Democracy's Voices

Get inspired by testimonials from people in our community

Supporting democracy for 25 years. What’s next?

Global efforts to protect human rights and democracy are more important now than ever before.

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Interview

Kevin Casas-Zamora: International IDEA collects and disseminates global democracy building knowledge

Kevin Casas-Zamora

International IDEA Secretary-General

Interview

Margot Wallström: The protections democracy offers are essential

Margot Wallström

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden and former Chair of International IDEA’s Board of Advisers

Interview

Lucky Sherpa: Inclusive parliamentary processes and drafting of Nepal's constitution

Lucky Sherpa

Former Member of Parliament, Constituent Assembly Member, Nepal

Interview

Eduardo Valdés Escoffery: Integrity of elections and introduction of new technologies in Panama

Eduardo Valdés Escoffery

Magistrate First Vice President, Electoral Tribunal of Panama

Interview

Mariam Jack-Denton: Addressing constitution-building and human rights in The Gambia

Mariam Jack-Denton

Speaker of the National Assembly of The Gambia

Message from Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden

What is important about today's state of democracy? What is at stake and what can we do?

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Get inspired by these testimonials from around the globe

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Philippines

"International IDEA’s partnerships with the University of the Philippines led to several public fora attended by different sectors discussing the importance of a constitution in a democracy and the issues involved in constitutional design/re-design amidst proposals to revise the Philippines’ 1987 Constitution. International IDEA’s constitutional performance assessment tool also enabled us to assess the 1987 Constitution since its enactment until COVID-19 and suggest ways to further improve its role in democratization and social justice."

Maria Ela L. Atienza

Professor Department of Political Science Bulwagang Silangang Palma University of the Philippines Diliman

letter

Myanmar

Myanmar (Burma) revolted against one-party socialist rule that was buttressed by the military in 1988. One might say it was the beginning of Myanmar’s long and winding road to democracy. As a post-graduate student, I participated in the uprising. We won because we ended 26 years of single party rule. But we also lost in a sense that pro-democracy movement was crushed and the military moved in to rule Burma (later renamed Myanmar) for another 22 years. But the fight for democracy and freedom lived on as we fled to Myanmar’s ethnic areas and continued our struggle against the military dictatorship. 

In Burma, we were denied democracy and freedom. In the jungles (often called Liberated Areas), democracy took center stage.  No matter how flawed it might have been, we practiced democracy to the fullest of our abilities. Elections were held all the time, not only to choose leadership but also military commanders. For us, democracy was simple – to elect representatives and to vote out those who we considered not up to the tasks. Our small jungle camps were like a democracy with some checks and balances.

For the next 12 years, I worked with the All Burma Students Democracy Front (ABSDF) as a camp leader first and later as the Foreign Affairs Secretary.  I traveled along Myanmar’s borders with Thailand and performed the organization’s various responsibilities. In those years, I went through highs and lows of the life of a revolutionary and gained insight into aspirations of the ethnic groups and various pro-democracy outfits that would have been unavailable otherwise. Meanwhile inside Burma, the struggle for democracy and freedom continued.    

Then around 2004, I joined the Burma Fund (TBF), a research arm of Burma’s exiled government based in Washington, DC.  That was when I was introduced to International IDEA and its work. By then, the TBF was already working with International IDEA. 

We worked on a number of issues with International IDEA such as elections, democratic transition, constitutional amendments and civil military relations. We also worked on transitional justice. We organized seminars and workshops with the help of International IDEA along Thai-Burma border for various pro-democracy and ethnic groups. We translated its publications into Burmese, most notably the “Deep-rooted Conflict” handbook. Likewise, we disseminated information back to Burma through radio and TV interviews and talks shows.  

In some way, though insignificant, it was our contribution to democracy in Burma. In other ways, it was our personal preparation for democracy and freedom in our homeland. This could not have been achieved without the help of International IDEA.

In 2012, my colleagues from TBF (now called the Vahu Development Institute with a training program designed to train change-makers from Myanmar at Chiang Mai University in Thailand) ended our exiles. By then we had spent 24 years outside Myanmar. We came back because we saw the glimpse of possibility of bringing democracy back to Myanmar following the election in 2010. 

