In March 2017, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy hosted an international conference – Deliberating Democratisation: Examining Democratic Change and the Role of International Democracy Support – in collaboration with the University of Birmingham. That meeting brought together leading figures in the field of democracy support from Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond. The conference provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and new ways of working, not simply between researchers and practitioners, but also between the distinct communities of practice that have developed around providing support for legislatures, political parties, civil society and elections.
The conference was motivated by a need to translate lessons learnt into concrete strategies for change. While there is broad consensus about where democracy support has gone wrong in the past and how it ought to be done in the future, there has been little interrogation of the factors that stop democracy supporters from doing things differently. The conference also considered the role of research in democracy support. At present, academic research provides policy makers and practitioners with scant guidance on which types of democracy promotion work best, under what conditions, and why.
In the wake of the conference, we’ll be posting blogs by some of the presenters. We hope this marks the start of a broader and continuing conversation about democratisation and the role of international democracy support.