Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues,
It is with great pleasure that I join you today to inaugurate this photo exhibition showcasing the work of the United Nations in providing electoral assistance worldwide.
It is fitting that we are holding this event as we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948. The Declaration has been a guiding light for our work on elections, as a pillar of democratic societies.
Article 21 of the Declaration is particularly apposite, in stating that “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives” and that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
The importance of participatory and inclusive governance processes was also confirmed in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Goal 16 confirms a global commitment to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. And one of SDG16’s targets is to “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. Hence, Goal 16 affirms the importance of a meaningful and informed engagement of all groups in society as an essential pre-condition for building peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
Experiences from around the world have shown that regular, transparent and inclusive electoral processes are an essential ingredient of a resilient social contract between state and society.
And the United Nations have a long history of supporting such electoral processes.
Since the early 1990s, as part of its responsibility to respond to national requests for enhanced governance capacity, UNDP has provided support to elections and referenda in over 100 countries. Our efforts have focused on
· developing the capacity of national electoral management bodies;
· promoting the political participation of those most at risk of being left behind;
· empowering women as electoral administrators, voters and candidates;
· promoting electoral dialogues between competing political parties;
· supporting civic education for a better-informed electorate; and,
· supporting efforts to prevent electoral conflict and violence and strengthening peaceful electoral dispute resolution.
Any assistance provided by UNDP, or any UN entity, is initiated either under a mandate given by the UN’s General Assembly or by the Security Council, or as a result of a request submitted by a UN Member State.
UNDP works closely with and under the guidance of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs who, in his capacity as UN electoral Focal Point, must approve any such requests.
While the Electoral Assistance Division of DPA provides overall guidance and determines the UN-wide policy on electoral assistance, there are many other UN agencies contributing to electoral support together with UNDP, including DPKO, UNOPS, UN Women, UNOHCHR, UNESCO, UN Volunteers.
This exhibition is meant to showcase just a few of the many examples of the electoral support that some these organizations provide, often in challenging environments.
UNDP takes a partnership approach to providing electoral assistance, working closely with national, regional and global partners. In this regard, it is worth noting the strong partnership that UNDP has with the European Union, with whom we not only share the common goal of promoting democratic governance and transparent elections, but which also provides nearly 30% of the total funding for all of our electoral assistance projects worldwide.
In order to strengthen this important partnership, the EU and UNDP have formed a Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance, based in Brussels, which supports all of our joint electoral projects.
None of the work that we do would have been possible without the support of our partners. Allow me to recognize and commend therefore the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany and many others who have contributed generously to our projects worldwide. We are grateful to all of you and look forward to our future work together.
This exhibition today is an opportunity not only to showcase the work of the entire UN family in electoral cycle support, but also to celebrate our partnerships and to reaffirm our commitment to working together toward our shared goal – inclusive and participatory governance, leading to sustainable development and more peaceful, safe and resilient nations.
Thank you for attending and showing your support. And please all join us at the reception that will start immediately after this opening ceremony.
I now declare this exhibition open.