Case Studies

The Armenian initiative

How did we get involved ?

The Armenian initiative begun in 2005 at the invitation of the official authorities of Armenia.
It has been an active counterpart for the legislative and executive branches of Armenia and has built up steady and positive relations with Armenia since then.

What did we do ?

EPDI is actively working with the National Assembly both at an institutional level and with individual MPs. EPDI is implementing a whole array of activities within the scope of EPDI mandate, including:

1. Pre-legislative review
2. Company attachments
3. Parliament attachments
4. Discussion forums
5. European fellowships
6. Constituency programme
7. Peer to Peer support
8. Regional workshops
9. Parliament and Business resource centre (envisaged)
10. Parliament Capacity Building
11. Individual MPs Capacity Building

During the 2008-2010 EPDI legislators in partnership with its Dutch counterpart, the East-West Parliamentary Practice Project (EWPPP), implemented a project on capacity and institution building of the Armenian Parliament “Parliamentary Practice and Techniques: A Programme in Support of the National Assembly of Armenia” funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the MATRA mechanism.

This project – which involved National Assembly of Armenia and the Parliaments of the Netherlands, Slovenia and Latvia – was highly praised by the beneficiary. It was welcomed by the Chairman of the National Assembly of Armenia as a vigorous and highly useful tool in promoting the best European parliamentary practice in the National Assembly of Armenia.

How was it funded ?

By the European Union and the Dutch government.

Update/lessons learned

EPDI works actively with the Office of the Prime Minister of Armenia with the Prime Minster and Secretary General of EPDI keeping in touch on various occasions since 2005.

EPDI is committed to promoting implementation of the second generation reforms in Armenia currently in progress in the country, including democratic and economic reforms, as well as promoting Armenia’s further European integration process through Association Agreement with the European Union, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and sound migration and visa facilitation policy.

EPDI believes Armenia is a full member of a European family and does all it takes to further promote Armenia in that capacity.


EPDI Georgia case study

How did we get involved ?

 Our first contact with Georgia was in 2003 at the invitation of Bruce George, then President of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) who had first-hand experience of the Dialogue Centre model.

His visit was linked to the first democratic elections in Georgia following the Rose Revolution. He was accompanied by Fredrick Hyde-Chambers.
Many of those interviewed, including the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, parliamentarians and Georgian business people, requested a feasibility study. The general sense was, in the words of one leading banker: “it’s a great idea but you’ll never get it to work here”.

The context was widespread corruption within both business and parliament, and weak institutional capacity.
There was however a strong existing resource in the form of two John Smith Memorial Trust fellows, Archil Bakuradze and Giorgi Dartsimilia, who had completed programmes in the UK for future leaders of civil society.

What did we do ?

Our work in Georgia has become the template for our work – and in particular, our success in facilitating a new tax code has come to be seen as ground-breaking.

The first step was a feasibility study to identify potential champions or detractors in business sectors (large and small), in civil society, and in government. Issues included:

 - What is the attitude of the Speaker to economic investment?
 - What are the “enlightened self-interest” needs of all players?
 - What are the barriers to cross-party support?
 - What are the potential practical hurdles – language differences, the role of the media or recent public events?
 - What are the unspoken assumptions and attitudes?
 - Which other specific schemes within Dialogue International have overcome similar challenges?

In Georgia, this process identified and established an honorary advisory board of champions, who represented all the interests.
The next step was to find an issue to demonstrate practical benefits – in this case a new tax code, since 85 per cent of Georgians were in the shadow economy and not paying tax.
We initiated a process modelled on a Westminster Committee of Enquiry, which ultimately established credibility for the embryonic Dialogue Centre.

Demand began to grow: the chairman of the agriculture committee asked for an enquiry into the economy of the mountain regions; the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee wanted support to oversee foreign investment, which became the Georgian Foreign Investor’s Council.
We also transferred expertise between the research department of the House of Commons library and established a similar service for the Georgian Parliament.
Current programmes include individual MP development and work on food security and regional development.  For further information see

How was it funded ?

