Namibia - 1989 - Election Observation
Eric Bjornlund was a practicing lawyer for a private firm right out of law school. During his tenure as a lawyer, Eric did pro-bono work on cases relating to International Human Rights Law. It was through this that he met another lawyer from Namibia who had been working on transition and efforts to protect human rights in Namibia. Namibia looked to countries with an established litigation under a bill of rights. Eric got involved in litigating several high-profile cases using precedence of US constitutional interpretation and arguing cases in Namibian court. He wrote a law review article about how the Bill of Rights in Namibia could be litigated to protect human rights, and how the situation could be something of a test case and a transition to majoritarian democracy like in the case in South Africa, which has not yet happened in the late 1980s.
In 1989 he was introduced to NDI, as NDI was preparing to organize observers for the upcoming 1989 elections. It was then he went to Namibia with NDI during these elections, as he observed the landmark transitional elections in November. Eric wrote a book link report about the transition process entitled ‘Nation Building the UN in Namibia’, commissioned by members of Congress to study how the UN was getting involved in a new year promoting nation-building and democracy around the world. This was the first time UN peacekeeping was associated with a UN role in elections. From that experience, Eric decided to do democracy promotion and advocate for human rights on a full-time basis and never went back to practicing law again.
In the recording above, you can hear Eric himself speak about his experience of observing the election for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).