What’s the IDEA?

The Rotary club to which I belong, the only officially English speaking Rotary club in Stockholm, has members from a variety of disciplines, interests and occupations. Occasionally one of our weekly programs is presented by a member, as in the case of a recent meeting at the Hotel Hellsten. Member Matthias Catón gave us the evening’s presentation. Matthias is a Programme Officer at International IDEA, an international organization founded in 1995 and based in Stockholm.

IDEA is financed through contributions from member states and from other sources such as the European Commission, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ireland, University for Peace (UPEACE), United Nations Foundation, and International Development Research Centre (IDRC).


The Original Member States of International IDEA (Click on the image)

The original member states in 1995 are: Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, India, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Additional member since then are: Botswana, Canada, Cape Verde, Germany, Mauritius, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, Switzerland, and Uruguay. Japan is an “observer” state.

IDEA’s mission statement reads, in part, “to promote sustainable democracy worldwide” and “to strengthen national and local capacities to develop the full range of instruments and institutions needed for democratic government.”

stromsborgIDEA has a general definition of democracy: “IDEA does not seek a single definition of democracy. Models of democracy can vary substantially … IDEA see(s) democracy as a process involving political equality and popular control as basic characteristics … in (a) State of Democracy. Preconditions for democracy include basic human security, rule of law and respect for basic human rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. IDEA is concerned … that all groups in society feel they can make their voices heard, that democratic institutions can effectively channel and mediate conflicting interests, and develop and deliver policies which protect the freedoms and livelihoods of their citizens.”

Strömsborg island, containing IDEA's headquarters, as seen from Stockholm City Hall, with Sweden's national government buildings and royal palace behind

Strömsborg island, containing IDEA’s headquarters, as seen from Stockholm City Hall, with Sweden’s national government buildings and royal palace behind

cover_ann_176Here a few bullets from the notes I took from Matthias’s talk:

  • IDEA’s research and information is aimed at persons “in politics”
  • Training is available as described here
  • IDEA issues policy papers with precise recommendations
  • IDEA provides interactive tools through an electoral knowledge network
  • IDEA has a special interest in promoting women’s participation in the political process
  • IDEA’s publications include an assessment of the “State of Democracy” and Ten Years of Supporting Democracy Worldwide

A final note: no one person or organization can “drive democracy.” The impulse for a democratic polity has to emerge from within the polity itself. Organizations such as International IDEA are designed to assist and nurture this democratic impulse.

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate Californian living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
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