Westminster Foundation for Democracy

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The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), describes itself as the UK’s democracy-building foundation, and was established in 1992:

"to provide flexible and imaginative funding assistance to countries managing the difficult transition to democracy in central and eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout the 1990s WFD’s work expanded to support countries emerging from conflict and authoritarian rule and to support the consolidation and effectiveness of existing democratic regimes." [37]

Tony Blair it thus:

"In its fifteenth year, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy celebrates its achievements as it refreshes to face the new challenges of our age. The values and ambitions which underpin its work in building democracies around the world are the same progressive values which are at the very core of our party. The Foundation's work performs a vital role in enhancing good governance, justice, global stability and prosperity"[1]

WFD's approach is to bring together funding for civil society organizations and for political parties in 'coherent thematic' and country programmes. This work is undertaken with a grant-in-aid, currently £4.1 million, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Half of this grant is distributed between the three major UK political parties (the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats) and smaller UK parties on a proportional basis. The other half is allocated by the Foundation to national and international organisations whose work supports WFD’s programme priorities. Some examples of this will be examined below.

As well as being sponsored by the FCO the Foundation also contributes to the FCO’s aim of making "globalisation work for sustainable development in the UK and internationally (particularly in Africa) by promoting democracy and the rule of law, good economic and environmental governance and security of long-term energy supply, measured by specific underlying targets."

WFD also plays a role in funding the three main party's international outreach, and makes it possible to obtain some foreign experience. This is made clear this article:

Opposition parties in the House of Lords receive much less in “Cranbourne money”, which was introduced in 1996 and earmarked for similar use. Then there is about £2m, distributed between the three main parties, from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (which is financed by the Foreign Office), to help parties spread democracy abroad. The annual total of direct state funding to the three main parties at Westminster comes to a modest £9.5m, or under a sixth of their combined income.[2]

Democracy Promotion

Although it states it remains independent of government — in setting its priorities and programmes — it is tied to the strategic drives underlying government's human rights policies. It should be remembered that:

"During the Reagan years, the neocon human rights program was a velvet glove tailored for the iron fist side of foreign and military policy. During the Reagan administration, [Elliott] Abrams was at once a human rights advocate, a manager of clandestine operations, and a bagman for the Nicaraguan contras calling himself “a gladiator” in the cause of freedom." [3]

Human rights have long been a “policy tool” of the U.S. and UK government. WFD funds the Westminster-based political parties then "They establish contact with, offer assistance to, and work with individual political parties or movements with which they have a political affinity," in certain parts of the world.[4] This affinity will reflect the government's (and U.S.) foreign policy.

WFD organise conferences through Wilton Park which is an executive agency of the Foreign Office. Their March 2004 event [5] and others, included representatives of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, particularly Thomas Carothers [6] who has written on the double standards of the U.S. and the international backlash against democracy promotion efforts. [7] Carothers has some advice for the U.S.:

"First, the U.S. government must not make the mistake of confusing regime change with democracy promotion. Regime change policies, in which the U.S. government seeks to oust foreign governments it views as hostile to U.S. interests, whether through military force or diplomatic and economic pressure, fail to gain international legitimacy and contaminate democracy promotion when they are presented as democracy promotion efforts." [8]

This is a lightweight rebuke from an insider. Organisations like the WFD represent the cosmetic remodeling of the Cold War strategies: the apparent change in foreign policy from supporting dictatorships to an 'open' promotion of 'democratic' regimes: where the democracy is defined almost exclusively by the existence of elections.

In The Battle for Global Civil Society, William I. Robinson argues:

"U.S. political intervention under the banner of “democracy promotion” is aimed at undermining authentic democracy, at undermining and gaining control over popular movements for democratization, at keeping a lid on popular democracy movements, at limiting any change that may be brought about by mass democratization movements so that the outcome to democracy struggles will not threaten the elite order and integration into global capitalism. If by democracy we mean the power of the people, we mean mass participation in the vital decisions of society, a democratic distribution of material and cultural resources, then democracy is a profound threat to global capitalist interests and must be mercilessly opposed and suppressed by U.S. and transnational elites. What is new about the strategy of “democracy promotion” is that this opposition, this suppression, is now conducted ironically under the very rhetorical banner of promoting democracy and through sophisticated new instruments and modalities of political intervention." [9]

