New Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy in the Western Hemisphere

Election workers count votes during Chile’s 1988 plebiscite, which ended Pinochet’s dictatorship. Source: Flickr

When I started out as a junior State Department diplomat at the close of the Carter Administration in the dark days of the Cold War, the state of democracy in Latin America was abysmal. Military dictatorship was the norm throughout the region. During my early State Department years I worked to support, sustain, and contribute to the so-called third wave of democracy in the Americas that helped make the Latin America region, as the Economist recently said, “the most democratic region of the developing world,” behind only North America and Western Europe.

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Being Bold for Change in Guatemala

Guatemalan campaign 2015, TODOS political party candidates for Congress on the National List

In 2013, while I was working in partnership with NDI Guatemala, I became interested in encouraging more women to get involved in politics, so I applied for the Andi Parhamovich Fellowship. I proposed a project focused on increasing women's participation as decision-makers in Guatemala - a huge challenge for me considering my background was in the sciences and I was new to politics.

Through my APF project I worked on a training program to prepare female candidates, who defied gender stereotypes, for the legislative elections in 2015, but we never expected a year like that.

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Taking the Road Less Traveled: NDI’s Conflict Transformation Program in Kosovo

The emerging leaders group 'Diverse Your-Selfie' used this symbol of a hat to promote diversity by taking selfies and posting them to social media networks.

NDI Kosovo recently concluded a more than two-year long program on Conflict Mitigation, aiming -- through its own activities and with the support of its partners -- to cultivate relationships across the country’s divisions, thus easing ethnic tensions in Kosovo. Through the program, more than 600 Kosovars engaged in diverse dynamics across ethnic lines, overcoming their possible post-war fears, prejudices and mistrust, thus establishing rewarding collaboration.

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Developing Democracy in Kosovo, Europe’s Youngest Country

A workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting, held in October 2012, where women councilors developed an advocacy plan and timeline for their municipality’s priority issue.

Meaningful democracy means the equal participation of women and men in political and public life.

In 1999, just after the war, I found myself back in my hometown, having spent months as a refugee in Macedonia. As Kosovo recovered, the UN and many international organizations were present to help Kosovars build institutions and capacities and to reconcile communities. I started to run the youth center in my hometown, and I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with young people while I worked there. We were a new generation and we had gone through difficult and different experiences during the conflict, so getting together in this way was a real challenge at first.

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Empowering Women in Nepal for a Better Tomorrow

Women welcoming party leaders and NDI staff in Humla, Nepal. 

Prior to my work with NDI, the term “democracy” in Nepal seemed to imply a group of leaders fighting for power, without regard to the norms and values of democracy. Democracy was not for the people, of the people and by the people, but for the leaders, of the leaders and by the leaders. This perception commonly held by political parties in my country made me think - did democracy really exist? Will future generations adopt and carry the same values that we practice in our daily lives or will they bring about changes?

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Three Challenges Faced by Political Parties in the 21st Century

On January 9th and 10th, the National Democratic Institute hosted the 21st Century Parties Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Party experts and assistance providers convened to discuss three important issues many parties struggle with around the globe: inclusion and citizen relations, ideology, and political party finance. The conversation was framed around the idea that democracy is a process, not an end goal. As former Secretary-General of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Pedro Sánchez pointed out, “Democracy is always an unfinished building, it is always a work in progress….and we should see it as something that needs to evolve.” The following are outcomes from each of the three challenges discussed:

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Continuing an Interrupted Legacy

Ferdos Majeed voted in the Iraq parliamentary elections in 2005, her first time voting in a free and fair election.  

Before 2003 Iraq was isolated from the world. The country possessed little knowledge of a democratic system, a functioning civil society, a multi-party political system or human rights, especially as they applied to women. As a lecturer at a large university in Iraq, I was speaking with young people every day who expressed their eagerness for freedom of speech. I kept hoping that we would have all of that one day, and I was looking to learn everything I could about democratic systems and human rights.

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Citizen participation: What’s ART got to do with it?

Art? You mean music, street theater, dance, visual art or radio dramas? 

The Civic Update is a production of NDI’s Citizen Participation Team which highlights innovative practices, approaches and lessons from NDI programs. The January 2017 video edition, Art for Campaigning, focuses on how NDI has supported local partners to use art as part of their organizing. It includes examples from the Central African Republic, Guatemala, Kosovo, Macedonia, Nepal and Nigeria.

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The Andi Parhamovich Fellowship: A worldwide legacy of women's political empowerment

Ferdos Majeed was selected the first Andi Parhamovich Fellow in 2008. Ferdos worked with closely with Andi in Iraq so her selection was a fitting tribute.

January 17th, 2017, marks the 10th anniversary of the death of NDI Baghdad employee Andi Parhamovich and three security personnel during an ambush in Baghdad, Iraq. While there is no way to adequately respond to such a tragedy, the Parhamovich family hoped to find a way to continue one of Andi’s passions: increasing women’s participation in politics. The Andi Parhamovich Fellowship was created so that young women from all parts of the world would be able to take advantage of resources and connections in Washington D.C. that they could then take home to their countries and move forward Andi’s goals.

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