In 1996 NDI collaborated with the Argentine organization Women in Equality (Mujeres en Igualdad, MEI) in organizing a training-program for newly elected women legislators and in developing a database of women leaders to be considered as candidates by parties needing to recruit women candidates to meet quota legislation requirements. NDI has since collaborated regularly with Citizen Power (Poder Ciudadano) regarding anti-corruption and electoral reform programs throughout the region.
In 2003, NDI received funding from the Democracy Human Rights and Labor Bureau (DRL) of the United States Department of State to implement a regional pilot Program for Party Renewal (PREPA) that included representatives of training departments and think tanks of Argentine political parties. Participating organizations included Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical, UCR), Union for All (Unión por Todos), Center for Political, Economic and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Políticos, Económicos y Sociales, CEPES) and Civic Association of Popular Studies (Asociación Civil de Estudios Populares, ACEP). This program promoted reform and renewal within parties specifically through the departments responsible for training the party base and leadership and designing the strategies for platforms and reform. Results from this program included the establishment of a policy driven training institute in Buenos Aires by UCR; the implementation of a consultative statutory reform process by Union for All; and the adoption of more participatory training methodologies by ACEP.
Since 2008, through its regional Political Partner Network (PPN), NDI has collaborated with the Network of Political Action Foundation (Fundación Red de Acción Política, RAP) to conduct workshops with their network of emerging political leaders from across the Argentine political spectrum. Topics addressed in these workshops include best practices and case studies of political party reform, candidate selection, political fundraising, campaign management, recruiting and mobilizing volunteers, and governance skills for local elected officials. RAP is a nonpartisan foundation that seeks to strengthen the relationship between political parties and civil society and to improve the capacity of individual leaders through workshops, seminars and courses.
Political Party Strengthening
From 2004-2009, NDI helped political parties and organizations adopt democratic, transparent and responsive practices as established under Bolivian law. In addition to various citizen and indigenous groups, participating political organizations included Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), National Revolutionary Movement (MNR), Fearless Movement (MSM), Plan Progress (PP), Democratic and Social Power (PODEMOS) and National Unity (UN).
In 2006, 10 parties and citizen groups, including MAS, MNR, PODEMOS and UN, debated substantive policy issues through three public candidate debates prior to the constituent assembly elections. The parties of the leading presidential candidates in the 2005 general elections, including MAS, MNR, PODEMOS and UN, also presented their parties’ economic proposals for discussion at a series of NDI-organized events.
From 2003-2005 NDI prepared 40 party trainers on participatory training methodologies from eight parties, including Nationalist Democratic Action (ADN), MAS, Pachakuti Indigenous Movement (MIP), MIR, MNR, MSM, Christian Democrat Party (PDC) and UN. These trainers replicated the training on the topics of internal democracy, transparency and outreach to new sectors with members of their parties.
From 2000 – 2003 and 2007, NDI engaged 31 Bolivian youth party members in its regional Political Leadership Program. Participants represented ADN, Free Bolivia Movement (MBL), MAS, MIR, MNR, New Republican Force (NFR), PODEMOS, Civic Solidarity Union (UCS) and UN. This program sought to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties. The one-year program began with an intensive leadership development seminar and continued in-country with the emerging leaders implementing party-strengthening projects.
Responding to party requests for technical assistance, in 1993 NDI conducted an international seminar on political party legislation pertaining to the topics of party fundraising, constitutional recognition of political parties and internal party democratization.
Political Parties and Poverty
Troubling levels of inequality and poverty affect a large percentage of the Bolivian population, presenting challenges to democratic institutions. In 2004 and 2007, NDI conducted two assessments on the incentives for Bolivian political parties to pursue poverty reduction strategies. NDI used the assessment findings to facilitate dialogue among political and civic actors in six Bolivian departments on poverty reduction.