Not all of the Cold War was militarily aggressive (hence the term): funding and support was offered to many groups in a complex chain of institutions to disseminate propaganda to be the good cop in the good cop/bad cop routine. Others — spectacularly with the Iran-Contra affair — used democracy promotion as a cover for areas of foreign policy which were illegal and reckless in the extreme. Within the U.S.'s National Endowment for Democracy (upon which the WFD was based as we shall see below) the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation of the kind the military conducts to influence a population in denied or enemy territory. The NED itself was a pyramidical structure with the National Security Council at the top and various seemingly innocuous organisations 'promoting democracy' at the bottom which were used to launder money to the Contras in Nicaragua for example. [10]

Commander Dan

WFD was designed at the end of the Cold War as a more flexible approach to expanding Western interests into the territory opened up by the 'transition to democracy,' and similarly with the offer of "assistance in consolidating post-conflict democracies":

"WFD also contributes to the achievement of the FCO’s aim to “make globalisation work for sustainable development in the UK and internationally (and particularly in Africa) by promoting democracy and the rule of law, good economic and environmental governance and security of long-term energy supply, measured by specific underlying targets”." [11]

The need for euphemisms is thus high on the agenda, such as: "Iraq is going through a transition phase," but the organisation's web site has almost nothing to say on the matter. [12] It does boast that it funds The Sudan Mirror, "a monthly newspaper developed by the Sudan Development Trust (SDT) to offer objective, factual, independent and professional coverage of Sudan’s affairs." But it does not add that this publication was started up by Dan Eiffe, a "former Catholic priest from County Meath, Ireland, and a veteran of Sudan’s serial humanitarian crises." [13]

"Widely known as Commander Dan for his unwavering support for the SPLA’s often-vicious war for secession, Eiffe came under fire scores of times as a field worker for Norwegian People’s Aid, an organization that was also pummeled in the media for taking sides during a war that pitted Muslim against Christian." [14]

Eiffe's activities are funded by the U.S. government: The Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI), a subsidiary of USAID, in conjunction with the Sudan Development Trust (run by Eiffe) set up The Sudan Mirror and the Sudan Radio Service, [15] Norwegian People’s Aid (which also involves Eiffe and is funded by USAID and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs [16] ) and Oxfam Netherlands also fund the Trust. [17]

Eiffe is also known as 'Commander De Mabior' because of his close association with (U.S. trained [18]) John Garang de Mabior and the SPLA. [19] Reports say that Eiffe would "organise and co-ordinate meetings and interviews between Dr Garang and foreign dignitaries." Eiffe keeps some odd company which casts his role in democracy building in the more traditional manner of the CIA:

"Michael Harari, the Israeli gun-runner who helped supply John Garang's Sudanese People's Liberation Army in a covert operation involving Roger Winter of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Dan Eiffe of Norwegian Peoples Aid, is currently wanted for arrest by the government of Norway. The Norwegian warrant, issued through Interpol in June 1998, stems from Harari's coordination of assassination operations against leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization in revenge for the terrorist massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. On July 23, 1973, one of Harari's Mossad teams was dispatched to Norway, where it shot and killed Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchikhi. Harari had wrongly believed Bouchikhi to be PLO intelligence chief Hassan Salameh." [20]

Father Eiffe is an unlikely man of God:

"He justifies supporting violence: ' I'm tired of aid...' he says. ' What these people need are guns to defend themselves' ' I found God in Africa....'" [21]

And guns were what Father Eiffe delivered. Reports — presumably ignored by WFD — have outlined a covert arms and logistical supply network run out of the U.S. State Department, which mirrors the Iran-Contra arms supply operation of the 1980s. [22] They name Eiffe as part of the operation as the then coordinator for Central Africa of Norwegian People's Aid, which posed as a relief organization. Indeed the report traces the links back to the U.S. National Security Council, who have pushed for a policy of politicization of relief agencies:

"Those with some responsibility for the victory of European-American interests in that area of Africa during John Garang’s funding are: Roger Winter, for years the chief of his own Committee for Refugees, and Susan E. Rice, Assistant Under Secretary of State for African Affairs under Clinton, a protege of then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, of Roger Winter, and work-along with Philip Gourevitch of the New Yorker at that time and John Prendergast and Gayle Smith both of the National Security Council. Ms. Rice was a long time defender of Mr. Garang and U.S. funding. Actual arms delivery to Mr. Garang’s forces has been traced to humanitarian groups : Norwegian People’s Aid (Daniel Eiffe) — stopped in 1998, and the Norwegian Church Emergency Aid. Michael Harari, of Israel’s Mossad, was allegedly involved, as well as Alberto Prado Herreros. Both men with previous smuggling experience in Nicaragua supplying the Contras. Human Rights Watch has documented some involvement by Bulgaria. Arms shipments to Uganda and Rwandan troops invading the Eastern Congo were allegedly a U.S. State Department operation working under Ms Rice and Ricardo Zuniga and there is some evidence of the gold rich Congo territory being used for weapons purchase after transporting the gold to the coast." [23]

