Since its founding in 1983, NDI has worked with local partners in 132 countries and territories, bringing together individuals and groups to share ideas, knowledge, experiences and expertise. Partners receive broad exposure to best practices in international democratic development that can be adapted to the needs of their own countries. NDI’s multinational approach reinforces the message that while there is no single democratic model, certain core principles are shared by all democracies.
The Institute’s work upholds the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also promotes the development of institutionalized channels of communications among citizens, political institutions and elected officials, and strengthens their ability to improve the quality of life for all citizens.
The Work of the Institute
Making democracy work requires informed and active citizens who understand how to voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable. Through the years the Institute has worked with more than 13,000 civic groups. NDI’s civic programs — including civic and voter education, get out the vote efforts, issue organizing and advocacy, budget oversight and government monitoring — help citizens engage actively in the political process and serve as a link between citizens and elected officials.
The Institute partners with politically marginalized and socially excluded groups, such as Roma in Eastern Europe and indigenous people in Latin America, helping them build awareness and influence around their priorities. In this way, the Institute helps give a voice to citizens who traditionally have no access to government decision-making.
Democracy and Technology
The Internet, mobile phones and social media are helping citizens engage in politics in increasingly innovative and participatory ways. NDI has been a pioneer in the use of technology as an integral component of democratic development. The Institute has helped citizens create and refine tools to advocate, organize and mobilize in ways that encourage governments to be more accountable and create opportunities for citizen-led social and political change. The Institute also works with governments to find better technological solutions for constituent services, bill tracking and outreach, as well as with political parties on technological tools for outreach, targeting, fundraising and resource allocation.
NDI works with legislatures around the world to support lawmakers and staff in strengthening committees, legislative oversight, rules of procedure, public access to information, caucuses and constituency outreach. The Institute helps government ministries and the offices of prime ministers and presidents to function more efficiently, improve public outreach and be more responsive to the public at large. NDI also supports the efforts of provincial councils and local governments to respond more effectively to citizen needs. The Institute is a partner with the World Bank Institute, the United Nations Development Programme and International IDEA in Agora, a global knowledge portal on parliamentary strengthening.
NDI engages with political parties and civic organizations in voter and civic education, electoral law reform and monitoring all phases of the election process. These programs build confidence, accountability and legitimacy of governments. NDI has worked with more than 300 citizen groups and coalitions in 74 countries that have mobilized more than two million citizen election monitors, engaged with hundreds of parties promoting electoral integrity and organized over 100 international election observation missions around the world.
The Institute also has been a pioneer in the development and use of parallel vote tabulations (PVTs), a powerful citizens’ tool to assess the integrity of voting and counting processes and verify the accuracy of official election results. In addition, NDI has played a leading role in establishing standards for international election observation and in the creation of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors, or GNDEM, which connects 140 member monitoring organizations from more than 60 countries.
NDI works with its partners on methods of political party building — from internal democratic procedures and candidate selection to polling, platform development and public outreach. The Institute has worked with more than 720 political parties and organizations in more than 80 countries to create more open political environments in which citizens can actively participate in the democratic process. It does not promote particular parties or ideologies. Operating from a practical viewpoint, NDI offers assistance to promote parties’ long-term organizational development, enhance their involvement in elections, establish codes of conduct, mitigate political conflict, and help them participate constructively in government. The Institute also works to promote dialogue across party lines.
Founded as a political party institute, NDI maintains a loose affiliation with the U.S. Democratic Party but takes no position on U.S. elections or political issues. And it works with democratic political parties around the world regardless of their political philosophies. It is the only organization to have official standing in the three largest political party internationals representing Social Democratic, Liberal and Centrist Democratic ideologies.
Women in Politics
NDI has been a leader in efforts to promote the political participation of women. The Institute’s creative and wide-ranging programs — in both challenging environments where democracy is just beginning to flourish and in more established democracies — engage women in legislatures, political parties and civil society as leaders, activists and informed citizens. These programs create an environment where women can advocate on matters of policy, run for political office, be elected, govern effectively, and participate meaningfully in every facet of civic and political life. At any given time, nearly 75 percent of NDI country programs have a dedicated component addressing women’s political participation. The Institute is a partner with the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and International IDEA in iKNOW Politics, a global forum to advance women’s political participation.