Election experts gather to help Arab States conduct polls

02 May 2011

Cairo – More than 50 experts from Arab states and from India, Mexico and South Africa gathered in Cairo to help conduct fair and transparent elections in the North African and Middle Eastern countries currently undergoing historic change.

The group, called Community of Practice on Electoral Assistance for the Arab Region, also brings together specialists working at national electoral bodies and civil society organizations from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and the occupied Palestinian territory to exchange experiences on how to ensure electoral credibility.

“Peoples of the region brought about transformational change, and this has emphasized the fundamental importance of free and credible elections—with a pivotal role for civil society and youth groups,” said Geraldine Fraser Moleketi, director of democratic governance group at the United Nations Development Programme.

“This underlines the need for effective voter and civic education, especially for those who will be participating in elections for the first time in their lives.”

The region faces democratic governance challenges including inherited public administration systems that do not fully meet the needs of citizens, shortcomings in institutional accountability, and in some cases the lack of enjoyment of fundamental rights such as citizenship and gender equality.

Groups such as the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (Tunisia), and The Center for Parliamentary Studies of Cairo University (Egypt) also joined specialists from 13 UNDP country offices in the region to discuss election support programmes.

Participants in the two-day meeting looked at the importance of broadening electoral assistance to include areas such as legislative reform; independence and professionalism of electoral management bodies; systems to ensure credibility of elections; women's active participation and voter and civic education.

The meeting highlighted examples of cooperation between developing countries and intra-regional cooperation in electoral assistance—particularly from India, Mexico and South Africa—and explored their relevance to the current transition in Arab countries, as well as UNDP’s role in promoting such cooperation.