Core Concepts - Successful Partnerships
Effective coordination among partners is crucial to the success of joint operations; it helps optimize resources, avoid gaps and duplication in the provision of electoral assistance, and minimize possible conflict of interest. Developing and coordinating partnerships is normally a responsibility within the context of an electoral support project that is shared between the country office (and most importantly, the Resident Coordinator/Resident Representative) and the project team.
Below are some points for consideration for building partnerships:
- Identify potential support for the project by engaging in dialogue with a variety of stakeholders before project design and implementation. In particular, this can be done by engaging stakeholders in the DPA/EAD needs assessment process.
- Identify areas of common interest among the partners and define key priorities.
- Program partnership-building activities at the beginning of the design phase.
- In order to build strong relationships, hold regular meetings and share information among partners and the EMB. Depending on the context, this may be most effective by having informal and regular discussions among the EMB, UNDP and one or two donors representing the wider group rather than holding formal meetings with the full range of interested partners.
- Ensure that systems, processes and technologies are in place to support regular communication and information sharing.
- If no working-level donor coordination group exists for electoral support, organize a sub-group of an already existing group of donors. This should of course not replace meetings convened by the national EMB for the purpose of informing donors and national partners of election preparations.
- Offer UNDP's assistance to act as the secretariat for any coordination group created and facilitate the development of terms of reference (ToR) for such a group.
- Maintain dialogue with potential donor partners and secure early commitments when possible (perhaps only verbally).
- Determine the type of funding mechanism to be provided (a pooled, or ‘basket fund’ mechanism that uses cost-sharing and/or trust fund modalities; one multi-donor trust fund; direct bilateral funding to the EMB, etc.).
- Begin recruitment of a team of international and national (depending upon the competencies required and the local conditions) long/short-term advisors, making sure to send out requests early enough to allow work to begin on-the-ground as soon as possible.
However, successful partnership development sometimes depends on the level of interest development partners have in a country, and can be very much impacted by donor funding cycles. Some common challenges are:
- Mobilizing a significant amount of resources (financial, human and logistical) well ahead of time. Mobilization and availability of funds are critical issues, of course, and close attention should be paid to donors’ calendar(s).
- Getting consultants or staff on the ground quickly and including electoral specialists in the design of projects. Electoral projects are inflexible in terms of timely implementation. Not having the necessary expertise during the project formulation can create serious problems in later stages. Moreover, having electoral specialists arrive after crucial activities in the electoral calendar have already been implemented can be considered a lost opportunity for related interventions — e.g., key improvements in voter registration.
- Establishing a clear division of labour with other international providers of electoral assistance. At times, key actors may have no interest or feel reluctant in forging partnerships. The lack of clear responsibility and defined areas of assistance for each partner can negatively affect the smooth implementation of the project.