Elections: A first step towards democracy

By the EC-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance

September 14, 2020

“As a person with disability, I feel happy, I feel happy because I know that steps are a barrier, especially for my colleagues who use wheelchairs,” 

“I will exercise my vote because I want to contribute to the development of this country and choose the peaceful way for this country. Casting my vote means I can try and have a leader of my choice, which is very important to me.”

Paul, a voter living with disability, praises the achievements of the UNDP Support to the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone project on the eve of the general elections in the country, 2018.

The project, funded by the European Union who contributed three million euros, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, installed 126 ramps and benches in polling stations, allowing Sierra Leonean voters with disabilities to get to the polling stations. As a result, thousands of previously marginalized people were able to exercise their right to vote.


The Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance

Ensuring greater citizen participation to guarantee more inclusive elections in the world is one of the aspirations of the partnership that has been uniting UNDP and the European Union for the last 15 years. As active champions and defenders of the rule of law and good governance, the two institutions recognize the importance of the democratic processes and the establishment of long-lasting institutions in the establishment of sustainable, just, inclusive and peaceful societies, as reflected by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.

Therefore, the European Commission (EC) and UNDP have become natural partners. Electoral assistance projects constitute one of the largest areas of cooperation between the EC and UNDP, with almost 200 joint projects carried out since 2003, and more than 185 elections supported, including 20 in post-conflict areas.

This unique partnership is embodied by the European Commission- UNDP Joint Task Force (JTF) on electoral assistance based in Brussels, which is comprised of experts from UNDP and the European Union. As gatekeeper of the common strategic approach of the EU and UNDP, the JTF implements electoral assistance projects  around the world, provides technical support to UNDP country offices and EU delegations through field missions, supporting the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects, and developing websites dedicated to the visibility of these projects.

The European Union and UNDP are implementing electoral conflict prevention activities based on mechanisms for the prevention and rapid response to electoral violence. These are being operationalized in our joint projects in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia and the Central African Republic. This year, the EU and UNDP have intensified their collaboration in the field of elections to address growing challenges related to the rule of law and good governance. Since January, the European Union has contributed a total of 33 million euros to joint electoral assistance projects in Zambia, Ivory Coast, Bolivia, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic.

But elections are not the only criterion to measure the vitality of democracy in a country and it is important to note the will of both the EU and of UNDP to broaden the vision of electoral assistance and to work with different actors and institutions beyond the electoral processes, to ensure the sustainable democratization of institutions and societies.


2020 is election year in French-speaking Africa

This is a busy year for elections, especially in West Africa where citizens of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic will go to the polls by the end of the year.

The efforts of the EU-UNDP partnership will focus on these countries to facilitate the preparation and organization of transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections, in a context marked by sanitary measures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Central African Republic, the electoral assistance project in Central African Republic (Projet d’Appui aux Processus Electoraux en RCA, PAPEC) is currently providing logistical and operational support to the National Elections Authority in registering voters, a key step in the electoral process.

In addition, the specific role of the JTF in supporting the next elections in French-speaking Africa will mainly result in the development of an early warning and rapid response system aimed at reducing the risk of electoral violence and therefore ensuring peaceful electoral processes.

To learn more, visit: https://www.ec-undp-electoralassistance.org/