The leg of political cooperation

Workshop with parlamentarians from Somalia held in Oslo.
Workshop with parlamentarians from Somalia held in Oslo.
The new publication “Political Party Dialogue – A facilitators guide” was launched in Nairobi this week. This is the very first publication ever presented on political party dialogue.

Political parties compete for power. As a result, the emphasis on political competition both among parties as well as party assistance providers tends to be very strong. However, political competition alone often does not create a political climate in which parties can work together in a peaceful manner to deliver socially inclusive and sustainable development responding to the need of the people. While competition between parties that takes place within the framework of international agreed election standards is often rewarded, like when elections are declared “free and fair” no such quality stamp exist for countries performing democratic mechanisms for political cooperation for service delivery.

Consensus Building
The dynamics of cooperation in political competition is crucial for many reasons, among them for building of trust among the political actors, to agree on democratic reforms and to build consensus or compromise on issues of national importance.  In contexts dominated by mistrust and suspicion between political adversaries, the opposing political parties are often perceived as political enemies that usually polarizes the political environment. In such a context political party dialogue may assist to build bridges over political divide, to identify communalities and unite in diversity.

Local Context
Political dialogue mechanisms must always respect, reflect and respond to the local context. There is no such as “one size fits all” political party dialogue mechanisms. At the same time dialogue processes seems to include several phases like internal party preparedness, the initiation phase, the inception phase and the sustaining of the dialogue. Experiences around the world seem to indicate there are key principles for success including respect, tolerance, inclusiveness, ownership, accountability, honesty, commitment and accommodation among others. It also identifies key tools like communication, consultation, consensus building and reaching compromise when necessary.

All this and many more observations and experiences are to be found in the very first publication ever presented on political party dialogue. The new publication is launched in collaboration between the Oslo Center, International IDEA and the Netherland Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD).

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