The project illustrates a typical mix of funding for a successful dialogue centre. The initial stages were made possible by funding from the European Union, the governments of Ireland and Luxembourg.

BP became the major corporate sponsor: their investment of USD600,000 was secure core funding for the first two years and enabled the development of a purpose-built Dialogue Centre, located within the parliament building.
In addition the embassies of the UK, the Netherlands and USAID have provided programme support. The OSCE mission has provided help in kind. Local Georgian businesses have provided extensive help in kind and pay annual membership fees. The net result is that the Georgian Business and Economic Centre was financially self-sufficient within two years of establishment.

Update/lessons learned

The essential lesson was the importance of securing core funding early on, and the enormous benefit when that funding comes from a mix of sources.
The bespoke venue, which is recognised as a physical neutral space, has been a major asset. It acts as a training centre for EPDI, so that parliamentarians from other countries in transition to democracy are learning from those who have direct experience of the challenges.


EPDI Mongolia case study

How did we get involved ?

 Our work in Mongolia is an example where our experience of small countries in transition became an advantage.

The director of the Mongolian Community in the UK was seeking a British organisation to help with strengthening parliamentary democracy and economic development, and which also had some experience of countries in transition. This request came from the Democratic Union, the coalition of political factions which overthrew the communist regime in 1991.

Mongolia, uniquely among the former Soviet countries, is a parliamentary republic and not a presidential republic, so was particularly interested in an organisation with close links to the Westminster Parliament.

What did we do ?

In this instance the initial contact developed rapidly and EPDI was invited to Ulan Bator by the Democratic Union in January 2010. The invitation highlighted the weakness of our own organisation, which did not have adequate reserves to carry out a full feasibility study.

Rio Tinto, the international mining group, was supportive of our plan and paid for that study. It appeared in the early stages that we could demonstrate practical benefits by taking pollution as a case study. This was an area of interest for Rio Tinto, and we also had a partner organisation with existing expertise.

Following extensive discussions we gained strong support from Mongolian ambassador in the UK, and the British ambassador in Mongolia. The Vice-President of the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce wanted the chamber to partner with us in establishing a dialogue centre. The mayor of Ulan Bator offered help in kind, and relevant ministers gave their support.

The Speaker announced at a press conference that the Mongolian Parliament wanted a Dialogue Centre, and appointed two liaison officers, one MP and one official.

How was it funded ?

All indications were that Rio Tinto would act as the initial funder, along similar lines to BP in Georgia. In the event, the newly appointed CEO of their Mongolian operations felt unable to give his support, because he felt anything to do with parliamentarians was too risky. This decision in August 2010 effectively halted development.

Update/lessons learned

This case exposed the vulnerability of our model, where client parliaments that want and need our service can’t afford to pay for it. A similar case applies in Tanzania.


EPDI Oman case study

How did we get involved ?

 In 2006 – following a recommendation by the UK representative on the European Commission - we were invited to undertake an assessment and produce a report on the work of the State Council of Oman. This gave us the opportunity to gain understanding of the legislative process: the means of consultation, the key players in society and the unspoken assumptions and values.

There was evidence of a demonstrable commitment to developing Omani democracy.

What did we do ?

The report was well-received, and we were asked to arrange a series of exchange programmes. We identified those Westminster parliamentarians and officials with the appropriate empathy, and arranged for them to visit Muscat to participate in programmes with their State Council counterparts.

In parallel, we arranged UK programmes for members and officials of the State Council, as well as their attendance at Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. We also arranged a tailored, individual, programme for the Secretary General of the State Council on how the House of Lords was managing its development and reform, and an introduction to the European Parliament.

It was on this programme that the Secretary General invited the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords to visit Oman.

How was it funded ?

The State Council and the British Embassy.

