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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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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Women Can Bring Civility Back to Politics

We are living in a time where people are pretty down on Washington. Around the world, the U.S. Congress has become better known for partisanship than as a beacon of democracy. Still, I am proud to be part of a bipartisan group of women senators who are a part of the solution, proving that civility and effectiveness in politics is not a thing of the past.

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Four New Resources for Implementing Politically Smart and Culturally Informed Programs

During the strategic planning session of NDI Nicaragua's Certificate in Leadership and Political Management (CLPM) program, a group of participants from several civil society organizations (CSOs) work together to create a problem tree.

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 analyzed how to make politically informed decisions when implementing development programs, outlined key principles to guide the effective use of Theories of Change, conveyed evidence-based recommendations on the dynamic between democratization initiatives and violent conflict, and reviewed how digital information and communications technologies (ICTs) can impact development and inequality. These resources provide CSOs and practitioners with tools and insights for implementing politically smart, culturally informed and effective development practices and programs.

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Innovating in World Megacities: A Search for Stories

Living Cities and NDI have entered a partnership to find and share the stories of innovators in world megacities.

Every 20 years, the United Nations gathers to discuss the work of cities and renew political commitment to sustainable urbanization. In this year of the third Habitat conference, there is a vibrant global conversation happening around poverty reduction and a “new urban agenda.” Innovation will be a critical part of that conversation, as leaders and policymakers look for the new regulation, new office or new technology that could pick the lock on an intractable problem.

The ability to innovate is absolutely critical if cities are going to meet the ever-evolving challenges of the 21st century.

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The Role of Citizens in Democracy

Having just voted for the presidential elections in July 2014, voters in Jakarta’s Senin district show their inked fingers. Photo by Telibert Laoc

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Sovereignty resides in and flows from the people of a country. They have a collective right to choose their governmental, political and electoral systems as an aspect of self-determination. The authority of government derives from the will of the people in their choice of these systems, and the people have a right to take part in their government – including through genuine elections to determine who is to legitimately occupy governmental offices.

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“Moving Forward More Strongly Towards Freedom:” What #NotTheCost is Really About

Mona Lena Krook, #NotTheCost technical advisor, greets Dr. Ave Maria Semakafu (Sextortion Coalition, Tanzania) and Susana Villaran (Former Mayor of Lima, Peru, current vice presidential candidate). Photo credit: Nikhil Shah.

At 5:45 in the morning, there isn’t much that I think about apart from coffee. But at 5:45 AM on March 17th, 2016 in New York City, I - along with NDI colleagues from the Gender, Women & Democracy (GWD), Operations, Communications & Development teams - was getting ready to run lighting cues, set-up registration and prep our volunteers for the #NotTheCost launch event. But then March 17th happened, and after all the planning, after all the last-minute arrangements -- including exciting additions to the program such as women’s activist and wife of the Canadian Prime Minister Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau -- I finally got to see this thing come to life. I watched people I’d only ever read about discuss this topic. I heard Madeleine Albright speak, and I listened as women representing countries as diverse as Kosovo, Cote D’Ivoire, Indonesia and Peru shared profoundly personal stories of violence they had experienced as women because they dared to be political activists, elected officials or candidates. I walked away from the event completely floored by what what I had just witnessed.

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