UNDP supports elections, assists parliaments

06 Apr 2009

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UNDP has played a key role in strengthening democratic governance around the world. But there is a long way to go, especially considering the inadequate progress being made on reaching the Millennium Development Goals. While it is possible to achieve economic growth without democratic governance, evidence indicates that, in its absence, real sustainable gains in human development for everyone remain out of reach. Investing in democratic governance is vital to make development work.

Election support

UNDP supports an election somewhere in the world on an average of every three weeks.  We work to strengthen one out of every three parliaments on the globe, helping scores of nations from Iraq to East Timor.

In 2008, UNDP directly helped in 19 elections, while 22 countries have sought support in 2009. Holding an election is about much more than Election Day -- it is a long-term process. A typical example of this is our 2008 work in Bangladesh.

A major reason for the cancellation of the 2007 national election in Bangladesh was a discredited voter list. At the request of the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC), and with funding from Denmark, the European Commission, the Republic of Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and UK, UNDP developed a computerized voter list with photographs.  In 11 months, the BEC, with UNDP support, trained and employed 500,000 persons, registered 81 million voters - nearly 51 percent female - with photographs, fingerprints and detailed personal information. UNDP also helped to develop guidelines for defining district boundaries, which the BEC used to redraw 130 constituencies to more accurately reflect the country’s population.

Assistance to parliaments

In 2009, UNDP is working with 46 parliaments, including regional parliamentary groups, on issues as varied as strengthening parliaments’ oversight of executive action through laws making these actions public, putting executive and legislative work online to increase transparency, improving the investigative capabilities of committees through training and bringing parliamentarians and their constituents closer together through media and communications training.  In Sierra Leone, UNDP, having helped the parliament pass a law against gender violence, launched a programme to actively promote it and helped set up a parliamentary monitoring system to assess its implementation.  An estimated 257,000 women and girls were victims of gender-based violence during the war.

In 2009, we have been asked to help with increasing women’s participation in parliaments in many countries, including Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Morocco, Niger and Sierra Leone.

Demand for UNDP’s democratic governance expertise has shifted over the years from a focus on very technical, ‘nuts and bolts’ assistance to include requests for support on more thematic areas, such as administration reform, anti-corruption, transparency, access to justice, gender equality, decentralization, local governance and local development. 

UNDP’s work in democratic governance is guided by the principle that “good governance and the rule of law at the national and international levels are essential for sustained economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger”.  That means ensuring that people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, that state institutions like the judiciary and police force are capable of responding to people’s needs and that international standards on anti-corruption, human rights and gender equality are met.