In early July, the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy [DIPD] presented its Annual Report for 2019. Unfortunately, I have not seen references to the report in the Danish media, which I believe it deserves. I can understand that some readers will see this statement as a reflection of my own engagement with DIPD as the first Director from 2011 to the end of 2016. However, I do believe that the information provided in the report offers Danish readers – as well as others – an interesting insight into efforts by the institute and the involved Danish political parties to contribute to democratization in various parts of the global South, through partnerships between local parties and Danish parties.

Here is the full report: DIPD Annual Report 2019

Efforts need to produce results. Some form of impact must be the result of the money invested and the creative ideas developed, in close cooperation with and under the leadership of the local political parties. The many stories in this 2019 Annual Report provide an interesting and balanced overview of what DIPD is able to deliver after almost 10 years of existence. The report also makes it clear that there are no easy solutions, no quick solutions, no magic bullets.

In fact, operating in the political arena can be as frustrating as we know it can be to operate in areas of social and economic change, which dominates the long-term part of Danish development cooperation. In some of the presentations from the field I can sense this frustration, but I would like to suggest that difficulties and failures should be presented much more clearly and straightforward than is the case in this annual report. Not only because this is the nature of working with extremely sensitive political issues, but also because the resources available to DIPD are limited. Just look at the table on page 38 presenting the investments in the various countries, and you will be surprised of the small amounts available to many of the political parties – especially when you compare the money with the ambitious objectives in the thematic areas prioritized by the DIPD strategy.

Let me then turn to an issue I feel strongly about, and one I had hoped would be addressed in the foreword by the Chair and the Director, or in the executive summary for that matter: the Danish connection. Not the obvious connection between Danish parties working with local parties, but the fact that democracy is under pressure not only in the global South, but certainly in the global North as well. This has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt in recent years, both in the annual state of democracy reports from numerous reputable institutions, but also in a seemingly never-ending stream of books by academics.

Denmark is not the worst example, but it nevertheless seems fair to conclude that Denmark also needs to acknowledge and address its own democratic shortcomings, among others: political parties continuing to lose members; young people preferring to work in organizations rather than parties; parties professionalizing and using consultants to the extent that members feel sidelined; women continuing to be marginalized; weak (by international standards) rules and regulations for financial support to political parties, making it impossible to get a clear idea of the individuals and companies supporting the different parties.

Why is this important? For reasons of legitimacy and credibility! Teaching and preaching for others (other political parties in other countries) what could help improve and democratize their institutions, like the political parties, elections, and the functioning of parliament, is most effective when it can be supported by evidence from your own reality. Based on our hundred years of democratic experience, Denmark can certainly teach and preach with great legitimacy and credibility in many areas. But as Thomas Carothers from Carnegie and many others have argued in recent years, the weakening of democratic institutions and processes in many Western countries risks undermining the credibility of democracy support institutions like NDI, IRI, DIPD, NIMD and WFD. Especially if nothing is done to ‘repair’ the damage or weaknesses.

I would have liked to see this reflected in the DIPD 2019 Annual Report. Considering how much this debate has preoccupied academia and media, it would have been nice to at least mention it.

This would also have been relevant and useful for the understanding of the interesting material presented in the annex called Reporting on global indicators and DIPD results framework. This is a new feature of the annual report, and an interesting addition. But at the same time not without its own complications at the technical level. And presenting the statistics from Denmark would have strengthened the arguments and understanding, I believe.

The first table (page 41) presents the percentage of women in parliament in the countries DIPD is presently working with. Swaziland is lowest with only 7,25 % – Bolivia highest with 53,08 %. Other countries at the high end are South Africa 45,7 %, Nepal 32,7 %, Tanzania 36,9 % and Nicaragua 44,6 %. It would have been informative to tell the reader that in the 2019 election, Denmark achieved 39,1 %. Maybe it could also have been mentioned that Denmark has never been above the 40 % mark, despite having spent more than 100 years working to achieve parity between men and women. Why has this not been achieved? What are parties doing wrong? Or is this just the way the Danes think it should be?

The next table (on page 42) is also interesting, as well as somewhat mystifying. It offers statistics on the political empowerment of women, defined as a process of increasing capacity for women, leading to greater choice, agency and participation in societal decision-making. The level of empowerment is measured on a scale from 0 to 1, with Ghana taking the lead with a score of 0,84. Exactly how this number is created is not clear, but I would guess that it is a combination of official statistics and personal perceptions by experts. Why Ghana comes highest is not clear to me. Why the Philippines scores as high as 0,83 is even less clear. And what is the score for Denmark? That could have helped put the numbers in perspective. The report also notes:

“It is interesting that positive trends are seen in electoral autocracies such as Nicaragua, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. Whereas negative trends are seen in liberal and electoral democracies such as Bhutan, Ghana, South Africa and Colombia.”

Yes, definitely interesting. But what could the explanation be?

Finally, I would like to mention the table on party institutionalization , which refers to level and depth of organization, cadres of party activists, and party supporters within the electorate. It is not possible to see exactly how the scores of 0 to 1 have been reached, but they vary from 0,23 in Swaziland to 0,85 in Nepal. Again, it would have been helpful to include the Danish score, just to get a better perspective – and because of the challenges to political parties mentioned earlier. Do they impact on the score at all? In the comments, the report notes:

Results from DIPD-operating countries, where DIPD works to improve the capacity to create internal policies in political parties and to improve communication with voters and the public, show a considerably high diversity in the institutionalization rates. In 2019 Kenya, Nepal, Bolivia, Bhutan, Rwanda, Uganda and Nicaragua scored high in this indicator. Especially in Bhutan and Kenya, DIPDs projects have been contributing to democratic development through the institutionalization of political parties in terms of strengthening their roots in society, level of organization and coherence in multi-party projects.”

I hope DIPD will continue to present this type of information, using the valuable database called V-DEM from the University of Gothenburg. I also hope DIPD will continue to think about ways of presenting the material in a manner which makes it clearer how the numbers have been produced, and how the countries compare with Denmark. Not because Denmark should be seen as the model, but because it would help understand the reality and process of change better.