Eiffe is specifically mentioned in connection to Norwegian People's Aid (NPA). Norway was forced to suspend all aid to NPA following an official report certifying that the NPA has been assisting the war efforts of of the SPLA for at least ten years:

"The NPA was founded by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions in 1939 and has been active in southern Sudan since 1986. Despite its "leftist" profile, it has been co-operating closely with "right-wing" Christian fundamentalist groups led by Baroness Caroline Cox's British-based Christian Solidarity International. The NPA's relationship with the group around Mossad agent Michael Harari could date back to its support for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in their struggle against dictator Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s." [24]

Eiffe uses carefully stage-managed platforms and his own guise as a priest to push U.S. propaganda:

""Sudan is the hell of the world," said Daniel Eiffe of Norwegian People's Aid at recent hearings sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "Apartheid is nothing compared to Sudan,"" [25]

It should be noted here that the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom at this time was Elliott Abrams [26]a key figure (convicted and pardoned) in the Iran-Contra arms supply operation of the 1980s.

Eiffe's testimony is uncritically received by the BBC [27] and Human Rights Watch [28] and others. Both Eiffe and the the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (together with the Freedom Association's Baroness Caroline Cox [29]) push the line that the war in Sudan was fueled by religious persecution. Similarly 'genocide' is used tactically: if nations of the world agreed (they do not) that a verifiable genocide were occurring, it would allow the U.S. to occupy Sudan and gain its oil assets. Sudan has more oil than Saudi Arabia and Iran together.

WFD also fund International Alert which has Francis Deng on its board who worked closely with Elliot Abrams in formulating the U.S. position on Sudan.

Concerning certain political projects of the Central Intelligence Agency...

With all this rhetoric of 'democracy' we are supposed to ignore the paradox of members of WFD's 14 Governors [30] being appointees of an entirely undemocratic House of Lords, and that similarly, no one voted for them to join WFD — they are appointed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. With all its talk of 'independence', the fact of the matter is that independent members are outnumbered and that WFD's nine Patrons are the leaders of the main political parties (plus the Speaker of the House of Commons) with which they work. But we are also supposed to ignore just exactly what public money is being used for.

The consultant to the FCO on the setting up of WFD, and the founder governor from 1992-8, was Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, an International consultant for numerous democracy organizations and development institutions, among them the NED itself (upon whom WFD was modelled and by whom it is evaluated today [31] ). Pinto-Duschinsky is also with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) [32] which was established by F. Clifton White who worked with CIA director William Casey on the Reagan administration's pro-contra propaganda network. [33]

On the formation of the WFD Pinto-Duschinsky has stated:

"In December 1988, the Policy Planning Staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office commissioned me to carry out full-time research for one year into the topic of "political aid" with special reference of the US National Endowment for Democracy and the (West) German political foundations. This work was carried out in 1989-90. In June 1989, the Planners asked me to speak to a high level seminar of ministers and officials on political aid. Following this meeting, the Planners (under Robert Cooper and Jonathan Powell) submitted a set of recommendations — eventually to result in the creation of WFD — to the Foreign Secretary. Following his approval, the proposal to create a capacity for delivering "political aid" was approved in turn by the Cabinet." [34]

On the question what was the intended function of the WFD? He has stated this (emphasis in the original):

"The WFD was intended as an instrument that would permit the British Government to fund political activities within foreign countries, thereby promoting democracy and British influence.
Such interference in the political affairs of foreign nations had previously been covert and had caused problems when secret financial assistance had leaked into the public domain (as occurred in the United States in the 1960s concerning certain political projects of the Central Intelligence Agency of the US).
The propositions presented in 1989 onwards were that such interference in the internal politics of foreign countries would be more legitimate and more effective (1) if it was OPEN, (2) if it was at ARMS LENGTH from the governmental bodies which provided the funds and (3) if aid could be given to a PLURALITY OF RECIPIENTS within a single country.
The aid to be funded by the WFD was to be distinguished by the fact that it would be "political" rather than technical or educational. The WFD was to give grants that were recognised as sensitive and risky. For this reason, the size of grants was generally to be much smaller than the "good government" projects funded by DFID (then titled the Overseas Development Administration).
The distinction between technical and educational projects on the one hand and political projects on the other hand required a special legal status for the WFD. The leading firm of solicitors, Allen and Overy, was therefore approached to provide the necessary legal advice." [35]

