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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:

  • Capacity development of the EMB
  • Integration of new technologies
  • Institutionalized civic education
  • Transitioning to continuous voter registration systems
  • Enforcement of campaign finance regulations (Note: This is mostly undertaken in post-conflict and transitional elections. It is less often an area of support where enforcement mechanisms, such as the EMB’s audit section, the anticorruption commission and the judiciary, are stronger.)
  • Regular boundary delimitation
  • Training for women candidates and political leaders
  • Strengthening and institutionalizing electoral dispute resolution mechanisms
  • Capacity building of civil society organisations

Some basic elements in contexts of transition may include:

  • Constitutional/legal reform, including addressing gender representation issues
  • Capacity development for political parties and leaders, including women
  • Capacity development of the EMB
  • Voter registration
  • Civic and voter education campaigns
  • Setting up electoral dispute mechanisms
  • Election security
  • Election logistics and infrastructure
  • Integration of new technologies
  • Media and elections

Post-conflict factors

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:

  • Setting up the election administration and its operational and territorial structure
  • The first voter registration exercise
  • Registration of parties and candidates
  • Procurement and distribution of election materials
  • Recruitment and training of inexperienced staff
  • Development of stakeholder capacities
  • Extensive voter information and education campaigns
  • Communications and transportation (including four-wheel drive vehicles, boats, helicopters and/or planes)
  • Security for people and materials

See also Elections and Conflict Prevention: A Guide to Analysis, Planning and Programming.

Elections, Electoral, Electoral Cycle, Electoral Law, Voter registration, Civic Education, Voter Education, Public Outreach, Turnout, Voter, Political Party, Political Parties, Electoral Observation, Basket funds, Resource Mobilization, Fund Management, Electoral Procurement, Election Materials, UNDP, United Nations Development Programme, Implementation, Electoral Assistance, Partnership, Capacity Development, Needs Assessment, Risk Assessment, Terms of Reference, ToRs, Electoral Budget, Electoral Planning, Electoral Management Body, EMB, Project Development, Note of Guidance, Guidance, ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, ACE, BRIDGE, Building Resources in Democracy Governance and Elections, EC-UNDP Partnership, EC-UNDP Operational guidelines, Electoral Administration, Gender