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Core Concepts - Planning Basics

Starting to plan and formulate a programme should begin once initial approvals and assessments are in place. The planning cycle should be oriented around certain basic elements, and carefully coordinated with strategies that may be issued by the EMB. Of course, in some contexts an EMB needs to be established first, in which case planning and formulation need to begin at this stage. Also, a sustainability and cost-effectiveness lens is key in the design and provision of electoral assistance. The Report of the Secretary-General in 2009 emphasizes this point.

Steps in the cycle

The standard planning cycle includes:

  • Referencing the overall desired result/change
  • Taking stock outside and inside the system
  • Conducting a situation analysis
  • Establishing strategies to reach desired results
  • Establishing benchmarks, and developing monitoring and evaluation systems
  • Associating responsibilities and time lines
  • Creating the project document

Developing these takes place over three phases:

First, stakeholders should meet to analyse the recommendations of any recent assessment missions—including the DPA/EAD needs assessment mission, bilateral and multilateral assessments, and those done by international and domestic NGOs. The analysis should include a review of the existing electoral conditions and starting points for assistance.

Second, stakeholders should determine where they want to be not only by the time of the election but years beyond. The results from such analysis become the immediate outputs and the longer-term outcomes of the project(s), respectively. It is better to formulate the outcomes first, followed by the outputs, and then the activities and inputs, in a reductive approach.

Third, stakeholders should list the strategies or activities needed to reach the outcomes and outputs. Some activities or strategies may serve both.

For more, see the Review of Basic Phases in Planning. Also see Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results, RBM in UNDP: Selecting Indicators, Measuring Capacity and How to Prepare an UNDAF: Part (II) for identification of concrete project impacts, outcomes, outputs and indicators.

Elements of electoral assistance plans

At a minimum, electoral plans should include the following elements:

  • Building partnerships among domestic stakeholders and international actors
  • Identifying and mobilizing stakeholders
  • Mapping the entire electoral cycle
  • Identifying where in the electoral cycle assistance is needed, wanted and feasible
  • Building a timeline of key events and work processes
  • Budgeting and procurement
  • Mobilizing and managing resources

A strategic plan for electoral assistance takes both external and internal UNDP factors into consideration and is a key input for an eventual programme document. A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWOT, analysis may be beneficial. But beyond this, it is important to specify what should be done, including to address the weaknesses and threats, while protecting and building upon the strengths and the opportunities. Any lessons learned from previous electoral assistance experiences should be taken into account.

See also the Checklist of Considerations and Challenges for a Good Project Design, and UNDP and Electoral Assistance - 10 years of experience. It may also be useful to review the sections of this Toolkit on capacity assessment, risk assessment and internal UNDP assessment.

Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be built into project planning from the start. See Key Evaluation Considerations in the Project Design and Implementation of Electoral Assistance Projects as well as Handbook on Planning Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results.

Coordinating strategies with the EMB

The national counterpart, generally the EMB, should have a strategic plan for a multi-year period, which includes election events. Ideally, this is in place before any UN assistance project is designed although as noted above sometimes neither an EMB nor a strategic plan is in place when the UN begins to provide support. UN support can then work within this framework to ensure that assistance meets national needs. Planning should carefully consider the EMB’s internal capacity to manage the electoral process. If additional staff and/or temporary consultants are needed, they should be hired immediately. See also Sample TORs for recruitment of staff and/or consultants.

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