Democracy support or democracy assistance includes all activities that help to introduce, strengthen or enhance democracy in a country, usually with the help of an international or foreign organization.
Ballot boxes and voting cabins (Southern Azerbaijan, 2010)
The assistance can deal with every aspect of democracy, such as elections, political parties, constitution building, conflict management, gender and minority rights, media and civil society.
Democracy support activities involve three types of direct stakeholders: donors, who fund activities, assistance providers who carry them out and recipients or target groups who receive the assistance. All partners are equally important and assistance activities are normally planned and implemented jointly with all direct stakeholders.
There are many actors in the field, both private and public. One of them is International IDEA, an international organization based in Stockholm. International IDEA assists stakeholders around the world by generating and facilitating knowledge, presenting policy options and initiating reforms. International IDEA is the only intergovernmental organization exclusively dedicated to democracy support.
Assistance to political parties is an important part of democracy support. Despite the importance and considerable amount of resources spent there was very little systematic definition of objectives and evaluation of the effectiveness.
As a response, in 2006 International IDEA launched the Effective Party Assistance Initiative to discuss these questions together with partners in the area—donors, implementers and recipients of assistance. Its purpose was to develop a new approach towards international assistance to political parties primarily in transition countries and young democracies.
I was was responsible for conceptualizing and planning the initiative and managed it until I left the organization in August 2008. In November 2007 we presented the policy paper Effective Party Assistance: Stronger Parties for Better Democracy at an international conference in Ottawa (Canada) which was jointly organised by International IDEA and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada).
Below you can see me presenting the policy paper at the conference.