Women’s Political Participation
In 2008-2009, in collaboration with local Bolivian partners, NDI conducted a series of multiparty women’s leadership workshops to prepare and empower women for successful political participation and potential public office candidacy.
In partnership with the Simon Bolivar Andean University (UASB), NDI conducted a 2007 political leadership training academy for 35 emerging women leaders to strengthen their ability to effectively engage in politics as well as promote a network of politically active women leaders. Participants represented a broad cross section of civil society groups and political parties.
In 2004, NDI implemented a nationwide women’s leadership school, Winning with Women, which trained more than 2,000 women on political leadership skills and campaign strategies for the 2004 municipal elections, and responsible municipal management practices.
Through a series of community workshops in Cochabamba, La Paz and Santa Cruz, NDI worked to strengthen cross-sector dialogue between civil society, indigenous groups, political parties and elected officials regarding democratic development and reform issues. Workshop participants contributed to constructive dialogue and consensus building regarding community concerns.
NDI began working in Brazil in 1986 when NDI and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany responded to requests from leaders of Brazil’s National Congress to conduct a program on legislative oversight of the budget process. The 1986 Congress was charged with drafting a new constitution that was eventually adopted in late 1988. The NDI and SUNY program was conducted in collaboration with the Pedrose Hora Foundation (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, PMDB) and the Tancredo Neves Institute (Liberal Front Party, PFL), and helped legislators develop a constitutional structure for the adoption of federal budgets.
In May 2000, NDI brought representatives from Mozambican civic groups to Brazil to study civic participation and municipal government structures. In Porto Alegre, the delegation attended a Participatory Budget Council session where citizen delegates debated the 2000 budget and voted for budget priorities. In Fortaleza, the Mozambican delegation studied examples of public-partnership cooperation both at the municipal and state levels, including a citizen's forum created by entrepreneurs. A national seminar was conducted upon return to Mozambique at which participants shared experiences and examined ways to apply the lessons learned. NDI has also used Brazilian trainers for programs in Angola and Mozambique on constitutional development, constituent relations, local government, and political party building.
Regional Political Leadership Program
In 2001, NDI worked with young leaders from the PMDB, Brazilian Worker’s Party (PT), Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), PFL, and the Brazilian Progressive Party (PPB) as part of the regional Political Leadership Program. This program sought to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties. The one-year program began with an intensive leadership development seminar and continued in-country with the emerging leaders implementing party-strengthening projects. The Brazilian projects addressed youth outreach, municipal government reform and political reform.
NDI's international observer delegation to the 1994 presidential election detected high levels of irregularities, prompting the Institute and other members of the international community to question the legitimacy of the elections.
NDI observers also played important roles during the 1996 and May 2000 presidential elections. For the 2000 elections, NDI and The Carter Center organized a 24-member joint international observation delegation.
More recent elections have benefited from the expertise of Participación Ciudadana, a civic organization that works to increase confidence and participation in the political process. NDI joined Participación Ciudadana, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the regional network of domestic observation organizations Acuerdo de Lima in sponsoring an international observer delegation to help monitor the 2004 presidential elections.
Stregthening Political Participation
From 2001 to 2007, 40 representatives of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) participated in NDI’s Political Leadership Program, a regional program to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties. The program involved an intensive, ten-day leadership development seminar and continued in-country with the young leaders implementing concrete party-strengthening projects. Project results in the Dominican Republic included: the creation of a party ethics code; reforming party statutes to include a quota of 33% for women and youth in elected positions; and increased training capabilities for party training institutes and women's party wings. NDI coordinated with Participación Ciudadana in implementing this program in the Dominican Republic.
Building on the results and methodologies of the Leadership Program, from 2006 to 2008 NDI provided technical assistance to the curriculum development of the Political Management Training Program of the Center of Governance and Social Management of the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo, which collaborated with NDI partner organization Participación Ciudadana to implement a national training program for young political leaders. This training program ended in May 2012.
