course have been held all over Latin America and Europe. The training course “Liderar en Clave de Género” encouraged female participation in politics. The Andean Region Office of IDEA, contributed to this training by providing an international expert and in-depth knowledge on this issue. Moreover, together with the municipality of Quito, Ágora also organized the first Latin American Summit of Women Authorities of Local Governments. The product of this summit was the creation of a Latin America Network of “Women in Politics” Organizations. This summit intended to share different experiences of female representatives of local authorities in order to create a regional network that allow the coordination of training programmes for women in politics in the future.
Adoption of rules and regulations ensuring internal party democracy
On request of the ruling political movement, Ágora invited international experts from Chile, Peru, Colombia and Uruguay, in order to present an analysis of the challenges and methods of internal democracy that are applied in those countries. The need for such a support was due to the requirements in the new Constitution, which states that every political party or movement has to implement internal democracy in order to elect their candidates and representatives by the next elections in 2014. Although, the request came from the ruling movement, Ágora applied a multiparty approach and invited all other principle political parties and movements.
Financial transparency and accountability by the political parties
Due to the lack of institutionalisation of political parties and movements and the choice to put more emphasis on other problem areas, this result was not reached. However, the new rules that the new Constitution sets requires political organizations to organize themselves and implement procedures for financial transparency. These requirements have to be implemented during the next four years and will therefore continue to be an important objective.
Political accountability enhanced
Creating an inclusive political and public debate on the CA and the new text of the Constitution was the main focus for Ágora in 2008. By making objective information available through the media and by strengthening the capacity of media stakeholders, Ágora has been able to increase the political accountability of representatives in the CA. An increasing number of civil society organizations, under which women organisations, participated in workshops, forums and debates organised around the CA. Moreover, the population, especially in traditionally excluded rural areas, was actively involved in the process by first of all absorbing objective information and secondly, by the opportunity to participate in a debate with the representative of the CA from their own community.
Civil society proposals are included in the discussion on the new Constitution
Ágora Democrática established a Gender Technical Secretary in order to support the inclusion of the gender issues in the debate of the CA. Within this initiative, in order to celebrate the International Women’s Day, Ágora supported three breakfast meetings of female representatives of the Assembly and invited international experts such as Flavia Marco (Economic Rights) and Rocío Villanueva (Politic Rights). The experts also participated in seminars organized by the National Consult of Women and the Women Movement. In addition, with the support of the secretary Ágora hired six consultants that worked in three different subjects: political rights, economic rights and justice. The proposals were presented to the commission and the majority of its conclusions and recommendations were considered by the commission in order to include them in the new Constitution.
Scope of Agora Ecuador activities expanded
To expand the scope of activities of Ágora and increasing public awareness of its work, Ágora supported two publications during 2008. It financed an article on democracy support in Ecuador in the Magazine Latinoamericana de Política Comparada, which is a new publication in Latin America, but widely distributed along different institutes in Latin America.
Moreover, in cooperation with UNDP and the Auditoría Democrática Andina, Ágora produced a Fact sheet “Dealing with Democracy” which was distributed by the Ecuadorian journal “El Comercio” (one of the eldest and most prestigious in the country). The fact sheet was published weekly during six weeks. Because of its commitment with strengthening of democracy, Ágora was invited to be part of the project and will therefore continue its involvement in the provision of information on democracy.