Back in Myanmar, we got more than we bargained for. The so-called quasi-military government introduced liberalization. This transformed Myanmar at an amazing pace within the government’s five-year tenure. It was not a perfect democracy. For those us who had for years worked for the return of democracy to Myanmar it nonetheless was a beginning. 

Now Myanmar has gone through three major elections and a few by-elections since 2010. The people now can vote as freely as can be. Indeed, democracy has taken root. But to our disappointment, it remains highly flawed. The military has retained a chunk of power enshrined in the 2008 constitution. The ruling party, which once espoused democratic ideals, is considered intolerant of criticism. Because it won a landslide victory in 2015, there were few checks and balances in the bicameral parliament. Now that the National League for Democracy has repeated the feat in the 2020 election more of the same is expected for the next five years. Meanwhile, ethnic groups continue to struggle for greater inclusion in Myanmar.

Going forward, Myanmar has so many challenges. Institutions necessary to sustain democracy are in their infancy or yet to be formed.  Indeed, at times, challenges are seen insurmountable. But so far we have beaten the odds. 

In sum, we are still not out of the woods. Dangers for democracy lurk at every corner. We must be vigilant.  We need to build institutions and instill democratic values, not just in election terms but also checks and balances, transparency and accountability. For all of these, we will continue to need the experience and wisdom of institutions like International IDEA in order to consolidate democracy in the years ahead.

 

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Letter

2020-12-02

Myanmar

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My experiences in Myanmar’s struggle for democracy and the role of International IDEA

Myanmar (Burma) revolted against one-party socialist rule that was buttressed by the military in 1988. One might say it was the beginning of Myanmar’s long and winding road to democracy. As a post-graduate student, I participated in the uprising. We won because we ended 26 years of single party rule. But we also lost in a sense that pro-democracy movement was crushed and the military moved in to rule Burma (later renamed Myanmar) for another 22 years. But the fight for democracy and freedom lived on as we fled to Myanmar’s ethnic areas and continued our struggle against the military dictatorship. 

In Burma, we were denied democracy and freedom. In the jungles (often called Liberated Areas), democracy took center stage.  No matter how flawed it might have been, we practiced democracy to the fullest of our abilities. Elections were held all the time, not only to choose leadership but also military commanders. For us, democracy was simple – to elect representatives and to vote out those who we considered not up to the tasks. Our small jungle camps were like a democracy with some checks and balances.

For the next 12 years, I worked with the All Burma Students Democracy Front (ABSDF) as a camp leader first and later as the Foreign Affairs Secretary.  I traveled along Myanmar’s borders with Thailand and performed the organization’s various responsibilities. In those years, I went through highs and lows of the life of a revolutionary and gained insight into aspirations of the ethnic groups and various pro-democracy outfits that would have been unavailable otherwise. Meanwhile inside Burma, the struggle for democracy and freedom continued.    

Then around 2004, I joined the Burma Fund (TBF), a research arm of Burma’s exiled government based in Washington, DC.  That was when I was introduced to International IDEA and its work. By then, the TBF was already working with International IDEA. 

We worked on a number of issues with International IDEA such as elections, democratic transition, constitutional amendments and civil military relations. We also worked on transitional justice. We organized seminars and workshops with the help of International IDEA along Thai-Burma border for various pro-democracy and ethnic groups. We translated its publications into Burmese, most notably the “Deep-rooted Conflict” handbook. Likewise, we disseminated information back to Burma through radio and TV interviews and talks shows.  

In some way, though insignificant, it was our contribution to democracy in Burma. In other ways, it was our personal preparation for democracy and freedom in our homeland. This could not have been achieved without the help of International IDEA.

In 2012, my colleagues from TBF (now called the Vahu Development Institute with a training program designed to train change-makers from Myanmar at Chiang Mai University in Thailand) ended our exiles. By then we had spent 24 years outside Myanmar. We came back because we saw the glimpse of possibility of bringing democracy back to Myanmar following the election in 2010. 

Back in Myanmar, we got more than we bargained for. The so-called quasi-military government introduced liberalization. This transformed Myanmar at an amazing pace within the government’s five-year tenure. It was not a perfect democracy. For those us who had for years worked for the return of democracy to Myanmar it nonetheless was a beginning. 