Domestic Election Observation
In 2002, at the request of several Ecuadorian civil society organizations, NDI assisted civic leaders in developing a national organization to engage citizens in the electoral process and to promote political dialogue. With technical assistance from NDI, Citizen Participation Ecuador (Participación Ciudadana Ecuador, PCE) organized the first-ever nationwide domestic election observation in Ecuador, in which 4,000 Ecuadorian citizens monitored the 2002 presidential elections. In addition, PCE's youth volunteer network encouraged nationwide dialogue and participation in the country's first civic education campaign on punctuality. This highly respected civic organization continues to inspire citizens to strengthen and participate in Ecuador’s democracy.
Political Party and Civil Society Strengthening
From 2006 to 2012, NDI maintained a field office in Ecuador to help political organizations with internal reform efforts, to develop platforms on key issues of national concern and to encourage cooperation between political and civil society organizations. NDI work with political organizations focused on improving strategic planning, political negotiation, communications and transparency. NDI also helped prepare local leaders for the challenges of governance through workshops on the development of inclusive public policies. As part of these initiatives, NDI commissioned a series of focus groups to provide decision-makers with information about citizen opinions on key issues and about public perceptions of political organizations. These reports can be found here. In 2009, NDI continued its work to promote multi-sector dialogue on issues of concern by strengthening advocacy coalitions in the provinces of Chimborazo, Esmeraldas and Sucumbíos. These citizen coalitions sought to improve the delivery of basic services such as potable water and healthcare.
To help political organizations better understand and comply with recent legislation, NDI developed guides on the political organization and electoral law or “democracy code” passed in 2009. The democracy code established new requirements regarding organizational statutes, the development of national government plans, and the submittal of lists of signatures demonstrating uniquely affiliated members. NDI also worked with political organizations to increase women’s representation within their structures, one of the requirements for political organizations to register and compete in future elections.
From 2009-2010, emerging political leaders from across the ideological spectrum in Ecuador, including the ruling Country Movement (Movimiento País, MP) party, participated in the regional Political Leadership Program (Leadership Program, LP) of NDI. This program sought to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political organizations. This program was implemented annually with up to 40 youth and was implemented in three phases: 1) national academies for emerging political leaders in participating countries; 2) six participants from each of these countries were selected to participate in an international seminar; and 3) international seminar participants returned to their countries to implement organizational-strengthening projects that received NDI technical assistance. Organizational strengthening projects in Ecuador focused on increasing the political participation of indigenous, women and youth; implementing e-learning academies for organization members; and improving political organization use of social networks and technology tools for communication and outreach purposes.
El Salvador has been included in a current Central America regional program that encourages greater interaction by civic groups, political parties and government officials to work to address issues of citizen security.
Domestic Election Observation
NDI supported the transparency of the Salvadoran 2009 elections by helping impartial Salvadoran election observer groups implement a systematic and coordinated nationwide approach to monitoring the pre-election and election-day processes. NDI worked with the University Institute of Public Opinion (Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública, IUDOP) at the Central American University; the Social Initiative for Democracy (Iniciativa Social para la Democracia, ISD); and the National Foundation for Development (Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo, FUNDE). IUDOP conducted a national parallel vote tabulation (PVT or “quick count”), a proven methodology using a statistically random sample of polling station data; ISD monitored the role of television and written media by observing the quality and coverage of information offered to the public; and FUNDE monitored parties’ campaign advertising expenses in order to propose reforms aimed at greater transparency.
Prior to the electoral process, NDI supported the organizational development of Salvadoran election observation groups by sharing international best practices for monitoring pre-election and election-day conditions. NDI helped bolster the internal organizational capacity of Salvador national election observers in several areas, including: decision-making, division of labor, project planning, recruitment and training of nonpartisan domestic observer volunteers, and outreach strategies.
Electoral Study Mission
In 1989, NDI sponsored an electoral study mission to El Salvador in the lead up to the March presidential elections. The study produced by electoral experts from Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the United States served as a point of reference for international observers on the newly-enacted Electoral Code reforms and administrative preparations for the elections.
