Skip navigation.

Core Concepts - Capacity Development and the Electoral Cycle

As noted in the section of this Toolkit on Capacity Assessment, capacity development is essential to the long-term success of electoral institutions and processes. Capacity refers to the ability of individuals and organizations to perform functions effectively, efficiently and sustainably. As such, it needs to be considered across all aspects of the electoral cycle.

Until recently, the main objective of capacity development in electoral assistance was to conduct a successful election. But today the goal stretches beyond single events, aiming instead to develop professional, inclusive and sustainable institutions and processes that enable people to freely and consistently choose their representatives.

From UNDP’s perspective, capacity development has some specific parameters. It should:

  • Build on the knowledge and capacity that is already present in a country;
  • Make more effective use of locally available resources; and
  • Take into account local culture and processes while introducing new knowledge in a sustainable fashion

UNDP’s systems approach to capacity development is based on the rationale that one cannot think of developing capacity at just one level or for a single institution or sector. Multifaceted in nature, capacity development requires interventions that produce systemic rather than individual changes. Improvements in one aspect of the electoral cycle, for example, will not be meaningful unless the rest of the system functions properly.

Three kinds of capacities
Three broad categories of capacities are generally relevant in electoral assistance. They include:

  • Systems, where capacity development may entail reforming electoral institutions, policies and laws as well as enhancing the ability of civil society, political parties and all eligible voters, including those who are marginalized, to participate in elections;
  • Organizations, such as through capacities to plan, organize and conduct elections, and manage different aspects of the electoral cycle; and
  • Individuals, where voters and candidates need capacities to participate in the electoral process, freely exercise their choices, and play a constructive, long-term role in a democratic society.

For more details, see Supporting Capacity Development: The UNDP Approach and the Checklist for Assessing System, Organizational and Individual Capacity. Key capacity development resources include the BRIDGE Project, the EC-UNDP Joint Training on Effective Electoral Assistance and the ACE Project.

Training is an important tool in the capacity development toolkit, but not the only one. See the Checklist of Key Considerations and Challenges for Training and Education Initiatives.

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