Update/lessons learned

We are in discussion with the Chairman and Deputy of the State Council, and with the Omani Embassy in the UK about not only continuing our contribution to the development of Oman’s legislative institutions and a possible Dialogue Centre, but also of Oman being the “hub” for all of our potential work in the region.


EPDI Georgian rural economy case study

All Dialogue Centres in countries in transition have as a measure of their success, the impact of their work on the rural economy. Georgia is a good example.

The Chairman of the Agriculture Committee asked for assistance in raising the profile of the rural economy on the political agenda, in the context of encouraging inward investment.

The Agriculture Committee had never been out of the Parliament let alone to Tusheti, in the North-eastern Greater Caucasus Mountains of Georgia bordering Chechnya and Dagestan.  In general, all Dialogue Centres build up the goodwill of a network of people who can provide pro bono assistance.  In this case, we persuaded the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to provide a flight in a helicopter they used to patrol the border of the conflict area, and the British Embassy to pay for the fuel. As a result the journey took forty five minutes instead of nine hours by road and we secured a full complement of Committee members for the visit.

Next we had to gain the confidence of the Governor of Tusheti who was deeply apprehensive and suspicious of interacting with parliamentarians, and wanted to divert everyone to a fishing trip. It is critical to Dialogue Centres that no one feels threatened or that they are going to lose face. As a participant in the process the Governor of Tusheti came to understand that engaging with the Dialogue Centre was beneficial to all parties involved, and could be a useful process for him.

Tushetians, like most mountain people, are self-sufficient and know exactly what would help them overcome their problems. So it was not difficult to find individuals willing to speak on behalf of others in a similar situation, who would not be intimidated by the circumstances and could ‘involve’ the Committee members in the realities of the situation in Tusheti.

The approach we used in Georgia was like a Select Committee of Inquiry. In general practice, we use Parliamentary procedures in programmes whenever we can, as often it helps to strengthen the procedure of a Parliament in transition.  In this case, the issues raised in the Georgian Dialogue Centre were all economically based, ranging from restrictive procurement regulations requiring the large army base to buy all its foodstuffs from the capital instead of locally, to the local administration pocketing the money provided by the government to keep the roads passable in the winter.

In the final analysis however much we do, it is the Parliamentarians and entrepreneurs, or civil society representatives using the Dialogue Centre who will achieve the outcomes. In Georgia, they showed a review of issues through a Dialogue Centre can achieve practical benefit:   

1)     Regulatory changes were made in Parliament enabling the purchase of food by the army locally.

2)     A transparent tender process for the annual road renovation and clearance was established resulting in the road being open for much longer benefiting family’s incomes.

3)     For the first time, the Tusheti villages were provided with first aid medical kits.

4)     For the first time the region was provided with an ambulance.

5)     The Governor’s office provided US$5000 to fund a pipeline construction for a micro hydro power station to generate power to the region.

6)     A bridge was commissioned over the River Shenko by the Ministry of defence and Governor’s office.

7)     New staff appointments have been made to the national park personnel, more sympathetic to the problems of Tusheti.

8)     An NGO ‘The Union of the Development of High Mountainous Regions’ has been created.

9)     The French Embassy has funded a local nursery.

10)   Proposed legislation changing the historic boundaries, a sensitive issue, will be reviewed.

The final report found that there had been “a step change in Parliamentarian’s understanding of their role for the economy”. For the first time MPs experienced how they could be effective economic champions for a region and could see very practical outcomes to their work.

”I totally welcome such initiatives, when the Members of Parliament have the possibility to get the first hand information from the economic operators. We can definitely use this information for the successful development of the economy in Georgia”

Mr. Gia Kheviashvili, Chairman of the Agrarian Issues committee.

“We would never have reached decisions undertaken without coming here, meeting these people and getting the first hand information”

Mr. David Bakradze – then of the European Integration Committee (now Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, since 2008)

”… A concrete catalyst between business and legislators and a great tool to relay your concerns or opinions directly to parliamentarians.”

Fady O. Asly - President and CEO, Agritechnics group, President of the American Chamber of Commerce.