Barriers to Political Participation
With local civic partners, NDI has conducted a number of benchmark democracy surveys in Central America since 2005. These surveys measure citizens’ democratic values and perceptions of democracy in their country. In El Salvador, NDI partnered with Dr. Guillermo Manuel Ungo Foundation (Fundación Dr. Guillermo Manuel Ungo, FUNDAUNGO) to conduct the El Salvador 2009 Benchmark Democracy Survey which uncovered a number of unexpected attitudes among women and young people. Key conclusions from the benchmark survey included the following:
- Young and educated women in El Salvador were significantly less engaged than their young, educated, male counterparts;
- Youth were more interested in and knowledgeable about politics than their older counterparts but face systematic institutional obstacles that prevent them from engaging in the electoral process;
- Salvadorans had the least confidence in political parties and Congress, among the institutions whose primary responsibilities are to represent the interests of the public; and
- A substantial majority of Salvadorans who had a high level of formal education did not support democratic principles and values, such as individual responsibility, equality and tolerance.
In 1995, NDI organized a series of discussion groups in El Salvador designed to improve communication and interaction between local government officials and community leaders as well as support the development of mechanisms for citizen participation.
From 1990 to 2004, NDI supported the democratic transition in Guyana through efforts to strengthen the legislature, increase the involvement of political parties and non-governmental organizations in decision-making as well as the electoral process.
NDI promoted the constitutional reform process in Guyana by providing relevant materials and by sponsoring the participation of local and international advisors in the development of the Constitution Reform Commission. NDI supported civic education and the participation of civil society in the constitution reform process by providing technical assistance to conduct public consultations.
Strengthening the Capacity of Parliament
NDI worked with the Speaker’s Office and the political parties represented in Parliament to improve the legislative processes and strengthen parliament as an institution. NDI assisted the Parliament Office and members of parliament to develop a permanent committee system, increase research and administrative capacity of staff, and develop opportunities for increased public engagement in the work of Parliament. The Institute also contributed to legislative strengthening by building a parliamentary library and disseminating the Laws of Guyana in an electronic format on compact disc to the public, the judiciary and the legal community.
Domestic Election Observation
NDI designed and implemented a comprehensive national voter education campaign and provided technical support to civic groups on election monitoring, contributing to increased transparency and public confidence in the electoral process.
In 1991, NDI organized a symposium on efforts to promote public confidence and participation in election processes. As a result of this symposium, a group of civic leaders created a nonpartisan watchdog organization, the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) to enhance the integrity of the electoral process in Guyana. Soon after its creation, the EAB played an integral role in verifying the accuracy of the preliminary voters’ list for the 1992 national elections, which were considered to be the country’s first open and democratic elections. NDI continued to work with the EAB as it organized Guyana’s first domestic election observation of the 1994 local elections, Guyana’s first local government elections in 24 years.
Strengthening Local Governance
NDI worked with the Ministry of Local Government to improve the effectiveness of local government by training over 500 officials in administrative management skills. A Manual on How Local Government Works was produced and distributed to improve communication between citizens and their local representatives.
NDI created and distributed to every local councilor a handbook entitled Building Effective Local Governance: A Guide for Local Councilors. The handbook was used as a tool by councilors and educators to increase understanding of Guyana’s local government laws, structure of central government and the roles and responsibilities of elected local officials.
NDI also provided support to a Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, whose mandate was to ensure the implementation of constitutional reforms that transfer greater autonomy to local government bodies. NDI also implemented the “Making Cities Work” project in the city of New Amsterdam and Anna Regina, geared toward community action in resolving local concerns in collaboration with local officials.
