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#7 Pioneering Democracy

Ghana and Denmark's relations stretch through many decades and centuries. But Ghana was a very different country when Danida came back in 1991. Ghana had embarked on the challenging transition from military rule to democracy, and Danida became deeply engaged in all the steps from 1992, when the new constitution was approved, and the first democratic elections took place. 

The Martyrs of the Rule of Law statue. Photo: Jesper Heldgaard.

It’s been a pioneering, but also chal­lenging journey, and we are proud to have been a part of it. People, who only knew the country before this transition started, would find it difficult to recog­nise it. Today, there is a lively democrat­ic debate, press freedom and a vibrant civil society holding politicians account­able to an extent, which is rarely seen in other African countries. Ghana can also be proud of its record of peaceful elections and transitions of power from one party to another.

Denmark’s selection of Ghana as a priority country in 1989 was an impor­tant sign of our long-term commitment. Danida was seen as a credible and reliable partner that our Ghanaian part­ners, both in the government institu­tions, in civil society and the private sector, could count on for a long time.

Our vision from the onset was to con­tribute towards building a sustainable democracy. Hence, Denmark engaged in activities that were not likely to yield clear and visible results overnight. Den­mark became involved in what consti­tutes the pillars of democracy such as Parliament, elections, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the judiciary, decentralisation, civil society, media etc.

These are also sensitive sectors, and while overall progress over the past three decades has been impressive, we have also encountered several bumps on our way. But we have been able to address the challenges together, and we hope that our good partnership will live on even though Denmark’s support to good governance and service deliv­ery is being phased out by the end of this year, and Denmark’s development assistance to Ghana will be fully phased out by the end of 2020. In honour of the phasing out, we have made a documentation study telling some of the stories from our longstanding relationship.

ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolition - funded by Danida) is a informal court setup, where the opponents sit together with trained mediators to try to settle their dispute our of court. Photo: Jesper Heldgaard.

Ghana today has significant attributes such as its democratic accomplish­ments, a stable security environment and a wealth of resources, making it a leading light on the continent. But like any democracy, Ghana also faces challenges such as corruption and the need for reforms to keep its institutions and public sector in good shape to improve services to its citizens. It is my hope that Ghana will prioritise reform implementation to position the country as a leading force on the continent.