CDI has joined with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the United Nations University (UNU) as part of a major new collaborative international research project looking at "Political Party Development in Conflict-Prone Societies".
Drawing on a scoping paper prepared by CDI Director Ben Reilly in 2004, the project focuses on political party development in societies divided along cultural, linguistic, religious, gender, regional or other kinds of social cleavages. It looks particularly at whether broad-based political parties can be sustained and encouraged by rules governing their formation, composition, funding and so on. Drawing on some remarkable recent attempts to influence the development of party systems in Asia-Pacific countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the project will examine the potential application of such approaches to other states and regions.
This is part of an ongoing international research project of IDEA, CDI and UNU that examines whether the development of political parties and party systems in new democracies can be influenced by external interventions. The research project looks particularly into the question of party regulation, i.e. the various mechanisms ranging from restrictions on ethnic parties to incentives for cross-national parties to shape the development of political parties and party systems. The aim of this project is to synthesize the experiences with party development and party regulation in a policy-relevant book publication, to be published by United Nations University Press in 2008.
A team of 16 expert authors from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and the Pacific have been assembled for this phase of the project. The first authors meeting took place on 26 and 27 October 2006 hosted by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations in The Hague. This meeting brought together experts on political party development, electoral system design and conflict-prone societies, as well as other country and regional specialists. The main topic for discussion was the different forms of regulation and political party engineering applied by domestic, regional and international actors in conflict-prone and post-conflict societies. The objective of the meeting was to present each author's preliminary research on party regulation in different conflict-prone societies. By bringing together all authors we worked to facilitate feedback on the various papers and develop suggestions for further research, which will eventually strengthen the quality of our collaborative research effort and book publication. At the Hague meeting it was confirmed that the second and final author's meeting will be hosted by CDI and will take place in Canberra in the first half of 2007.
Immediately preceding the authors meeting, a separate meeting for policymakers took place on October 25 in the Hague, with a focus on the role of the international community in political party assistance.
In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the area of political party assistance as a central aspect of building stronger, more capable democratic systems in new democracies, particularly those emerging from period of violent conflict.
Particularly in fluid environments where nascent parties remain weak and unformed, there is tremendous opportunity for external actors to promote more meaningful parties which can contribute to peace and development.
The meeting focussed on the role of parties in post-conflict environments and the activities of different international agencies in this field. As well as academic experts, the meeting heard contributions from a range of international agencies working in this field.
Speakers included Pippa Norris from the United Nations Development Program, Ivan Doherty from the National Democratic Institute, Ken Janda from Northwestern University, Roel von Meijenfeldt from the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, Tim Sisk from the University of Denver, Marc Saxer from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Krishna Kumar from USAID, Per Nordlund from International IDEA, and Ben Reilly from CDI.
The expert meeting was convened by the Clingendael Institute, the Netherland's international affairs institute, and acted as a lead-in to the joint CDI-IDEA-UNU authors' workshop which started the following day.
Click on these links for more information on these meetings in the Hague; the more June 2007 authors' meeting in Sydney, and CDI's application to UNDEF for supplementary funding for this project: