The ICDT was established eleven years ago, in 2005. At that time, supporting the democratic transition was a novel effort to which the leading democracies of the world were strongly committed. The basic idea was that similarly to the Central and Eastern European processes, democratic transition can be swift and absent of problems in most parts of the world. Contrary to George W. Bush’s way of “promoting democracy” which was generally considered as violent, the new approach based on policy-related knowledge and real experience about transition processes was welcomed and endorsed. The novel initiative received both political and financial support. It is not an overstatement that the ICDT has become a well-known organization throughout the world and set an example for many organizations pursuing the aim of making a similar effort.
The phenomena of the past few years, that is, the aftermath of the global economic crisis and the promising but eventually failed attempts at transition to democracy (the Arab Spring) have shaken the belief in the efficacy of promoting democracy and made attracting financial resources harder. Moreover, the communication which stigmatized the organizations and states receiving such a support as corrupt has made the work of organizations dealing with democratic transition harder and discouraged donors as well.
The abovementioned events have led to debates all over the world about the concept and practice of democracy. There is an intensive, ongoing discussion regarding whether a universal concept of democracy really exists and how certain historical, geographical and economic determinants influence the prospects of states for democracy. It can be said that conducting research into the nature of democracy and mapping the actual tendencies have become the most popular domain of political discourse.
This process is a challenge and a unique opportunity as well for the ICDT. It is a challenge because the Hungarian transition was only one example among many. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity because the last eleven years have provided the ICDT with particularly valuable experience from every part of the world. Having this kind of knowledge and know-how, we can be credible for both the donors of the developed world and the institutions and organizations of countries with the aim of transition.
The scope of this short strategic document does not allow us to analyze the different forms of democracy. It can be a future task which fits the mission of the ICDT perfectly. Nonetheless, it is important to make ourselves aware of the fact that the traditional understanding of democracy is changing, particularly in the case of fledgling democracies. This change is assessed by different political streams in different ways. Without taking sides in this regard, we can say that there is an increasing demand for new, tailored concepts of democracy in countries undergoing democratic transition. We must assess the opportunities and directions of this trend, and the ICDT must use its experience in order for the countries undergoing change to be able to gain as much as possible from the successes of our region based on their tailored needs.
The conclusion for the ICDT as regards the future is that the Hungarian „example” cannot be universalized, since the solutions can be applied only by adapting them to local peculiarities and opportunities. As we have experienced it in the past few years, we must provide the “target countries” with possible alternatives which preserve the fundamental values of the Western European model, but offer alternative methods adequate for the new situation and the level of development.
The circle of our potential donors is modified and expanded accordingly. Besides „traditional” donors (the Hungarian government, the IVF, the governments of the Scandinavian countries and the more significant foundations), we must reach out to the governments and corporations of new countries and make the potential donors of the private sector interested. In order to do so, it is necessary to know the sectoral (economic, social, reform policy) aspects of democratic transition and transmit this knowledge.