What we did: We conducted a thorough consultation of the electoral assistance community to identify critical areas for reform of electoral assistance. The resulting report, Supporting Elections Effectively: Principles and Practice of Electoral Assistance, maps existing principles and insights on electoral assistance weak spots through a series of questions.

What we achieved: The comprehensive consultations with electoral assistance practitioners and other electoral stakeholders from across the globe generated cross-agency conversations which have stimulated reflection and learning in the electoral assistance community.  

Who we did it with: Expertgruppen för biståndsanalys (Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA)) and electoral assistance practitioners and other electoral stakeholders from across the globe

Impact area: Electoral Processes

Project name: Study on the Long-Term Effectiveness of Electoral Assistance Approaches

Donor: EBA

Award period: 1 July 2020 to 30 September 2021

Boundary partner: Electoral assistance practitioners

 

Electoral assistance straddles international development and foreign policy to strengthen democratic institutions and support political participation. The international community has supported election day operations and electoral cycle infrastructure in transitions from colonialism to independence, war to peace, and authoritarianism to democracy.

With shifting challenges to democracy, in particular the deliberate undermining of electoral processes and institutions, the principles and practices of electoral assistance are not keeping pace. Unexpected eventssuch as the pandemic, cybersecurity breaches and extreme weather eventshave further strained the capacity of electoral authorities. 

A recent study provides a platform for renewing electoral assistance mechanisms and modalities. Under the Swedish Expertgruppen för biståndsanalys (Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA)) commission, the electoral processes team at International IDEA conducted a thorough consultation of the electoral assistance community to identify critical areas for reform. The resulting report, Supporting Elections Effectively: Principles and Practice of Electoral Assistance, maps existing principles and insights on electoral assistance weak spots through a series of questions. When is electoral assistance effective? What are the main obstacles for electoral assistance to achieve successful and sustainable results? What modalities or approaches to providing electoral assistance would better support the attainment of democracy goals?

The key recommendations from the study are to: 

  • revitalize international arenas for knowledge exchange and rapid response, and renew and revise internationally agreed electoral assistance principles to guide this work; 
  • invest in regional initiatives as better positioned for longer-term impact; and
  • revisit electoral assistance for agility and local ownership.  

The comprehensive consultations, including four working streams with electoral assistance practitioners and other electoral stakeholders from across the globe, as well as regional consultations in five global regions, have already generated cross-agency conversations which have stimulated reflection and learning in the electoral assistance community. The learnings coming from these conversations are analysed, summarized and documented in the report, which is aimed at influencing how electoral assistance is implemented going forward. 

 

The Chair of the EBA Committee, Helena Lindholm, Professor of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg, points to the methodology as the report’s strength, in that it is ‘uniquely based on practitioners’ experiences’. 

 

Staffan Smedby, Head of Unit, Democracy and Human Rights at Sida, spoke of the ‘timeliness and relevance’ of the report and his willingness for Sweden to play an active role in facilitating the recommendations. 

 

Thomas Carothers, the Senior Vice-President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, while calling it an outstanding report, sounded a note of concern: ‘What I learned is one very central thing which is the electoral assistance community is having a very hard time getting to grips with how much the world has changed. I feel the report is taking us down the road, but it is striking to me that we are on this road only now.’ 

 

Relevant link

EBA on Twitter

 

Webinar link: 

Election Assistance in Times of Democratic Backlash webinar, 26 November 2021

 

‘This is highly interesting, and I learned a lot from reading it, that is the short answer. To me it comes as a very timely and relevant report.’

Staffan Smedby, Head of Unit, Democracy and Human Rights Unit, Sida

 

‘I learned a lot from the report, it is an outstanding report, I haven’t seen such a serious and really well researched topic before. What I learned is one very central thing which is the electoral assistance community is having a very hard time coming to grips with how much the world has changed. I feel the report is taking us down the road, it is striking to me that we are on this road now.’

Thomas Carothers, Harvey V. Fineberg Chair for Democracy Studies and Senior Vice-President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 

‘This report is unique in many ways and one way in which it unique is that it’s based on practitioners’ experiences.’

Helena Lindholm, Professor of Global Studies, Peace and Development and EBA Chair