Now Myanmar has gone through three major elections and a few by-elections since 2010. The people now can vote as freely as can be. Indeed, democracy has taken root. But to our disappointment, it remains highly flawed. The military has retained a chunk of power enshrined in the 2008 constitution. The ruling party, which once espoused democratic ideals, is considered intolerant of criticism. Because it won a landslide victory in 2015, there were few checks and balances in the bicameral parliament. Now that the National League for Democracy has repeated the feat in the 2020 election more of the same is expected for the next five years. Meanwhile, ethnic groups continue to struggle for greater inclusion in Myanmar.

Going forward, Myanmar has so many challenges. Institutions necessary to sustain democracy are in their infancy or yet to be formed.  Indeed, at times, challenges are seen insurmountable. But so far we have beaten the odds. 

In sum, we are still not out of the woods. Dangers for democracy lurk at every corner. We must be vigilant.  We need to build institutions and instill democratic values, not just in election terms but also checks and balances, transparency and accountability. For all of these, we will continue to need the experience and wisdom of institutions like International IDEA in order to consolidate democracy in the years ahead.

 

Aung Naing Oo

Executive Director, Center for Peace and Reconciliation

Edna Estifania A. Co, DPA

Professor of Public Administration Director, Centre International de Formation des Autorites et Leaders (CIFAL Philippines) University of the Philippines

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Philippines

Dr. Phyu Phyu Tint

Professor, Department of Law East Yangon University

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Myanmar

letter

Mongolia

IDEA International is our established partner and advisor. We have been working with IDEA and in accordance with its’ guidelines and support since 2006. It is a matter of proud to realize that we are with this marvelous international organization almost 14 years from a celebrative quarter of century. Namely a majority; there are collaborating on assessing SoD (State of Democracy) in Mongolia, translating and editing of SoLD and DASD Guides, conducting numerous trainings in applying and adapting State of Local Democracy and Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery assessment frameworks with Municipality of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The solely core of this collaboration is a 4 waves of study on “The State of Democracy and Democratic Governance in Mongolia” which was initially conducted in 2005-2006 within the Follow-up Project to 5th ICNRD International conference.  Then the Assessment of SoD was linked to Mongolia MDG-9 and proved its’ efficiency to measure and support a democratic reform processes. Also this exercise became a clear demonstration of advantages of the “soft”, very adaptive approach of the Framework itself.

I would like to emphasize a high professionalism and expertize of all specialists and staff of IDEA. Thank you, colleagues for providing support and enlighten! Today I especially want to recall to encouraging wisdom of Ingrid Wetterqvist and constant kindness and involvement of Keboitse Machangana, their support and compassion led us. We are extremely grateful and remember them. 

I am delighted that our collaboration continues almost 14 years and believe that it will continue.

In celebrating a remarkable 25th anniversary I would like to wish IDEA International a constant triumph, achievements and more and more success stories, like Mongolian SoD.  Thank you!

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Letter

2020-11-18

Mongolia

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Testimonial from Tsetsenbileg Tseveen, Coordinator of the Citizen-led Assessment of SoD in Mongolia, Leading Researcher

IDEA International is our established partner and advisor. We have been working with IDEA and in accordance with its’ guidelines and support since 2006. It is a matter of proud to realize that we are with this marvelous international organization almost 14 years from a celebrative quarter of century. Namely a majority; there are collaborating on assessing SoD (State of Democracy) in Mongolia, translating and editing of SoLD and DASD Guides, conducting numerous trainings in applying and adapting State of Local Democracy and Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery assessment frameworks with Municipality of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The solely core of this collaboration is a 4 waves of study on “The State of Democracy and Democratic Governance in Mongolia” which was initially conducted in 2005-2006 within the Follow-up Project to 5th ICNRD International conference.  Then the Assessment of SoD was linked to Mongolia MDG-9 and proved its’ efficiency to measure and support a democratic reform processes. Also this exercise became a clear demonstration of advantages of the “soft”, very adaptive approach of the Framework itself.

