Maldivian women are considered amongst the most emancipated in South Asia. The Maldives also ranks the second-highest on the United Nations Gender-related Development Index (GDI) in the South Asia region. Despite the apparent progress made in the advancement of women, gender discrimination exists in the realm of public service and politics, and platforms for women to participate in the decision-making processes at both the national level and community level are limited. The very few platforms that do exist to promote women’s participation, such as Women’s Development Committees (WDC), are constrained by a general lack of understanding of the institutional support that is required for such Committees to operate to their full potential.

Transparency Maldives (TM) implemented program, under its Civic Participation Project (CPP), to increase women’s participation at the local level focusing on Women’s Development Committees (WDCs). Despite the fact that WDCs have existed as a platform for women going back as far as 1982, there is still limited understanding of how and why WDCs operate. Existing literature on WDCs provide limited information on the aspirations and motivations of WDC members, the barriers they face, public perception of WDCs, and their relationship with Island Councils. This study was conceived on the notion that interventions designed to strengthen WDCs should be based on the experience and realities of WDCs that operate in the field. Based on this premise, TM set out to undertake an assessment of WDCs in order to gain insight into them, identify challenges and capacity issues and propose recommendations for capacity building of WDCs. This assessment report is divided into five sections: Section two explains the methodology used while section three provides an overview of the historical development of WDCs as well the participation of women in decision-making in Maldivian society. Section four provides details of the findings of the survey and focus group discussions. Based on the findings of the assessment, the final section provides recommendations for various stakeholder groups.

Assessment of Women’s Development Committees in the Maldives

We are pleased to announce that the Transparency Maldives publication ‘Assessment of Women’s Development Committees in the Maldives’ is being launched today to mark the International Women’s Day.

Women’s Development Committees (WDC) are a traditional women’s institution in the Maldives, and are an important platform for women to enter into politics and participate in the decision making process of island development. Despite the fact that WDCs are unable to operate as mandated in the Decentralisation Act, it is paramount that WDCs continue to exist and adequate support mechanisms are developed to steer WDCs to fulfil their mandate.

TM’s Assessment of Women’s Development Committees in the Maldives indicates that financial and resource constraints, poor working relationships with the Island Councils and negative public perception towards women in public life are the main challenges faced by Women’s Development Committees (WDCs) across the Maldives.

The following is a list of recommendations based on our research findings:

  1. Councils must consult WDCs as stipulated in the Decentralisation Act
  2. Clarify the role of regulatory bodies and support structures in relation to WDCs
  3. Build the capacity of WDCs to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills
  4. Island Councils should develop resource sharing mechanisms to support WDCs
  5. Provide financial support for WDCs and secure additional sources of funding
  6. Men should be able to contest in and vote for WDC elections

The recommendations identified in the Assessment intend to provide a basis for the development of strategic actions that promote the role, participation and representation of women in public life. It is hoped that the findings from this assessment provide further impetus for the relevant authorities to establish better coordination amongst stakeholders to meet the needs of WDCs and to implement effective capacity building initiatives.


View/download the Assessment of Women’s Development Committees in the Maldives

Between 2013 and 2014, Transparency Maldives (TM) implemented a programme to promote democracy and by extension, support the strengthening of local governance through increased civic participation and capacity building of local councils. As part of the programme, TM conducted civic education workshops and civic forums in 16 islands, with the purpose of bridging the gap between local councils and the communities they serve. The objective was to create citizen awareness and knowledge on democratic values, norms and practices and inspire citizens to participate in community affairs. In addition, the project activities sought to create space for local councils and communities to interact and promote dialogue in addressing community issues through a participatory approach; and to promote transparency and accountability of local councils.

The purpose of this report is to capture TM’s experiences and the process that was followed in achieving the above mentioned goals. The intention is that the experiences, reflection and guidelines will provide practitioners and stakeholders with a useful insight into how community consultations can be conducted in a Maldivian context; and with the tools to design and implement future interventions to strengthen local governance in the Maldives. The first part of the report provides an overview of the local government system in the Maldives including its historical context and the legislative framework. The second part provides explanations and details of civic forums, TM’s experience and case studies. The final part provides details of citizen perceptions on community engagement, followed by a conclusion.

View/download the full report ‘Civic forum: A path to community engagement’ in English and Dhivehi

Civic forum: A path to community engagement
Civic forum: A path to community engagement

The Maldivian Constitution requires the President, Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Parliament, and Judges to submit their financial and business interests. The principle goal of asset declaration is to combat corruption—in particular, illicit enrichment—and promote transparency and accountability of the governance system.

However, whilst these constitutional provisions are intended to promote transparency and integrity of public officials, this intention does not translate into reduced corruption due to various systemic deficits, including the failure of asset disclosure. For example, the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer survey undertaken by Transparency Maldives shows that 86 per cent of respondents perceive the Parliament—followed closely by political parties and the judiciary—as the most corrupt institution in the Maldives. The survey also reports that 97 per cent of respondents believe corruption is a problem at the public sector. Similarly, the 2014 Democracy at the Crossroads survey undertaken by Transparency Maldives finds the Parliament as the institution that holds the least public confidence.

This paper, structured into four parts, identifies asset declaration as a key anchor to sustain democratic reform. The first part of this paper outlines what asset declaration is and why it is important. The second part presents the asset declaration system as it is currently practiced in the Maldives; whilst the third part identifies problems in this system. The fourth part provides key recommendations to increase transparency, accountability, and integrity of the governance system.

View/download the full position paper in Dhivehi and English.

