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Engaging political parties in fragile and conflict-affected settings


On 15 September 2016, NIMD, the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law, IDEA, and the Berghof Foundation hosted an expert meeting in The Hague with the aim of identifying key strategies for donor and practitioner organisations to effectively work with political actors in fragile and conflict affected settings.

Experts, policymakers and practitioners convened to share insights and learn from each other’s experiences in a range of settings. This was an opportunity to discuss both challenges and lessons learned from engaging in these contexts, in order to improve future efforts.              

Jelte van Wieren (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Arthur Boutellis (International Peace Institute), and Veronique Dudouet (the Berghof Foundation) discussed what role donors can play in supporting political parties and political party assistance within the international development aid agenda. The discussion revealed a pressing need for donors to adopt a long term, post-conflict vision of engagement and to grant priority to the advancement of legitimate and inclusive politics, without which conflict affected societies will remain unstable. 


Following the first panel on the donor perspective; the second part was dedicated to exploring the practitioner’s perspective further, in a discussion with Soumano Moumouni (CMDID Mali), Andres Navas (NIMD Colombia), Fabien Nsengimana (BLTP Burundi), Frank Kayitare (IDEA), and Egbert Pos (NIMD). They addressed some of the major challenges that they face as practitioners working with political parties, but also compared success stories and ways forward. One recurring challenge is the integration of former armed groups into the political arena. Experience from Colombia illustrates the necessity to construct inclusive political settlements, and to provide support for the transition of these armed groups into becoming political parties.  

Further challenges to engaging with political parties in fragile settings include a generalised lack of trust, low levels of legitimacy for international efforts, and difficulties to synchronise differing agendas.

Panelists agreed on the necessity to engage in the long term, and to keep efforts consistent, open, and inclusive in order to effectively respond to these challenges.


A key takeaway from the afternoon was the widespread recognition on behalf of policy experts, academics, and practitioners of the crucial importance of engaging with political parties to achieve peaceful and sustainable development. Beyond the necessity to engage, exchanges throughout the afternoon highlighted the crucial importance of doing so with a long-term vision and with an emphasis on inclusivity and legitimacy.