Parliaments play a key role in making democracy work. Responsible and representative political parties are essential to the development of a democratic culture and effective political systems and provide the foundation for peaceful resolution of political conflict.
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the FCO to support the development of political parties and democratic institutions. WFD works to strengthen parliamentary capacity through training, sharing expertise and building institutional capacity, and by supporting members of parliament and parliamentary staff. Working with, and through, UK political parties, it seeks also to strengthen multi-party systems, both on a sister-party and cross-party basis.
In 2012, the foundation received an annual grant-in-aid from the FCO of £3.5 million, and DFID confirmed a new accountable grant of £6 million (£2 million a year for three years). WFD also accesses other sources of funding for individual programmes.
During 2012, WFD ran 20 country and regional programmes supporting parliaments, civil society and multi-party systems in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. They included eight country programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine and six regional programmes in the Western Balkans, East Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.
Half of WFD’s programme budget is shared with UK political parties to enable them to develop capacity-building programmes with sister parties overseas. Between them they delivered approximately 60 programmes in 2012, including projects on party and policy development, communication and campaigning strategies, media skills and grassroots political work.
Supporting and promoting human rights underpins WFD’s work. In 2012, they launched a new “Handbook on Human Rights and Parliaments” in partnership with the East Africa Legislative Assembly, which is now well placed to work with civil society and national legislatures to support human rights in the region.
In Kenya WFD helped the parliament’s Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training to develop a training curriculum, which was then subject to international peer review. More than 60 parliamentary staff were trained. A new three-year parliamentary strengthening programme was developed to assist the country’s transition to a bicameral parliament in 2013 and the devolution of powers to new county assemblies.
In Ukraine, WFD is supporting a Ukrainian-led civil society initiative which seeks to address weaknesses in the country’s democratic process by fostering public debate about policy priorities, drawing these into a “People’s Charter” and feeding the results back to the public and decision-makers. WFD will also seek to establish links between this civil society programme and its ongoing programme with the Ukrainian parliament.
Two WFD delegations visited the Turks and Caicos Islands during 2012 for consultations with the political parties on a new Political Activities Ordinance, and later to conduct training to help the parties comply with the new ordinance and to develop new campaign methods in the run-up to the November elections.
WFD worked with the Tunisian Constituent Assembly in 2012 to strengthen parliamentary organisation and procedures, as well as accountability mechanisms and legislative and constitutional drafting. They also worked with Tunisian political parties on party structures and engaging with women and youth. A new three-year programme includes multi-party and party-to-party support to strengthen political parties in parliament. It will also train newly elected parliamentarians and develop a parliamentary code of conduct.
In 2013, WFD will continue to work on and develop its multi-year programmes and to develop new initiatives, including working in Burma to assist the country in its democratic transition with a programme now under development.
Alongside the work of the WFD, DFID continued to support parliamentary strengthening activities in 2012, focusing on helping parliaments to enhance their law-making capacity, represent citizens’ interests and hold governments to account. These form part of a broader package of programmes to strengthen democratic governance and dovetail with wider efforts to improve local accountability through support to civil society, political parties, the media and the electoral process.