The Challenges of Political Programming: International Assistance to Parties and Parliaments

Following an evaluation of their international support to political parties, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) commissioned GPA to examine the implications of the increasing use of political approaches to governance and democracy by international donors, particularly those related to parliaments and political parties.

The report, published in 2011, looks at four country case studies and draws on numerous interviews with staff from donor agencies, implementing bodies and recipients in parliaments and parties. It suggests that although the use of political economy analysis is increasingly widespread, agencies are struggling to translate these insights into programmes design.

It argues that the emphasis on ‘results’ within many donor agencies runs the risk of reducing the effectiveness of political programmes – the desire for quantitative data often means that projects end up with the wrong indicators, which in turn means that they end up doing the wrong things.

Donors should be moving in the opposite direction. If they are serious about achieving meaningful political change projects should be driven by outcomes rather than process. Programmes need to adapt to changing political circumstances and implementers need to be astute enough to identify the synergies between party and parliamentary support. A flexible and genuinely outcome-oriented form of programming would mean that donors take greater responsibility for the results of their interventions, but ultimately exercise less control over the way they are implemented.