International IDEA is hosting its first workshop in Melanesia this week on democracy assessments, measurements and data validation. The workshop focuses on using International IDEA’s State of Democracy (SoD) assessment methodology in the Melanesian countries of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) is contributing to the workshop with its useful global data on the many aspects of democracy. The twenty-three participants from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu represent regional organizations, government, election management bodies, political party commissions, academia, and civil society organizations.
The workshop is a celebration of the achievements of Melanesian countries in democracy building at a time of positive change, as interaction and mutual support on democracy and governance issues is growing between the states of Melanesia. Melanesians are debating the challenges which they themselves have identified in democracy and governance – for example government stability, service delivery, and money in politics. The growth of mutual engagement is matched by interest in the role of regional organizations – the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group– and how they can be most effective in supporting Melanesian and Pacific nations, communities and citizens. International IDEA will be seeking to support Melanesian discussions on a sustainable regional platform to share and compare experiences and support initiatives aimed at strengthening democratic institutions.
International IDEA has been supporting citizen-led democracy assessments in different parts of the world, at both national and local level, since 2000. The objective of these citizen-led ‘State of Democracy’ assessments is to enable citizens to undertake assessments of their own democracies through a dialogue process, bringing to bear their understanding of their own cultures and contexts. International IDEA’s democracy assessment approach views democracy as a system that encompasses a variety of democracy models and components. The workshop discussion focused on how these tools can best contribute in Melanesian contexts.
In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between International IDEA and the Fijian Elections Office (FEO). Interim Regional Director of International IDEA’s Asia and the Pacific Programme Andrew Ellis provided the FEO with a selection of International IDEA publications for the FEO’s new library, and looked forward to IDEA supporting the FEO in its task of building trust in electoral processes. Fiji Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem said that the FEO’s new Strategic Plan called for partnerships with reputable international organizations, and that this MoU was the first under the FEO’s capacity building and institutional strengthening initiative.