Promoting democracy

Democracy is a key condition for living in dignity and freedom. The rule of law, the protection of human rights, free and fair elections, independent media and participation by society in political processes are fundamental principles of a democracy.

We therefore support the creation of democratic structures and institutions, such as parliaments, local councils, election commissions and independent control bodies. Citizens must have the right and the opportunity to participate in political processes, not just at elections, even if the part played in shaping these processes cannot and should not replace decision-making structures legitimated through democratic elections.

We promote political participation with a view to strengthening existing democratic institutions through participatory elements and improving the quality of decision-making processes. Our approach goes beyond strengthening civil society. It focuses on promoting constructive relationships between the state and society and state development as a whole in order to develop resilient structures. Legitimacy, transparency and democratic accountability play a key role here.

We therefore promote on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) the creation and consolidation of a legal and institutional framework for political participation, and we help strengthen civil society. We promote the democratic awareness of actors in government, parliament and public administration. To do so, we use innovative methods and procedures such as e-governance, new media and social networks.

More about promoting democracy


Political participation

Political participation is a basic principle of good governance. State and policy-makers do not derive their legitimacy solely from winning the popular vote in democratic elections. Citizens must also have the right and the opportunity between elections to express their interests and to take part in political decision-making processes. The aim is to enable as many different interest groups and social groups as possible, particularly the disadvantaged or marginalised, to participate in political processes on an equal footing and have proper representation.

Our measures are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. They target three different levels:

  • We support legal and institutional frameworks conducive to political participation: For citizens and civil society to participate in political decision-making, a certain institutional framework and formal legal guarantees are required.
  • We strengthen civil society: Political participation requires people having information about their rights and opportunities for participation and being able to demand these from state authorities. Civil society plays a key role here. The princi-ples of transparent, accountable and development-oriented government can only be upheld if an ac-tive civil society is informed about policy decisions, is involved and actively participates in decision-making processes and, moreover, is able to exercise a critical control function with regard to the state.
  • We promote state capability and responsiveness. A strong civil society alone is not enough to enable political participation, however. In fact, State and society can only enjoy a constructive relationship if the state is responsive to civil society’s active participation and enables civil society to take part in political decision-making processes.

Promoting democracy

We promote democracy as a value and as a political system in partner countries. We support the establishment of formal structures and democratic institutions and help ensure that democratic principles and procedures are enshrined in society.

Free, universal and secret elections are the most important expression of the political will of a country’s citizens. They provide legitimacy to elected representatives and to political decisions. In a democratic system, free and fair elections are also the most powerful mechanism available to citizens to endorse state action. We support partner countries in preparing for and conducting democratic elections and in counting votes. All stages of the election process are highly important.

When promoting democracy, parliaments and local councils are also important partners for German international cooperation. They are a key link between state and society and provide a platform for debate and decision-making on topics relevant to society as a whole. Without a parliament that performs the core functions of representation, legislation and control effectively, democracy and good governance cannot be achieved. GIZ assists its partners in strengthening parliamentary administrations as a whole and building the capacity of administrative staff. We also promote dialogue and cooperation between the state powers and between the state and society.



Our understanding of good governance is based on the principles of empowerment, participation, equal opportunities, transparency and accountability. The concept of domestic accountability is a key element in good governance. It covers transparency, legitimacy and accountability of state action in all policy areas. Promoting accountability is thus closely connected with strengthening democracy and the rule of law, promoting political participation and creating an efficient and transparent system of public finance and administration.

There are two dimensions to accountability. It includes both the state’s duty towards its citizens to account for its actions and the right of the citizens to demand this accountability effectively. The vertical dimension of accountability thus describes the relationship between the state and policymakers on the one hand and the citizens on the other. In addition, in the context of the separation and control of powers, accountability covers the relationship between the state institutions of the executive, legislative and judiciary. This is referred to as horizontal accountability.

When promoting good governance, two pillars of accountability are key:

  • We promote democratic accountability as a major instrument for the democratic control of political power and a key element in constructive relations between state and society.
  • We strengthen financial and administrative accountability to enhance the transparency of action by the public administration and to improve the government’s accountability through external and internal financial control.


E-Governance refers to the political use of information and communications technology (ICT) by government and non-governmental actors. This includes e-democracy and e-government.

E-Democracy is geared towards democratic principles such as legitimacy, transparency, accountability and political participation. In contrast, e-government refers to the use of ICT by government actors and to public e-services with a view to providing responsive service and modernising the administration. Here, citizens are seen as recipients of services who use ICT to access information and are able to deal with administrative processes interactively. Although e-government can increase the transparency of political opinion-making and decision-making processes, the focus here is on the digital provision of services by administrations and of information by ministries and authorities.

E-Democracy goes above and beyond this and affects the entire basic principles of how we see our social and political role. Here, citizens are seen as sovereign. E-Democracy makes various instruments available to strengthen existing forms of democracy. Elements of both representative and direct citizen participation are supplemented by new electronic instruments. These aim to achieve greater political participation and direct contact between decision-makers and citizens. Participatory instruments that allow greater direct participation play a role here, including e-consultations, e-dialogues, e-petitions and e-elections. Instruments that create transparency also provide the foundation for competent participation, and facilitate it. Thus ICT options can be used to publicise information more simply and faster through open data and open government, for example.


State building

We support partner countries in steering political transformation and reform processes in line with the population’s expectations. A key element in this context involves developing constructive relations between state and society. State building is an endogenous process. Although it can be supported by external actors, it cannot be driven or prescribed by them.

We support partner countries in conducting political negotiation processes involving all population groups and in developing robust and resilient democratic structures. This is designed to enable the countries concerned in the long term to shape change peacefully, proactively and in a development-oriented manner, and to pursue decision-making and implementation processes that are responsive to citizens’ expectations.

We promote public sector reform processes by supporting the state in performing its core tasks effectively. These include security, the rule of law, public administration, legitimate decision-making and its implementation, creating enabling frameworks for sustainable economic development and delivering basic social services that are responsive. This helps reinforce the state’s legitimacy, which is based on the state being able to perform its tasks effectively and efficiently. This is also referred to as performance legitimacy.

We also promote the political participation of a society’s actors and the population’s involvement in shaping change processes. This strengthens and grounds a state’s process legitimacy. Improving the dialogue skills of all government and non-governmental actors is particularly important in both areas of activity. Promoting areas of interaction in which state and society can meet, discuss, negotiate interests and cooperate with one another is another key element.

Examples of our work


Promoting Good Governance and Demoncracy

In the promotion of democratic structures, GIZ makes a distinction between the direct and indirect promotion of democracy ...

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Dr. Ute Böttcher

Advisory and service portfolio

Here you will find an overview of the technical and methodological services we offer.


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