Outlining the nature of the activities of the WFD in relation to subversion, subterfuge and cloak and dagger such as that practiced by Father Eiffe and the slaughter in Sudan, Pinto-Duschinsky adds:

"The WFD, for example, could give money to political forces which were in direct opposition to existing governments [...] It is evident that, at least in the short run, such ventures may provide training for the propaganda agencies of dictators and, far from promoting democracy, may thus risk consolidating undemocratic regimes [...] In practice, as shown later by the experience of the WFD, support for controversial publications in foreign countries needs to be sanctioned by an independent organisation at arm's length from the donor government. The damage to official government-to-government relationships is likely to be far greater if the grant is given directly by the donor government." [36]

Strangely after all that Pinto-Duschinsky argues in the Times that the work of WFD is 'not subversive' and somewhat distanced himself from this world. [37]

Pinto-Duschinsky is also a member of International IDEA (which has Thomas Carothers mentioned above on its board[38]), the British Know How Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, UNDP, USAID, OECD, the Council of Europe, and the Canadian International Development Agency. He works with the British Council to form and co-ordinate a "network of African anti-corruption activists" with the Open Society Institute, and to "produce a popular guide based on attempts to prosecute the “Top Ten Bad Guys” in the World." [39] He has also worked for Transparency International. [38]

Activities around the world

Principals and Staff

Governors and Patrons


WFD’s Patrons

Former Patrons




Further Reading

  • Egbuna O. (2006) Zimbabwe; West's Double Standards Stink, Africa News, August 2.

This outlines that the WFD gave money to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to create the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It also states that the TransAfrica Forum (TAF) President Bill Fletcher Jr

"choose to parrot the propaganda of Voice of America's Studio 7, claiming that only high level members in Zanu-PF benefitted from the land programme. The African community in the US must know that endorsing ZCTU is the same as supporting MDC, thus supporting US imperialism in Zimbabwe."

It also suggests a US input into the process via Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to take over and govern Zimbabwe, in the place of President Mugabe and his party.

Milne states:

"There is little sense in any of this of Britain's responsibility for the rapacious colonisation of Zimbabwe and the continuing grotesque inequality of land ownership two decades after independence, which has left 6,000 white farmers in control of half the country's 81 million acres of arable land, while around 850,000 black farmers are crammed into the rest. It was after all a British Labour government which refused to put down Ian Smith's white racist rebellion in 1965 because of fears that the army would balk at acting against their "kith and kin", provoking a war which cost 40,000 lives. It was a British Tory government which imposed white parliamentary quotas and a 10-year moratorium on land reform at independence. Now the British government (through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy) and the Tories (through the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust) - along with white farmers and corporations - are all funding the MDC, committed as it is to free-market policies and the restoration of white farms to their owners."
Peter Ackerman, the very rich chairman of Freedom House, and his International Center on Nonviolent Conflict are engaged in a huge propaganda campaign designed to show how the worst of regimes can be toppled by the methods used -or claimed to have been used -to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and in the "colour" revolutions that led to pro-western regimes in Ukraine (the orange revolution) and Georgia (the rose revolution). [...] Since my time as an adviser to the policy planning staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a founder governor of the invaluable Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), I have enjoyed close contact with Washington's National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This body and other US organisations that promote democracy are worried that the secretive and subversive activities advocated by Ackerman, and being pressed for with some success on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon and in the White House, will taint their past 20 years of international activity. The projects of the NED — like those of the WFD — are funded by government but are transparent. They are not subversive. And they have played a positive role in encouraging democracy in dozens of nations. Respected members of the Iranian exile community in America are also worried that the attempted subversion of the regime in Tehran will backfire, consolidating support for Iranian hardliners and preventing regime change for the next 30 years."
  • Myers S. L. (2006) Bringing Down Europe's Last Ex-Soviet Dictator,The New York Times, February 26.