I would like to emphasize a high professionalism and expertize of all specialists and staff of IDEA. Thank you, colleagues for providing support and enlighten! Today I especially want to recall to encouraging wisdom of Ingrid Wetterqvist and constant kindness and involvement of Keboitse Machangana, their support and compassion led us. We are extremely grateful and remember them. 

I am delighted that our collaboration continues almost 14 years and believe that it will continue.

In celebrating a remarkable 25th anniversary I would like to wish IDEA International a constant triumph, achievements and more and more success stories, like Mongolian SoD.  Thank you!

Tsetsenbileg Tseveen

Coordinator of the Citizen-led Assessment of SoD in Mongolia, Leading Researcher Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy, Head of Department of Sociology and Social Psychology, (Ph.D.)

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Australia

“I have very much enjoyed my association with International IDEA, in a variety of capacities, over much of its first 25 years. I have always admired its commitment to a genuinely global understanding of democracy, grounded in local context. This approach will be all the more important as IDEA embarks on its next 25 years, at a time when democracy faces significant challenges, compounded by geopolitical shifts, calling for innovative, knowledge-based solutions.”

 

Cheryl Saunders

Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne and former Vice-Chair of International IDEA

María Elena Wapenka

Minister of the Superior Tribunal of Electoral Justice of Paraguay

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Paraguay

Chiara Adamo

Head of Unit "Gender, Human Rights and Democratic Governance" - DG DEVCO at European Commission

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Nepal

One of International IDEA’s main contributions to Nepal’s electoral and democratic processes is its support for the participation of women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups. The importance of diversity in the development and maintenance of healthy democracies has been part of International IDEA’s focus since its inception. This focus informs the development and implementation of country and regional programs and made my work with the institute extremely meaningful and satisfying. Happy 25th Anniversary IIDEA!

 

Sheri Meyerhoffer

Head of Mission, International IDEA, Nepal (2014-2017) Currently the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, Ottawa, Canada

letter

Mongolia

I am delighted to work with IDEA International since 2016 serving as a Governance Officer at the Capital City Governor's Office when the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar (MUB) had expressed their aspiration to strengthen democracy on local level.  Meeting the needs of MUB IDEA International with MUB Office have signed the MoU and successfully organized the series of workshops on SoLD and DASD on 2016-2017, in total around 300 civil servants, NGOs and academia representatives were trained. Then based on those trainees a huge assessment of DASD in social welfare services was conducted in UB with a collaboration of the Institute of Philosophy of Mongolian Academy of Sciences. The results and recommendations of this assessment were presented during the conference in 2018 and led to issuing the resolution on conducting the DASD for public services in UB annually. Following up this resolution 4 assessments of public service delivery in various public agencies were conducted in 2019.  

We are highly appreciating for the efficient collaboration with IDEA International in strengthening local democracy by increasing effective citizen participation, improvement of service delivery and increase capacity of local government staff. 

In celebrating a remarkable anniversary of a quarter of century I would like to wish IDEA International a success and further enlargement in regions involved, areas and topics covered.

 

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Letter

2020-11-18

Mongolia

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Acknowledgement from Municipality of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in the celebration of 25th anniversary of International IDEA

I am delighted to work with IDEA International since 2016 serving as a Governance Officer at the Capital City Governor's Office when the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar (MUB) had expressed their aspiration to strengthen democracy on local level.  Meeting the needs of MUB IDEA International with MUB Office have signed the MoU and successfully organized the series of workshops on SoLD and DASD on 2016-2017, in total around 300 civil servants, NGOs and academia representatives were trained. Then based on those trainees a huge assessment of DASD in social welfare services was conducted in UB with a collaboration of the Institute of Philosophy of Mongolian Academy of Sciences. The results and recommendations of this assessment were presented during the conference in 2018 and led to issuing the resolution on conducting the DASD for public services in UB annually. Following up this resolution 4 assessments of public service delivery in various public agencies were conducted in 2019.  

We are highly appreciating for the efficient collaboration with IDEA International in strengthening local democracy by increasing effective citizen participation, improvement of service delivery and increase capacity of local government staff. 

In celebrating a remarkable anniversary of a quarter of century I would like to wish IDEA International a success and further enlargement in regions involved, areas and topics covered.

