Founded in 1995 by 14 Member States, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is the only intergovernmental organization with the mission to support sustainable democracy as its sole mandate.

To commemorate its 20th Anniversary, we look back and reflect on the organization’s beginnings and the context for its foundation back in 1995.

This essay is a personal account by International IDEA’s first Secretary-General, Bengt Säve-Söderbergh, of how the organization started. It highlights the political challenges during that period and the bases for the approach to democracy support that International IDEA continues to espouse today.


Publication date
01 September 2015
Bengt Säve-Söderbergh
Number of pages



The beginning 

Those were the days 

Reactions and responses 

What about existing international organizations? 

What about Sweden? 

First steps of the Swedish Commission 

Meeting in Geneva 

Final report of the Swedish Commission 

Swedish Government response 

The new working group 

The crucial meeting: London 

Founding conference 

1995: the first year 

About the author

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The Birth of an IDEA

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