Goodwill Message from the Democratic Governance for Development Project Director at the Launch of the Political Party Leadership and Policy Development Centre

Jun 26, 2013

Speech delivered at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos

It is indeed an honor for me to be with you today for the launch of the Political Party Leadership and Policy Development Centre. The UNDP Democratic Governance for Development (DGDII) project and its international partners – the European Union (EU), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are delighted to be associated with this initiative to strengthen the capacity of political parties so that they may become key pillars of Nigeria's democratic polity. This is certainly most welcome as it will open the avenue for political parties to be fully involved in policy, research, sustained learning experiences and opportunities for practical application. It is a welcome development in the days ahead to help parties become effective pro-democratic actors and make the country's democratic institutions stronger.

Political parties constitute an essential pillar of a vibrant, well-established and resilient democracy. Parties serve vital functions including aggregating citizen interests, forming governments and holding them accountable, developing and promoting policy positions and programmes, and grooming and selecting political leadership.
However, when we consider popular attitudes on political parties around the world, many of them reflect strongly negative views held by the general public. They are considered highly leader-centric, organizationally captive of wealthy financial backers, poorly rooted in society, and narrowly focused on electioneering. Parties in many countries also have an unfavorable rating from public institutions. They do not represent citizens' interests well, frequently conduct their business in a secretive manner, and often fail to include women in leadership, decision-making and the policy-making process.

Yet as problematic as they are, political parties are necessary and even inevitable. No workable form of democratic pluralism has been invented that operates without political parties. Given their status as an essential component of a “deepened democracy,” and their frequent inability to constitute themselves as robust and democratic parties, DGD and NIPPS strongly believe that parties should receive assistance and support to realize their full potential as essential pillars of a stable and vibrant democracy.

In light of this DGD and NIPPS developed a comprehensive curriculum that sets the foundations for parties and provides strategies and techniques for how parties can institutionalize themselves. To ensure that the curriculum developed was relevant, an assessment of Nigeria’s parties to determine their strengths and weaknesses was conducted. Building on the assessment, the team put together a comprehensive capacity development plan that identified key areas for technical assistance to party support. Among its recommendations were to provide support for party policy development initiatives; build human resource capacity in parties; and provide capacity building for parties in a number of areas.

Drawing on these recommendations from the capacity development plan, the curriculum designers also incorporated previous experiences with technical assistance to political party development from other country cases. The Curriculum was presented to a group of political parties and other stakeholders on two occasions: in November in Abuja to a group of party leaders and other key stakeholders; and in February in Lagos to all registered political party chairmen and other stakeholders. During these two meetings, party leaders provided input and feedback and the general consensus was that the curriculum accurately reflected the challenges they faced, and would be a useful tool for building the capacity of party leaders and their respective parties.

DGD and NIPSS incorporated feedback from party leaders into the curriculum, including proposing a course format likely to attract senior party leaders and emphasizing the importance of providing comparative perspectives on multi-party democratic systems, units on constitutional law, and materials on ethics and politics. Finally, registered political parties endorsed the curriculum at a validation meeting in March in presence of other stakeholders including INEC and CSOs.

In general, efforts to support political parties have centered on training and workshops with no real follow up and thus participants are unable to incorporate into their party work or build on what they were exposed to in the workshops. While those interventions can achieve results it must also be recognized that their actual impact on broader and long standing democratic development is often short lived. In addition to short term event based intervention, DGD and NIPPS wanted to go deeper and look at long term broad based integrated democracy building and development support.

To meet that challenge, Nigeria is fortunate to have the strong commitment of the staff and professionals at the institute. With deep appreciation, I wish to pay tribute to the Director General for his remarkable commitment. Mr. the Director General, your hard work and support represent the spirit of dedication and service that give us hope that political parties will meet their remaining challenges as they seek to institutionalize themselves as the vanguard of Nigeria’s struggle for democracy. Development, the pursuit of socio-economic and political goals, the complex amalgam and changing nature of issues and priorities require credible institutions such as NIPPS to provide advice and policy options on evolving national priorities so as to help leaders reconcile them and produce positive outcomes for the benefit of all.

Please know that the Democratic Governance for Development project and its partners fully support NIPPS and the people of Nigeria as you continue the process of improving the democratic quality of political engagement.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today.

I wish you good outcomes and applaud your important work for democracy.

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