2013 was an extremely challenging year for Transparency Maldives, yet in many ways, a successful year in terms of promoting transparency, fighting corruption and institutional growth. We were often in the spotlight as the only national election domestic observer group in a highly politicized and polarized environment, following the contentious transfer of power in February 2012. Some of the challenges TM faced include security issues, including death threats, threats of dissolutions from authorities; and balancing public expectations of TM.

Despite the challenges, in 2013, we successfully advocated for passage of an international best-practices Access to Information Act, established and trained a network of over 400 volunteers across Maldives and abroad, including Singapore, India, Sri Lanka and the UK. We also conducted the Maldives’ first ever systematic elections observation, helped 38 victims and witnesses of corruption to stand up against corruption and commenced work on a campaign to increase grassroots demand for access to information.

We grew our staff number from 15 in 2012 to 22 2013, launched three publications, including the Pre-Election Assessment Presidential Elections 2013, Global Corruption Barometer 2013, An Assessment of the Climate Finances and conducted studies for an access to information baseline survey and the state of democracy study.

Annual Report 2013

The current Associations Act and regulations adversely affects the formation and running of civil society organizations due to the ineffective and bureaucratic system that does not distinguish between foundations, charities, sports clubs, NGO’s, CBO’s and federations and imposes one set of rules on all associations leading to administrative and governance difficulties; a legal framework from 2003 that does not take into account the expansive Bill of Rights enshrined in the Chapter Two of the 2008 Constitution of Maldives 2008; no provisions and systems in the current administrative and legal framework.

Work is underway in reforming the Associations Act in oder to develop and foster an enabling environment for the civil society to flourish.The governance, transparency and functioning of CBO’s will improve if the systemic issues in the regulatory framework are addressed.

Comments and recommendations on 2003 Associations Act addresses several legal issues with the 2003 Associations Act of the Maldives.

Download here

The right to form associations is a Constitutional right in the Maldives. Civil society play a vital role in strengthening public confidence in state institutions, social stability and improving tolerance within a free and democratic society.

Maldives is signatory to several international human rights treaty bodies, of which the article 20 of the UDHR prescribes that every person shall have the freedom to assembly and association. Freedom of expression is closely linked to the freedoms to assembly and association. The articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR oblige states to provide for these freedoms through the establishment of legal mechanisms and procedures.

This paper will look at the Constitutional provision in the Maldives to freedom of association, and the legal system that ensures the implementation of this right. As such, the gaps in the existing legislation will be explored and recommendations made in order to close these gaps and move forward in conforming to international obligations and standards for an open democratic system of governance.

Freedom of Association in Maldives – Position Paper
Freedom of Association in Maldives – Position Paper

The National Integrity System of the Maldives is based on three compound structures of key institutions: the core government agencies of Legislature, the Executive and theJudiciary the public sector agencies, the Civil Service and Law Enforcement Agencies the Elections Commission and Anti Corruption Commission, Auditor General’s Office the Media and the Civil Society Organisations, Political parties and private sectorBusiness.

The methodology and guiding questions applied for the research are developed by Transparency International and are based on the concept of a strong National Integrity System (NIS) to ensure a sustained and strong control over corruption in all areas of the society. Visit to learn about the NIS concept.

The conceptual framework of the National Integrity System (NIS) stresses the role and interplay of a broader institutional framework of the State, including ‘anti-corruption agents in government, civil society, the business community and other relevant sectors, in ‘building [the] momentum, political will and civic pressure for relevant reform initiatives’ required to reduce and eliminate corruption in public service. Therefore, in assessing the National Integrity System (NIS) of the Maldives, it is important for the assessment to investigate that process, and the outcome of interplay between institutions. This study draws up conclusions and recommendations with due consideration to that interplay. Recommendations provided in this study should be read reflecting on the factors that affect this interplay and its outcomes.

Political bias created through intermingled political thinking and practices embedded in key political institutions, including the Legislature and the Executive, reduces the capacity of other institutions to function independently. Moreover, political bias embedded in the institutional framework further reduces the level of accountability, transparency and integrity functions of almost all the institutions.

The legal framework, starting with the Constitution that provides and guarantees basic rights of people in the Maldivian society, establishes a notable legislative framework for the good governance of socio-economic activities. However, the broader legal framework lacks adequate organisational structures and capabilities, and this weakens the adaptive efficiency of that legal framework to practically execute institutional tasks in the most effective manner. Further, this institutional weakness lies with weak historical institutions or traditionally transmitted historical undemocratic constitutional rules that are embedded in the current political system. The Maldives only created a democratic political system after the enactment of its first-ever democratic Constitution in 2008. Prior to that, the Maldives followed a Constitution that was built on pre-1965 monarchical practices, and encompassed a Constitutional Government with weak political institutions, vesting excessive powers in the rulers or policy-makers. Although the Constitution of 2008 created a democratic Constitutional Government, the traditionally transmitted undemocratic political practices are also embedded in the new politico-institutional framework, thus weakening the overall institutional framework, and leaving room for mis-governance and political malpractices. Hence, the political and legal institutions in place to govern the society are also weakened, reducing their capacity to create and uphold national integrity.

View/download our press statement on NIS in Dhivehi.
View/download the National Integrity System Assessment, Maldives 2014

National Integrity System Assessment, Maldives 2014

Transparency Maldives conducted a nationwide random survey of the

Maldivian public in August 2013. The survey used repeatedly tested

survey questions and the results are reliable within a margin of error of

+⁄− 3.0%. That project was grounded in the conviction that the suc-

cessful performance of democratic institutions requires a complementary

set of supporting democratic values.

The results point to significant democratic deficits within Maldivian

political culture.

Read the full report here Democracy at the Crossroads; The Results of 2013 Maldives Democracy Survey


Democracy at the Crossroads
Democracy at the Crossroads