Youth Want More Than a Seat at the Table

During an NDI workshop in Kosovo, a participant displays the message for a inter-ethnic advocacy campaign. Arta Qorri

International Youth Day 2016 comes at a time when the United Nations and other members of the international development community are recognizing youth as champions for sustainable development. This reflects an ongoing shift in perspectives from fearing the ‘youth bulge’ as a problem to be solved, to partnership with young women and men as leaders and a demographic dividend that can accelerate global progress. Today’s youth – the most connected, educated and open-minded generation the world has seen – have the power to foster innovative and transformative change.

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Put Us in Your Place: Integrating Women into Election Observation

In Côte d’Ivoire, the Plateforme des organisations de la société civile pour l’observation des élections en Côte d’Ivoire recruited significant numbers of female election observers in a post-conflict context. For many of these women, it was their first experience in political activism.

Election observation initiatives are most effective when their findings are not only valid but also—more importantly—accepted as such by the majority of citizens. Observation teams should reflect the diversity of the population so that observer groups can truly speak in the name of all citizens. Gender balance is an important consideration in the composition of observer teams and leadership structures, both of which influence public perceptions of the observer group.

Integrating women into an observation effort helps ensure a more comprehensive understanding of the different barriers to political participation that men and women face. It is also an important step to advance observation strategies that address the distinctive ways electoral violence affects citizens.

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Gender-Sensitive Governance: The Missing Ingredient for Resilient Cities

Rockefeller Foundation's Sundaa Bridgett-Jones listens to NDI's Sandra Pepera at ICLEI's Resilient Cities Forum in Bonn in July 2016. Photo Credit: ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. As the forces of globalization rapidly draw more people to urban centers in search of socioeconomic opportunity, we must ask: How do we ensure our cities are safe, sustainable and resilient?
When considering city resiliency, we think immediately of physical necessities: will people have access to clean water, sturdy buildings, safe roads and public transport? Will the city be environmentally sustainable, and be able to weather and recover from natural disasters?
Resilience, though, isn’t only about civil engineering -- it’s also about politics and governance. Inclusive and responsive democracies minimize insecurity and help protect particularly vulnerable community members from potential shocks and stressors. Democracies based on these values guard against instability and conflict and work to address the needs of their populaces, especially in circumstances where the population is diverse and may have competing interests.

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Thinking Politically Means Thinking About Elections

Environmental activist from Macedonia talks with a voter about campaign to clean up pollution sites ahead of the 2013 mayoral elections.

Elections are often treated by donors and development practitioners as discrete events that require process-oriented support; like ensuring registration, campaigning, voting and vote counting standards are met. There has been much less emphasis on putting elections to work to advance the collective socio-economic interests of citizens. Financial or technical support to strengthen an election process may result in one that is more inclusive and fair, but even the most credible elections do not guarantee a government that will address citizen needs.

Recently, NDI undertook a review of programs that show how elections can advance the collective interests of citizens. We compiled lessons from NDI programs in Malawi, Macedonia and Turkey to demonstrate the value of taking advantage of election periods during strategic campaigns. Our new website, Putting Elections to Work for Accountability, compiles the findings of the review and features case studies of campaigns in Malawi, Macedonia and Turkey. The

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International Leaders from Over 100 Countries to Observe Democratic National Convention

Philadelphia skyline at night. Credit: Flickr user Tyler Sprague (CC BY-NC)

Every four years NDI has the honor of hosting the International Leaders Forum (#ILF2016) -- a week-long series of non-partisan events for international leaders organized around the Democratic National Convention. The convention is held by the U.S. Democratic Party to nominate a presidential and vice presidential candidate. The Forum -- held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this year -- carries on NDI’s tradition of bringing together international leaders to experience the convention and to learn about the U.S. political system. Nearly 400 current and former heads of government, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and leaders of political parties from over 100 countries will participate.

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Four New Resources on Thinking and Working Politically

150 schools in Jordan are implementing NDI’s Youth Political Participation Program (Ana Usharek Schools) involving 3,053 students across Jordan. The program aims to promote civic education among students, involve them in projects serving their communities and introduce ways to effectively participate in political and public life. Photo Credit: Dareen Al-khoury

Each week NDI’s Citizen Participation team provides a resource to assist NDI staff in meeting the objectives of their programs. The past month’s resources discussed the need to better understand the thinking and working politically (TWP) framework in development programming, described the importance of integrating politics into development efforts to improve service delivery for poor populations, introduced a research and advocacy framework to support community organizing, and shared effective strategies to improve social accountability approaches. These resources provide tools and insights that can equip citizens and civil society with politically informed approaches to achieve better development outcomes and facilitate positive change.

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Violence Against Women: A Threat to Participatory Democracy

A female election official in Nigeria marks the thumb of a voter on election day in 2015 to help prevent double voting.

For the first time in history, over half the world’s population lives under elected governments. Yet, even in the most established democracies, women continue to be widely under-represented as voters, political leaders and elected officials. As half the world’s population, women are a key part of any democracy and their full and equal participation is a human right, and a measure of democratic integrity. Furthermore, we now have evidence of the positive effects of women’s participation. This can be seen in peace processes, where women’s involvement in peace negotiations means that the settlements are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years. Equally, a study that tracked women’s increased participation in local councils in India, showed that more women councillors led to increased investment in public services such as water and roads, improved parents’ aspirations for their daughters, and “erased” the gap between the boys’ and girls’ educational achievements.

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What the blockchain could mean for democracy in the digital age

On Monday, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joined the Bitfury Group and New America to launch the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, which will work to connect governments with the technologists and resources needed to pilot blockchain applications aimed at enhancing good governance. The blockchain -- which is, briefly put, an incorruptible and public ledger made up of data that is stored decentrally, entirely distributed and interconnected -- is most well known for being the underlying software that was invented to enable the Bitcoin digital currency. While the future of the blockchain is still being written, it’s possible the primary uses will not even be for currency or financial technology.

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Four New Resources for Citizen-led Accountability and Inclusive Change

Citizens and congressmen meet in the department of Bolivar, Colombia to discuss issues and improving relations.

Each week NDI’s Citizen Participation team provides a resource to assist NDI staff in meeting the objectives of their programs. This past month's resources described the need for integrative strategies for citizen-led accountability, outlined an assessment framework to identify government accountability gaps, introduced a learning and advocacy framework for disability-inclusive development, and convened resources on cross-sectoral and evidence-based approaches to positive youth development. These resources provide tools and insights that can help citizens and civil society strengthen their ability to increase government accountability and bring about inclusive developmental change.

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Grassroots Youth Spark Change in Kosovo

Students in Zvecan, Kosovo, brainstorm ways to stop school bullying, as part of a community initiative started by YLP participants.

Vladimir had not crossed the Mitrovica bridge -- which divides ethnic Serb communities north of the Ibar River from ethnic Albanians to the south -- in three years. But in February last year, Vladimir had a reason to cross the bridge and travel south: the opportunity to attend an NDI training in Gracanica with 19 other minority youth leaders and become a stronger advocate for issues in his community. Vladimir and his colleagues are members of the most recent generation of NDI’s Youth Leadership Program.

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