Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Westminster Foundation for Democracy

  In mature and well-established democracies, political conflicts are regulated and resolved peacefully, and groups and individuals are free to pursue their interests within a legal framework. Political stability is a pre-requisite for individual and collective financial security and economic growth.

  In many countries across the world, democratic and civic institutions are poorly functioning and weakly structured. This has often led to political and social instability in the countries concerned.

  The role of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is to promote democracy, the rule of law and civil society. These three factors constitute the vital elements of stable and secure societies. This goal is pursued in partnership with local organisations, political parties and institutions.

  WFD has also worked alongside DFID and other organisations in seeking to strengthen civil societies in the belief that this would provide a vital underpinning to the generation of wealth in those societies.

  The White Paper provides a comprehensive and robust approach to what is one of the most challenging tasks facing the world. The emphasis is on new or modified policy regimes in affected countries, international investment and greater accessibility to markets. The Paper rightly identifies political will as one of the key factors in the poverty reduction strategy. The Foundation has therefore been disappointed to find that the White Paper, in concentrating on the alleviation of poverty, has taken the focus off the importance of good governance. This, it considers, should still be a primary target both in the medium and long term to ensure that the fight against poverty proceeds against a background of improving governance.

  In the Foundation's view, "bad governance" can create conditions which impoverish the populations of countries which are not inherently poor. In Nigeria, for example, endemic corruption within the structures of government and business life has drained the country of economic vitality and retarded development.

  WFD would have liked to see much greater emphasis in the White Paper on good governance programmes and the development of civil society structures. Success in the long term will be possible only where accountable governments foster constructive relationships with civic groups as reliable partners in the promotion of sustainable development.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy

January 2001

January 2001

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