Women’s Political Participation
NDI implemented a women’s political participation program designed to increase their representation in elected public office. Over 300 women from diverse backgrounds were trained by NDI in campaign management, public speaking, issues development, outreach, fund raising and media skills in preparation for local government elections. NDI also trained women in media monitoring and conducted a survey regarding public perceptions of women in politics.
From 1999-2004, NDI worked with The Carter Center (TCC) and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) under the Democracy and Rule of Law program in Guyana.
NDI and the U.S. Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) provided technical assistance to the Jamaican Debates Commission in the organization of the country’s first live televised prime ministerial and cabinet-level political debates in 2002. NDI provided the JDC with technical assistance in debate strategic planning, grassroots organizing, as well as the training of moderators. NDI and the CPD again provided technical assistance in strategic planning to the JDC for the 2007 debates, which for the first time were streamed online and televised internationally to reach the Jamaican diaspora community. A newspaper-commissioned poll showed that the prime ministerial debate was viewed by 64 percent of eligible voters.
Domestic Election Observation
With USAID support, NDI provided technical and financial assistance to the domestic observation organization Citizen Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) in the areas of: volunteer recruitment, training and organizational development to monitor the December 1997 general elections, the September 1998 local elections and the 2002 general elections. In the weeks leading up to the 1997 elections, NDI helped CAFFE recruit more than 2,000 volunteers and deploy 965 observers on election day. For the September 1998 local elections, NDI helped CAFFE consolidate its volunteer and funding base. NDI’s technical assistance in 2002 focused on strategic planning, recruitment and training of volunteers, and election day operations. It is widely accepted that CAFFE’s efforts strengthen voter confidence and help reduce political tension and violence.
From 1988 - 2001, NDI contributed to Paraguay’s democratic transition by implementing programs in the areas of civic participation, local governance, political party strengthening, transparency and ethics, civil-military relations and election observations.
When NDI began working in Paraguay in 1988, it helped establish the Center for Democratic Studies (CED) which went on to train pollwatchers; develop mass media campaigns to encourage voter registration and participation; conduct public opinion surveys; design and implement independent vote tabulations; and local governance and civic education programs. NDI provided financial and technical assistance for many of these CED programs.
In 1989, NDI also sent an international observer delegation to Paraguay's first open elections. For the May 1993 national elections, NDI supported SAKA, a consortium of five NGOs, to conduct a nationwide parallel vote tabulation.
From 1998- 2001, NDI contributed to anti-corruption initiatives in Paraguay. In March 1998, NDI and the Association of Christian Business Leaders (ADEC) co-sponsored an anti-corruption conference that included experts from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the United States and Venezuela and reached 350 political party leaders, civic activists, government officials, journalists and academics. In 1999, NDI conducted an anti-corruption survey mission in conjunction with the World Bank that evaluated the anti-corruption challenges and responses by the national legislature and the municipal government of Asunción.
Political Party Strengthening
In November 1996, NDI began to assist Paraguayan political leaders in developing stronger, more responsive and more democratic political parties. In preparation for the 1998 national elections, NDI worked with the parties on such issues as strategic planning, election laws, campaign finance reform and increasing the political participation of women. NDI also helped the political parties establish internal training centers.
In 1999-2000, six young Paraguayan political leaders from the Liberal, Colorado, and National Encounter parties participated in the regional Political Leadership Program. This program sought to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties. The one-year program began with an intensive leadership development seminar and continued in-country with the emerging leaders implementing party-strengthening projects. The Paraguayan projects targeted the areas of strategic planning, crisis management, communication skills building, ethics and increasing the political participation of women within party structures.
Supporting Coalition Governance
In 1999, NDI organized a series of consultations with Chilean political practitioners experienced in coalition governments to help the political parties that formed the National Unity Government develop consensus on key reform issues.
Since the death of Hugo Chávez, political polarization and limited citizen trust in government remain fundamental characteristics of the Venezuelan political system, prompting increased concerns about erosion of democratic institutions and processes.
