The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is the UK's leading democracy-building foundation. Established in 1992, WFD is an independent public body sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The organisation provides expertise in developing parliaments, political party structures and civil society organisations – the key institutions that make up a functioning democracy.
Their initial goal was to provide support to political parties in Eastern European countries transitioning to democracy. In the 2000s they supplemented their political party programmes by developing a speciality in strengthening parliamentary capacity at both national and sub-national levels. And in recent years they have developed a new ‘integrated’ programme concept which combines their two areas of expertise, helping political parties operate more effectively within parliaments.
WFD receives a core grant from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in three-year cycles; the current cycle runs from 2015 to 2018. They use this to ensure a permanent presence in the countries where they operate. This gives their staff a strategic, politically astute view of the contexts they operate in.
Their vision is of the universal establishment of legitimate and effective multi-party representative democracy. They can contribute to this by supporting inclusive governance which strengthens policy-making, accountability, representation and citizen participation.
Many countries around the world are keen to engage with WFD because they want to hear about the British experience. Rather than engaging in large, one-size-fits-all programmes with expensive components, they tailor bespoke programmes which makes small but significant improvements to that country’s democracy – and pave the way for bigger changes.
Their belief is that it’s possible to make substantive improvements to a parliament even in very challenging circumstances. They are focused on a country’s current situation to aid their context analysis – because they are interested in where a country is heading and how they can help it get there.
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