INSPIRED was originally conceived as a means to operationalise the EU Agenda for Action on Democracy Support. It was developed by the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) with support from the EU through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The input for the development of the first Operating Model (see Library)– which has now evolved into a full-fledged approach – came from locally-led dialogue processes that took place in five very different contexts (Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Morocco and Tunisia) between 2012-2015, tackling five different issues. This diversity was deemed necessary to ensure that the resulting approach would be applicable on a wide geographical and thematic scope.

Ever since, INSPIRED has been evolving, learning and adapting to the realities of the 14+ countries in which it has been implemented, always with its view on:

Doing Development Democratically

The INSPIRED approach addresses the operational divide between democracy support and the array of instruments aimed at promoting good governance. For a number of reasons (historical, institutional, ideological, etc.) practitioners working on governance tend to favour technical solutions to problems that are, in reality, inherently political. Indeed, the power dynamics, latent conflicts and vested interests underlying democratic transformation cannot be neglected when supporting partner governments through technical assistance programmes. Aware of the harmful unintended effects that this overly technocratic approach to development can produce, donors have started to look for new ways of linking their aid to locally owned reform agendas.

Building true ownership

Over the last decade – and in particular, following the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness – the EU and other major donors have turned the principle of ownership into the cornerstone of the international system of aid delivery. But what exactly is meant by national ownership? In other words, who should own the national agenda for reform in a given country? Giving “partner” governments this exclusive prerogative has proved to be a recipe for consolidating authoritarian regimes all over the world. The only way to counterbalance the natural tendency of power holders to act exclusively according to their own self-interest is to open decision-making to other actors in society.

Placing dialogue at the core of the ‘Policy First’ principle

In the last two decades, international aid organisations and practitioners have been increasingly making use of policy dialogue as a means of fostering the long-term impact of reforms. Not incidentally, the EU’s own Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) enshrines the ‘Policy First’ principle as the default approach to program its operations, be it in the form of budget support or innovative financing. But for this emphasis on policy to deliver results, the EU and EU Member States will need to reach out beyond their government counterparts and institutionalise meaningful, participatory mechanisms that make their policy dialogue initiatives more representative and legitimate. Situated in the middle-ground between politics and public management, policies seem to offer an ideal vehicle for promoting the culture of dialogue, favouring the kind of constructive and evidence-based debates that can nurture trust and mutual understanding amongst confronted actors in polarised societies.

Ensuring that EU support is inclusive and participatory

Enhancing the inclusiveness of policy-making is not only a matter of justice or legitimacy but also of outright efficiency, as policies that have been elaborated taking into account different interests and viewpoints are more likely to resist sudden changes in the balance of power than policies that benefit only a small ruling elite. The increased resilience of inclusive policies will naturally improve the sustainability of international aid programmes aimed at promoting good governance

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