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Core Concepts - Entry Points: the EMB

A major part of UNDP’s electoral assistance focuses on strengthening national EMBs, often by assisting in bolstering capacities to administer and supervise elections. These two tasks may be concentrated in one institution, or divided across two.

While capacity development requirements will vary by country, broadly speaking, they may touch upon the EMB’s mission and strategy; structures and processes; human, financial and information resources; infrastructure; and relationships with EMB stakeholders. See the Checklist for Assessing System, Organizational and Individual Capacities for more details, as well as the List of Common EMB Training Needs.

UNDP, when it has been requested by a recognized national authority to provide electoral assistance, is formally responsible for communicating with the government in power. It is extremely important to maintain strong relationships with the EMB as well as other branches of the government (such as the security forces, local governments, etc.), as these may determine how the election is run and the impact of UNDP support. However, the international staff must act as advisers and not as staff of the EMB, otherwise the credibility and advantage of UNDP engagement might be at risk. The EMB may be directly involved with UNDP in conducting needs assessments, defining capacity development requirements, tailoring assistance to EMB expectations, and so on. It should have a representative on committees created to oversee programmes or projects.

Certain challenges may arise in working with the EMB and may need to be factored into capacity development initiatives. These include low credibility and/or political bias, inadequate structures and funding, and resistance to reform. See also the Checklist of Considerations and Challenges on Roles and Relationships with EMBs.

Country case: FYR Macedonia
In FYR Macedonia, family or proxy voting has become widespread in the last several elections. It disadvantages women in particular, since men typically vote on their behalf. To combat it, UNDP has worked with the State Election Commission to organize seminars for major political parties on a “One Voter, One Ballot” initiative, leading several parties to publicly condemn proxy voting and urge people to cast their own ballots. The project has also carried out capacity building workshops for election officials and monitors, with a special training module for identifying and preventing proxy voting. Media sensitization has helped raise public awareness of the negative consequences of the practice.

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