Democratic governance has continued to be the major plank of national development in Malawi. The country has continued to consolidate its democracy by gradually liberalising its political space and allowing more political parties to participate in the national affairs. Civil Society Organizations have also been very active in influencing policies in various sectors of the country's economy and social life.
However, in spite of all these gains, democratic governance deficits are still persisting. There is still weak institutionalization of the democratic culture that allows all people to freely participate in the country’s political system. Political intolerance remains rampant and the operational capacity of watchdog institutions is inadequate. Women participation in political and decision making positions has slightly increased but it remains significantly low. There is also lack of internal democracy within political parties and interparty democracy is also lacking, resulting in intolerance within and amongst political parties. The protection and promotion of political, economic, social and cultural rights is still very weak.
UNDP’s focus in democratic governance in Malawi is to contribute to national development through the promotion of democracy, strengthening and promoting respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms including the right to development. We support the Government in its efforts to create an enabling environment for a transition process in governance and development management. Support is being provided to programmes and projects that enhance participatory democracy; strengthen local governance and development management and promote and protect of human rights including the right to development.
Through the Democratic Governance Unit, we are effectively participating in the UN reforms, making us the convenor and lead agency of Outcome 4.1 of the UNDAF. This outcome seeks to ensure that national institutions effectively support transparency, accountability, participatory democracy and human rights, especially for women and children.
The Democratic Governance Program objectives are anchored on the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), and the UNDP Country Programme Document (CPD). Currently, the democratic governance portfolio is focusing on the following:
Democracy Consolidation and the protection of human rights
Through the Democracy Consolidation Programme (DCP), we are working with the Malawi Government to increase the effective participation of local communities in policy and decision-making by enhancing their ability to advocate for changes to policies, laws, practices affecting their livelihoods and rights and in holding public bodies accountable.
Another project we are implementing is the Malawi human rights support project, in which we have pooled resources together with the Royal Norwegian Embassy to promote and protect human rights. In this project, we are supporting the formulation of a gender sensitive National Human Rights Plan. Our support on human rights is in line with Section 30 of the Malawi Constitution on the right to development.
Support to tripartite elections
Through the Malawi Cycle Support project, we are working with the Malawi Electoral Commission, development partners and all the elections stakeholders to plan and conduct free, fair and credible tripartite elections in 2014; and to undertake subsequent institutional development and electoral reform beyond the elections in line with the MEC’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan.
Strengthening political parties
In collaboration with the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), the Department of International Development (DFID), and the Netherland Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), we are supporting political parties to have clear ideologies and functioning internal democracy as well as help them build better inter-party relationships through the Strengthening political parties project.
Social cohesion and national peace
In line with Section 13 (1) of the Republican Constitution, we are supporting the office of the President and Cabinet to establish the national peace architecture (NPA) which will provide a mechanism for conflict resolution in the country.
Democratic governance sector wide approach (DGSWAp)
In the DGSWAp, we are working with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs; the European Union and UNICEF to strengthen the coordination of institutions working in the governance domain. The Democratic Governance Sector in Malawi comprises the three different arms of Government and various other stakeholders like constitutional bodies and Civil Society Organizations. The DGSWAp aims to provide a platform for a common policy and planning framework for these institutions.