Myers, the New York Times Bureau chief in Moscow alleges that the group Khopits, or “enough” in Belarusian are not what they seem:

"Khopits’s information war is well under way. The National Endowment for Democracy, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (the N.E.D.’s British counterpart) and the Foreign Ministry of Germany are paying for it — with cash smuggled into Belarus in small amounts in ways he asked me not to disclose. (Representatives of Westminster and the German ministry declined to discuss their support for Khopits; the N.E.D. asked that I not disclose the amount of the assistance.)”
  • (2006) UK Party Mobilises Opposition Against Museveni, The East African Standard (Uganda) January 29.
"There is growing discomfort between the Government and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) over what government says 'interference of a foreign organisation in the country's electoral process.'Conservative Party, the main opposition party in the United Kingdom, is financing the development and campaign aspects of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). According to an e-mail communications leaked to the media, their funding will finance printing of campaign manifestos and posters. In one of the e-mails received in December last year, the UK party is informing FDC that its donation handling arm, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, has approved $20,018 (Ush36m) to help in the purchase of communication equipment."
  • BBC (2005) Azeri party leader brands report on British NGO funds “black PR,” BBC Monitoring Trans Caucasus Unit.

Azerbaijani news agency Assa-Irada Baku, 16 August states that:

"The chairman of the Azarbaycan Milli Istiqlal Party (AMIP) has accused another opposition party, Musavat, of conducting ‘black PR’ against it. Ali Aliyev dismissed some media reports suggesting that his party has received funds from Britain's Westminster Foundation for Democracy."
  • Tulsky M. (2004) 1.7 millions (of dollars) vote for Yushchenko, Versiya, No. 46 (319), November 29-December 5, pp. 6-7.
"On December 11, 2003 the Supreme Rada voted to set up a "provisional commission for investigating foreign interference in the funding of elections in Ukraine through non-government organizations funded by grants from abroad." This commission released a preliminary report this summer. According to the report, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (Britain) funded special training for young activists of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc in Lutsk, Nikolayev, Zaporozhie, Kherson, and some other regional capitals in March 2004. The instructors were representatives of the Otpor organization (Serbia) and Zubr (Belarus), and they taught young Ukrainians how to organize mass protests.According to the commission, the most substantial influence over political processes in Ukraine is exerted by the National Democratic Institute (United States), the International Republican Institute (United States), Freedom House, the Eurasia Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), the Revival International Foundation, the National Foundation of Support for Democracy, and the World Bank. In terms of grants, the United States is the unquestionable leader."
  • PR Week (2004) BP-PA apoints Oates as Direstor from Bolland, September 24, P. 9.
" Bell Pottinger Public Affairs has poached Jonathan Oates from former Prince of Wales press secretary Mark Bolland's PR agency to join it as a director. Oates joins BP-PA next week from Mark Bolland & Associates, where he has held the title of associate since the agency's inception a few years ago. He becomes one of nine directors at BP-PA and reports to managing director Peter Bingle, who said Oates would have a 'roving portfolio' and that the agency was establishing a 'deliberately top-heavy structure' to service clients with experienced consultants. Prior to joining Bolland, Oates worked as a policy and communications adviser to Lord Warner at the Youth Justice Board and for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy - where he worked on a two-year project providing training and support to MPs and staff in the South African Parliament. Oates kicked off his career in public affairs in the early 1990s at Westminster Strategy, where he stayed for five years. In addition, he is a former deputy leader of Kingston-upon-Thames Borough Council and an ex-Liberal Democrat councillor. Last month, BP-PA director Howard Dawber quit to join Canary Wharf Group as a special adviser."
  • News Department, Downing Street (2002) Free Speech Around The World Boosted By Foreign Office Support, Foreign And Commonwealth Office, May 3.

One of the contradictions of the WFD is the role of its independent members of the board: are they aware of the true nature of its activities, do they find it problematic? Here we can see WFD position itself along with groups of more liberal minded organisations:

"The Free Expression Panel will be chaired by Dr MacShane and consist of leading UK-based NGOs, academics, lawyers and campaigners including representatives from Article 19, English Pen, Writers in Prison, Interights, Institute of War and Peace Reporting, Index on Censorship, Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Rory Peck Trust. The Panel will meet twice a year to give policy advice, share information and discuss broader strategies on promoting freedom of expression. The other Board members are: Ernie Ross (Chairman); Archy Kirkwood MP (Vice-Chairman); Nik Gowing (Vice-Chairman); Richard Spring MP; Michael Trend MP; Elfyn Lloyd MP; Caroline Spelman MP; Georgina Ashworth; Frances D'Souza CMG; Nicola Duckworth; Mary Kaldor; Patrick Smith; Mike Aaronson."

References, Resources and Contact



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  2. The Economist, Paying political parties: It depends who's counting, 11 January 2007 (print edition).
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  33. Document no longer available (Access attempt: 3 September 2007)
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  39. Source:Register of Members' Interests May 2002
  40. Source:Register of Members' Interests May 2002
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  42. Source (Accessed 17 July 2006)
  43. Source (Accessed 17 July 2006)