Core Concepts - Context Is Key
Several basic factors determine the scope of technical and financial electoral assistance. These include the type of election (e.g., national or sub-national, presidential, parliamentary or local); the environment in which the election takes place (e.g., post-conflict, transition, third or fourth post-transition/post-independence election); and other prevailing conditions (size of electorate, health of the national economy, national funding available for elections, state of voter register and electoral institutions, physical constraints, security, etc.). Also critical is the extent to which the political actors in the country support democratic processes. Ideally, they see a good electoral process as more important than securing an outcome that favours them.
Stable and transition environments
In considering the environment in which elections will take place, electoral assistance projects might emphasize certain activities over others.
Electoral assistance in more stable environments often comprises some of the following elements:
Some basic elements in contexts of transition may include:
Well-designed assistance is particularly critical in post-conflict or newly created states, as hastily planned, poorly run elections may exacerbate the problems they are intended to help address. The Report of the Secretary General in 2009 specifically notes a need to consider additional measures to ensure that elections contribute to peace and good governance, rather than violence and instability. Careful attention needs to be paid to the timing and conduct of polls (to the extent that timing is not pre-determined by international agreements), along with the overarching need to build strong democratic institutions, including civil society and political parties. Working with political parties may be especially challenging. Some may have converted from armed movements and have members that were members of militia groups with no tradition of democratic practices. Getting these actors to accept the rules of the democratic game is crucial and represents a key challenge.
Post-conflict elections typically take place in countries where the UN has either a peacekeeping or a political mission. There is normally a Security Council resolution giving the mission the mandate to lead or coordinate electoral assistance, usually under the guidance of DPA/EAD. UNDP works in close collaboration with DPA/EAD according to an agreed division of labour, as described in the first section of the Toolkit.
Some forms of assistance in post-conflict countries involve: