The year 2004 was the second year of NIMD’s 2003-2006 programme, Without Democracy Nobody Fares Well. During this year the cooperation with the political parties in thirteen programme countries was further intensified as planned, while new relations were established in two additional countries.
Supporting political parties and helping the multiparty democratic system to perform better is the focus of NIMD’s work. The value of the link between the two became visible, for instance, in the pro-active role played by the political parties in Ghana, which resulted in an exemplary electoral process during the general elections in 2004. Political society there managed the potential conflicts peacefully and so contributed to the necessary stability needed for durable economic development and to meet the internationally agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in poverty reduction.
Indonesia was another country that witnessed a further step in its democratic evolution during 2004, with parliamentary elections and the first direct presidential elections in its history. NIMD supported the formulation of a Code of Conduct that was signed by the Secretaries-General of all twenty-four registered political parties - something which clearly helped to close the ‘year of elections’ on a positive note and introduce new leadership to take the democratic reform process forward in the world’s third largest democracy. Governments in democracies tend to be more accountable to and concerned with serving the interests of the population. Research data on countries in Sub-Sahara Africa suggest that, in democratically governed countries, human development indicators generally outperform those in countries that are governed non-democratically. Support for political society in general, and for political parties in particular, has long been neglected in international cooperation. Through its collaboration with political parties across the government-opposition divide - a collaboration based on inclusive approaches that facilitate dialogue among the political antagonists - NIMD is developing significant political capital for needed reform processes within political parties and within the multiparty political systems.
The key principle informing all of NIMD’s programmes is the ownership of the political reform processes by our counterparts in young democracies. By enabling the political stakeholders across the political divides to become more pro-active in finding solutions for national challenges, encouraging and sometimes remarkable results are obtained. NIMD will build on this positive experience and hopes that in recognition of the value of democracy for Europe’s own stability and prosperity, democracy support hall become the core business in the foreign policies of the European Union and its member states, alongside cooperation in issues of economics and security.
With the rediscovery that politics matter, both the accountability of leaders to their citizens and the important role political parties ought to play are receiving increasing attention on national and international agendas. As practitioners we share the view that political parties ought to play key roles in the ‘dynamization’ of the democratic reform processes. Whereas political parties are part of the problem that needs to be addressed, they also form part of the solution for providing a more stable and predictable democratic political system responsive to the needs of the people.
One of the important messages that NIMD wants to share in its efforts to promote and deepen democracy is that democracy is much more than competition between political parties. Electoral competitiveness needs to be accompanied by efforts to develop trust in the democratic system of governance. The construction of democracy requires continued attention.
For many politicians in NIMD’s programme countries, the very composition of NIMD provided an eye-opener: political parties working together to pursue a commonly defined objective. NIMD’s partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America are encouraged to engage in inter-party dialogues. Locally owned programmes allow international partners such as NIMD to address priorities in two main areas: the longer-term institutional development of political parties and the improvement of the party system.
Prof Dr J.A. van Kemenade, President of NIMD
The Hague, The Netherlands