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The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa)

Address: 357 Visagie Street
City: Pretoria
Country: South Africa
Phone Number: (012) 392 0500
Fax Number: (012) 320 2414/5
General Information:
The mission statement

Idasa's mission is to promote a sustainable democracy in South Africa by building democratic institutions, educating citizens and advocating social justice.

The primary objective

At the moment, the primary objective is the building of capacity for democracy in civil society and government.

The capacity-building model

Idasa's diagnosis of South African society and its capacity for democracy identifies three general areas of activity, each of which has a civil society and state component. Each area demands equal attention. Idasa does not believe it alone can do this work, but considers capacity building here critical to the achievement of its mission and primary objective:

Representation of voters, and community and public participation;
Delivery of state services and constitutional obligations, and appropriately articulated and organised citizen demands;
Enforcement of laws, regulations, by-laws and the constitution, and informed compliance and consent by citizens;
The structure of Idasa

The organisation is organised around national programmes, objective oriented projects and associated bodies. The national programmes are:
The Budget Information Service
The Political Information and Monitoring Service
The Local Government Centre
The Public Opinion Service
The Southern African Migration Project
The All Media Group
Objective oriented projects are conducted by these programmes and by the executive office.

See links and partners for a list of Idasa's associated bodies.

Within Idasa's executive office and the national programmes there are a number of specialist units that extend beyond a single objective oriented project, such as the Children's Budget, Aids and budget research, or PULSE. See each parent programme for more information.

Organisational history

These programmes have developed in response to changes in South Africa in the 13 years in which Idasa has been in existence. Throughout this period, we have asked what has to be done to promote democracy as an alternative to authoritarianism, endemic inter- and intra-state conflict, and violence. When Idasa was established in 1987, the task was to build confidence in a negotiated settlement and between the negotiating partners. As they were in a state of war, a great deal of the work was done outside the country and in conferences and seminars where people could meet about common themes and professional interests without having to commit themselves to party positions - or to acknowledge the illegality or illegitimacy of the other.

The most high-profile of these conferences was held in 1987 at Dakar, where members of the Afrikaaner establishment and the exiled African National Congress leadership met. Other meetings outside South Africa followed but so did many events inside the country, involving student leaders, women, business and development leaders, and local government officials.

With the unbanning of resistance movements and the establishment of opportunities for negotiations, Idasa became a critical ally of the transition, interpreting it for ordinary citizens as it unfolded, providing capacity for a myriad of local initiatives, supporting strategies to end violence, and introducing the parties to one another - especially in the police and military arenas.

From late 1992, Idasa began to prepare for national elections as a way to establish a target date for the settlement and as a way to found the democratic state. By 1993 it was developing electoral support programmes, training party agents and engaging in wide-scale voter education - with a view to entrenching the commitment to democracy being established in the developing constitution.

After the election of the first democratic parliament in 1994, Idasa continued to provide electoral support for the local government elections. But it also set up a monitoring arm to track developments in the establishment of the first parliament and to help people understand it - and the even more radical transformations in the nine new provinces and their legislatures. It assisted in building the statutory institution of community police forums, trained and supported first the interim municipalities and then the elected councillors, and ran a programme of training of democracy educators among many small civil society organisations.

Idasa encouraged the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and supported those who began to blow the whistle on the dirty tricks of the previous regime.

From 1996, it underwent its own transformation process, closing down a series of regional offices to establish itself in the two capitals and to increase its ability to specialise, retain key staff and move to become an organisation fitted for operation within a constitutional democracy rather than in an authoritarian or transitional environment.

Although staff are based in the capitals, Idasa continues to have project offices and staff in all the provinces at various times - and who retain links at provincial, municipal and local levels.
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