Virtual New Commissioners’ Orientation Programme - Southern Africa
Professional electoral administrators are key to deliver well-organized, credible and genuine elections. The electoral management bodies (EMBs) perform best when their leadership has thorough understanding of the mechanics, principles and good practices in electoral administration. In Africa, EMBs are working to bring the capacities of commissioners and senior staff to the desired level—a difficulty compounded by fixed-term appointments and other challenges that commissions face in the discharge of their mandate. Despite strong credentials in their previous positions, newly appointed commissioners often require knowledge of key issues in the fields of democracy and electoral administration.
In this context, the Electoral Commissions’ Forum of SADC Countries (ECF-SADC) is collaborating with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) to contribute to capacity strengthening of senior election officials through the delivery of the annual New Commissioners Orientation (NCO). The initiative is in line with the ECF SADC strategic plan of 2013-2018 which defines EMB capacity building as a crucial element (Activity 2.4) that contributes to the strengthening/promoting the culture of electoral democracy in the region. Similarly, International IDEA has worked over the past 20 years to support the integrity of electoral processes and institutions by strengthening the capacity of EMBs to deliver their mandate.
The NCO training was initially conceptualized and implemented by ECF-SADC and International IDEA in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The three parties organized two joint events in 2012 (South Africa) and 2013 (Namibia). In 2015, ECF SADC and IDEA delivered the third edition of the NCO in Mozambique. This orientation was conducted entirely in Portuguese and targeted EMBs working in Lusophone countries throughout Africa. In June 2016, ECF-SADC and International IDEA conducted the fourth NCO in Harare, Zimbabwe. Based on evaluations of the fourth instalment, International IDEA updated the course material and clarifying outline of the workshop that was adapted from the BRIDGE course and designed for the target audience as policy decision-makers, who have an oversight role on the operations of the secretariat.
Based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ECF SADC and International IDEA, as well as the positive feedback received from previous participants, the ECF SADC and International IDEA will conduct the seventh and eighth instalments of the NCO for EMBs in the Southern Africa region in 2021. Considering the restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, these sessions have been adapted to be conducted virtually.
Objectives & thematic discussions
The overall objective of the four-day NCO is to support policymakers within EMBs and senior staff of EMBs in the Southern Africa region in their mandate to deliver transparent, credible and peaceful elections.
Specifically the NCO sessions seek to:
- Introduce newly appointed electoral commissioners to the concepts, guiding principles, good practices and emerging trends in the field of electoral management;
- Equip newly appointed electoral commissioners with knowledge and skills to undertake their new responsibilities with integrity, professionalism, transparency and accountability; and
- Provide a platform for peer learning and networking among ECF-SADC member EMBs.
The workshop will focus on three key thematic issues, namely:
- Concepts and guiding principles of elections and electoral management;
- Electoral operations and electoral stakeholders; and
- Electoral leadership and sustainability.
The orientation curriculum covers a spectrum of thematic issues on democracy and elections. These include international and regional benchmarks for democratic elections, overview of the electoral cycle approach, electoral system design, operational planning, budgeting, procurement processes, use of technologies, party financing, stakeholder relations, risk management, etc. Drawing on lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, the curriculum has been updated to include a session on emerging trends in EMB emergency response strategies.