NDI maintained a field office in Venezuela until March 2011 and conducted several democracy-strengthening activities. As a neutral, nonpartisan entity, the Institute worked with political forces representing the full spectrum of political opinion in the country. NDI programs sought to help reduce political polarization and to support democratic practices. Party strengthening activities consisted of technical assistance offered to leading political parties, including sharing information on international practices and materials for building inclusive, transparent and responsive political parties.
In addition, NDI supported the integrity and transparency of electoral processes by sharing with Venezuelan citizen groups technical expertise and best practices employed by regional monitoring groups. Beginning in 1995, NDI shared information on effective election monitoring in support of Venezuelan nonpartisan election observation initiatives in various national and local elections.
Local Government Oversight
In 2001, the Institute sought to re-engage citizens in politics and political parties by promoting accountability at the municipal level. NDI partnered with a Latin American chapter of Transparency International, a Venezuelan civic group, and six municipal governments to implement anti-corruption and accountability mechanisms to increase citizen input in decision-making and to encourage oversight of local government administration.
Political Leadership Program
As part of its regional Political Leadership Program (LP) in 1999 and 2000, NDI provided assistance to emerging Venezuelan political leaders and their parties on topics such as political party renewal, strategic planning, and negotiation and outreach to under-represented sectors of society. The LP sought to develop the skills of emerging political leaders to promote modern, transparent and responsive political parties. LP participants represented the Venezuelan parties Acción Democrática, COPEI, Movimiento Quinta República, and Proyecto Venezuela.
Political Leadership Program
In response to requests from senior political party leaders from more than a dozen countries in the region, in 1999 NDI launched the Political Leadership Program (Leadership Program, LP) to strengthen the leadership skills and ability of emerging political leaders to promote the modernization and renewal of political parties.
From 1999 to 2010, this program was implemented annually with up to 40 youth representing political parties from three to four countries that changed every year. The program was implemented in three phases: 1) national academies for young political party leaders in participating countries; 2) six participants from each of these countries were selected to participate in a regional seminar; and 3) the participants of the regional seminar returned to their countries to implement concrete party-strengthening projects that received NDI technical assistance. Training topics addressed project planning, communication, political negotiation and leadership skills as well as party reform strategies and experiences pertaining to internal democracy, transparency and outreach to new sectors.
Through its twelve years of existence and participant projects supported by NDI, the Leadership Program fostered ongoing regional reform efforts with 60 major political parties and movements across the ideological spectrum, representing both governing and opposition parties in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Project goals included: increasing indigenous political participation in Guatemala; reforming party statutes and internal democracy structures in Colombia; promoting women and youth participation in political parties in Mexico; and implementing party ethics codes in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
Using a competitive application process, NDI selected young political leaders, who ranged in age from 25 to 35, on the basis of five years of political experience and a track record of leadership and political activism. The selection process emphasized a balance in governing and opposition parties, gender, ideologies and key geographical regions. Graduates of the program include mayors, municipal councilors, legislators, legislative advisors, indigenous political activists and leaders of youth movements, among others. The Leadership Program provided a neutral setting for party leaders, even those from polarized societies, to meet and exchange views with counterparts from other countries.
Program for Regional Party Renewal
From 2004 to 2006, NDI implemented the Program for Regional Party Renewal (PREPA) to promote reform and renewal within Argentine, Bolivian, Mexican and Peruvian parties, specifically through the institutes responsible for training the party base and leadership and designing the strategies for platforms and reform. The program strengthened party training institutes by introducing reform-oriented and interactive training curricula, methodologies and materials on the topics of internal democracy, transparency and outreach to new sectors. Participating trainers applied what they learned in regional workshops to specific reform efforts within their parties, incorporating new training techniques. Over a period of a year, these reform projects received NDI advice, materials and technical assistance, and contributed to the implementation of new party training schools and curricula in participating countries.
For more information on NDI past programs, please contact Kate Bass, Regional Coordinator and Senior Program Assistant: [email protected].