Political Finance Module Development Update

Since 2007, with generous support from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), IFES has been working on a project aimed at a broad-based, results-oriented dialogue on global standards and best practices in political finance.

The creation of a BRIDGE module focusing on political finance is the newest initiative developed within the scope of the project to spread knowledge of political finance to election stakeholders.

Module Development Meeting Stockholm, Sweden: May 18 – 19, 2009

In May 2009, IFES and fellow BRIDGE partner International IDEA co-hosted a working group of political finance and BRIDGE experts to begin the development process for a new BRIDGE module on political finance. Increased interest in the subject of political finance by election stakeholders has created a significant demand for a module focusing solely on this subject. Top experts with a wide range of experiences in the field of political finances were invited by IFES and International IDEA to attend the 2 day working group facilitated using the interactive BRIDGE methodology, thus encouraging participants to be creative in their approach to political finance. The first stage of the development process focused on three goals in particular. Initially, with minimal pre-set boundaries or guidelines, participants brainstormed key areas of understanding in political finance.

This process was then followed by a fruitful discussion on the different target audiences of such a module, highlighting the unique approach of this new module. The curriculum will be the first of the BRIDGE modules developed specifically with various customization options for different audiences. Thirdly, political finance experts were encouraged to come up with creative and effective ways in which to teach the most important concepts. The workshop helped to build a foundation upon which the module could be built. Input from experts helped determine the content of the module which was then drafted over a period of 3 months.

Drafting the Module, June – August 2009

Between June and August 2009 Dr. Magnus Ohman and Theresa Pearce Laanela drafted the political finance module in several stages. The module, intended for beginners and those with an intermediate understanding of political finance, consists of 8 subsections including a section on relevant stakeholders and a section on stakeholder specific issues supplemented by a variety of presentations, handouts, and other learning tools. Each section was developed keeping in mind 5 key understandings in political finance. These are:

  1. Money is necessary for democratic politics, and political parties must have access to funds to play their part in the political process.
  2. Money is never an unproblematic part of the system, and regulation is desirable.
  3. The context and political culture must be taken into account when devising strategies for controlling money in politics.
  4. Effective regulation and disclosure can help to control adverse effects of the role of money in politics, but only if well conceived and implemented.
  5. Effective oversight depends on activities in interaction by several stakeholders (such as regulators, civil society and the media) and based on transparency 

It was also agreed that the term ‘Political Financing’ covers both the financing of political parties and the financing of electoral campaigns and that clear and accepted guiding principles for Political Financing help provide legitimacy to the process.

About the Authors

Dr. Magnus Ohman is IFES political finance advisor and former Chief of Party with IFES in Sierra Leone (2007 – 2008). He has written about political finance issues since the late 1990s and has worked with political finance initiatives in countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Liberia and Nigeria.

Therese Pearce Laanela is an expert in the area of Democracy, Governance and Elections, with specialized knowledge and interest in election administration, ethics, gender, and sustainability. She has worked considerably with BRIDGE partner organizations, most notably International IDEA, and has co-authored several other modules.

Next Steps

The initial draft of the political finance module is now ready to be reviewed by the BRIDGE office and other BRIDGE partners. Following their review, the draft will be updated and finalized before being piloted in 2010.

Piloting the Module 2010

IFES plans to pilot the political finance module in several countries where IFES will provide technical assistance in 2010. Feedback on the module will be collected by the facilitators and incorporated into the module where possible. For maximum utilization, translation of the module into several other languages may also be considered.

IFES is looking forward to sharing the module with the BRIDGE community and to its further development. For more information on this initiative or on other IFES political finance initiatives, please visit www.moneyandpolitics.net or send your comments and/or questions to Hani Zainulbhai at hzainulbhai@ifes.org.



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