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Core Concepts - Getting Started

Two elements that will shape the direction of an electoral assistance programme are:

  • Timing, and
  • The team of stakeholders involved in project design.

Both should be considered before formulating the programme.


UNDP’s electoral assistance is most effective when programmed across the electoral cycle, meaning during and between elections. If this long-term approach is not possible, preparations for a specific election should begin at least 18 months in advance. This is the ideal. However, the DPA-UNDP Note of Guidance on Electoral Assistance recognizes that this is not always possible, particularly for election events, and stipulates that a request for electoral assistance to an election event should be sent by the government or electoral authorities at least four months prior to the scheduled election to allow for meaningful involvement.

If the national EMB and/or government approach the country office for electoral assistance, as may happen any time during a country programming period, DPA/EAD should be notified. The requirements for an official request are outlined in the Note of Guidance. Project formulation can begin once the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs approves electoral assistance, or continue if it began during the needs assessment process.

A late request to the UN for assistance becomes even more urgent when that request is for support to an event with an impending deadline, rather than to long-term institution building where timelines are more flexible. Country offices, in consultation with DPA/EAD, may find it useful to maintain regular contacts with electoral stakeholders to get a sense of the timelines, the likelihood of a request, and the potential areas of support, even before the formal process of programme design begins. Typically requests for electoral cycle support targeted at institutions and processes are discussed at the design stage of the country programme or country programme action plan and the timelines are longer.

Timing is extremely important when it comes to establishing a project management unit to support an election event, particularly given how long it can take to get various components up and running, and when advertising for service providers and review by both the Contracts, Asset and Procurement Committee (CAP) and the Advisory Committee on Procurement (ACP) is involved. The programme should allow at least three months from the date of advertising to the signing of a contract. The unit should be in a workable office and adequately staffed at least one full year prior to the election.

The team

A variety of stakeholders should be included or consulted in the different steps of the programme planning and design activities. They might include:

  • EMB
  • Government
  • DPA/EAD needs assessment mission
  • Project formulation mission (if separate from the needs assessment mission)
  • Media
  • Civil society
  • Academics and political analysts
  • Political parties
  • Development partners
  • Representatives of minorities
  • Judiciary
  • Security forces
  • Community-based groups
  • Technical advisors

Some stakeholders will play major roles in the process—such as the EMB—while others may have more specialized roles, such as security forces or the judiciary. Stakeholders should be viewed as valuable sources of information for shaping an effective programme. Their ownership will help extend and sustain its impacts.

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