 

Mr Battulga Tsendpurev

Governance Officer at the Capital City Governor's Office when the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar (MUB)

Salvador Romero

President of Bolivia's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)

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Bolivia

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Australia

While Australia may have been the first nation to vote itself into existence through popular referenda, a century later a democratic health check was well overdue. We were delighted to find the excellent democratic audit framework developed under the auspices of International IDEA. The audit questions were as well suited to an old democracy as to newer ones and gave us a comparative perspective on how far Australia was fulfilling its early democratic promise.

 

Marian Sawer

Leader of the Democratic Audit of Australia 2002–2008

José Luis Vargas Valdez

Magistrado de la Sala Superior del Tribunal Electoral

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Mexico

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Republic of Korea

Congratulations on the 25th anniversary of International IDEA, which has supported the continued development of democracy around the world. International IDEA has played a leading role in publishing election and democracy-related studies, increasing cooperation between election management bodies and supporting elections, and has established a close relationship with the NEC, including by participating in the Seoul International Forum on Elections. I hope that we can further deepen our cooperation for the development of democracy around the world.    

Kim Sehwan

Secretary General, National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea

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Philippines

We thank the International IDEA for helping the Philippines with the implementation of critical democracy assessments using the State of Democracy Assessment Framework, resulting in meaningful debates, promoting insightful research, and contributing to societal reform.  In particular, we thank International IDEA for partnering with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department and its contributions to the public discourse on constitutional reforms as well as its strategic assistance in strengthening the processes, institutions and stakeholders that safeguard democracy.
Congratulations to International IDEA on your 25th anniversary!
 

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Letter

2021-01-29

Philippines

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25th Anniversary of International IDEA

We thank the International IDEA for helping the Philippines with the implementation of critical democracy assessments using the State of Democracy Assessment Framework, resulting in meaningful debates, promoting insightful research, and contributing to societal reform.  In particular, we thank International IDEA for partnering with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department and its contributions to the public discourse on constitutional reforms as well as its strategic assistance in strengthening the processes, institutions and stakeholders that safeguard democracy.
Congratulations to International IDEA on your 25th anniversary!
 

Romulo Emmanuel M. Miral, Jr. PhD

Director General, Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department, House of Representatives, Congress of the Philippines

letter

Vietnam

IDEA and its team definitely brought great support to our work. IDEA publications have created very useful resources for everyone who are teaching law and political sciences in all country. It is the most practical academic resource on democracy and election I have ever seen. They help us focus on what matters rather than wasting valuable resources on what doesn't. I would recommend any IDEA publications and activities go through our academic work.

 IDEA  is exactly what we were looking for cooperation. They are very talented creatively and are easy to work with. I have been completely amazed at their ability to listen to what we want and support what we need. The project we have done with IDEA to disseminate its publications has been extremely valuable. Our local readers and members love IDEA approach, which is focused on the very new knowledge in developing countries.

We love IDEA publications and activities. They’re just wonderful! You did a great job. Thanks for all your hard work on the important areas and for shepherding us through your process.

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Letter

2021-01-29

Vietnam

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International IDEA publications have created very useful resources

IDEA and its team definitely brought great support to our work. IDEA publications have created very useful resources for everyone who are teaching law and political sciences in all country. It is the most practical academic resource on democracy and election I have ever seen. They help us focus on what matters rather than wasting valuable resources on what doesn't. I would recommend any IDEA publications and activities go through our academic work.

 IDEA  is exactly what we were looking for cooperation. They are very talented creatively and are easy to work with. I have been completely amazed at their ability to listen to what we want and support what we need. The project we have done with IDEA to disseminate its publications has been extremely valuable. Our local readers and members love IDEA approach, which is focused on the very new knowledge in developing countries.

We love IDEA publications and activities. They’re just wonderful! You did a great job. Thanks for all your hard work on the important areas and for shepherding us through your process.

Giao Vu Cong

School of Law, Vietnam National University Hanoi

It’s our Democracy, It’s our IDEA

Our 25th Anniversary virtual conference was a tour of democracy issues around the world consisting of sequenced regional webinars held within a 25-hour timeframe.   

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