Responding to the current challenges in the Arab region


Planning a strategic course of action for UNDP in thearea of electoral assistance in the Arab States region was one of the mainobjectives discussed at the Electoral Cycle Regional Community of Practice(CoP) meeting for the Arab States in Cairo in May 2011.

The initiative was particularly timely in light of the transitional processes already underway inTunisia and Egypt and the transformational trend throughout the area. At the conferencethe chief of the Country Operations Division at the Regional Bureau of ArabStates (RBAS) presented the regionalstrategy that responds to the currentchallenges in the region. It focuses on governance and economic issues withhigh consideration of youth and women engagement.

A key part of the meeting comprised discussions regarding the UN policy and state of artin electoral assistance and how totailor the electoral cycle approach in light of seasonal elections that manycountries in the region experience. Participants also considered theapplicability of this approach in tribal communities and polarized ones.

Additional topic areas included a reassessment of i)how electoral assistance is delivered in the area and ii) providing a regionalspace for electoral national partners of UNDP to exchange experiences with eachother and with key election stakeholders from outside the Arab region.

An important moment of the meeting was the presentation by the Electoral AssistanceDivision of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs(UN EAD) of the latest revised guidelines on EAD/UNDP joint support in the areaof elections. These guidelines aim to strengthen the partnership between thetwo agencies and clarify the division of labour between them.

During the three-day gathering, partnersfrom IFES, IDEA, the Kawakibi Centre and Cairo University reflected on theiractual work and activities in the region. IFES and IDEA have a newlyestablished regional office in Cairo, and both hope to identify synergies withUNDP to support elections in various countries. The Kawakibi Centre’srepresentative focused on their organisation’s efforts in the area ofobservation and observers’ training.

Representatives of Cairo University and the Kawakibi Centre expressed the need for greatersupport for networking at the regional level for EMBs and electoral assistancepractitioners; the need for Arabisation rather than translation; the importanceof handling issues related to conflict of interest such as the role ofjudiciary in elections; the usefulness of knowing more about the role ofelectoral courts in mixed systems; the need to understand issues related to politicalparties’ capacity; and the nexus of governance and poverty.

On South-South cooperation

The deputy commissioner and directorate general of Election Commission of India aswell as the chairperson of the Mexican Institute for Federal Elections (IFE)analyzed their EMBs’ development and opportunities for partnership and support.Following those presentations, UNDPserved as a broker and facilitator for consultations held at the margin of themeeting. The results were several cooperation agreements, including for anexchange of experience between the EMBs of Palestine and Tunisia, and forfuture cooperation between the Egyptian EMB and those of Mexico and India,respectively.

The meeting also offered agood opportunity to present the objectives and approach of the Global Programme for Electoral Cycle Support (GPECS), including possible opportunities for it to support country offices.That was followed by a presentation from the EC-UNDP Joint Task Force onElectoral Assistance explaining its role and the current ongoing coordinationthat is taking place at the Brussels office.

New transitional countries in the Arab States region are engaged in the process of developing new EMBs, and substantial requests for assistance have been received to that end. A paper was commissioned to provide some comparative and analytical elements on electoral administration in relation to the specific processes underway in the region. The paper was translated into Arabic and French and presented at the Electoral Cycle Regional Community of Practice meeting in May 2011. The paper has been so far used as a reference in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to support the ongoing discussions on EMB models.

Relevant links to versions:

English; French; Arabic

"It was a unique opportunity for me and thegovernance team to learn more about the electoral cycle approach and our workin the area. Please count on us for further exchanges and collaboration, as Iam sure we will also be in touch to ask for your kind support and guidance."

Written comment from the Democratic Governance Team Leader from Yemen