A token of appreciation from Chief Election Commissioner K. M. Nurul Huda to the International IDEA team, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 17 May 2017 [Photo: Sead Alihodzic | International IDEA]
"In Bangladesh, risk management is an old concept, but when it comes to elections, it is new", the Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh, K. M. Nurul Huda, stated during his inauguration speech of the one-day workshop entitled “Risk Management in Elections: New Standards in Organizing Credible Elections” at the Election Training Institute in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 17 May 2017. Indeed, based on International IDEA’s research, the same is true in many other countries. Whereas International IDEA tested, piloted, and since 2013, supported implementation of the Electoral Risk Management (ERM) Tool, it learned only in recent years that the effective ERM requires full pledge, commitment and understanding from an election management body (EMB) leadership.
ERM is a novel concept that will strengthen related practices already implemented by EMBs and bring some new quality in EMBs work. This is the reason why ERM is becoming a new standard for managing credible elections and the motivating factors in developing International IDEA’s Policy Paper No. 14 entitled “Risk Management in Elections”, published in November 2016.
The International IDEA ERM Tour of Asia during its stop at the Bangladesh Election Commission discovered that the realization was shared with the Chief Election Commissioner and workshop participants alike. Given its novelty, ERM is intriguing and daunting at the same time. The Policy Paper states, “Risk management is a complex process that requires sufficient resources and methodological rigour. If an EMB suffers from budget restrictions, or if there is a lack of understanding of the costs and benefits of risk management, it may make the organizations’ leaders hesitant”. It went on to state that, “…[T]he fact that the monitoring and analysis of a large number of risk factors can require more attention and resources than an EMB is able to commit…”.
One way of tackling this challenge is to take an incremental approach to the institutionalization of ERM as opposed to comprehensively adopting it within the EMB. The incremental approach, undertaken by the EMB of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, will allow the leadership of the EMB to explore different ways for improving their work quality. It will also let the EMB to adopt trial and error methods over the medium and long term. This incremental approach is contrasted with a comprehensive approach, undertaken by the EMB of India, where the EMB leadership already has a comprehensive understanding and commitment towards institutionalization of ERM. The EMB would also need to set clear steps within a definite timeframe.
EMBs, including the Bangladesh Election Commission, wishing to embrace ERM and institutionalize it have those two approaches to choose from. After being introduced to ERM at the Workshop, the Bangladesh Election Commission has some thinking to do. Should help be needed, International IDEA is there to help.