UNDP Launches first Lexicon of Electoral Terminology in three languages

Nov 19, 2014

Cairo, Egypt  – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched in Cairo its first trilingual (Arabic, English and French) Lexicon of Electoral Terminology. With close to 500 entries, the lexicon provides clear and accurate explanations of key concepts and terms in the field of elections. The Lexicon documents the most widely accepted electoral terms in Arabic accounting for regional language variations in the eight participating countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen.

Electoral practices and experience vary widely across the Arabic-speaking world and different terms are used in different countries to refer to the same roles or activities in the electoral process. The Lexicon is a first effort to bridge that gap.

“In my experience, having various electoral concepts that are used in some countries to refer to the same electoral roles and activities always creates confusion, and hinders the exchange of experience, especially in regional electoral conferences and discussions,” said Dr Hisham Kuhail  President of the Palestinian Central Election Commission. “The unified lexicon I believe will act as a reference not only to election administrations in the region but to all election stakeholders," he added.

The Lexicon is the product of a cooperative undertaking by UNDP’s Regional Election Project of the Regional Bureau of Arab States and Strengthening of the Democratic Process in Egypt project. The lexicon has benefited from the financial support of the Swedish International Development agency. Over 100 elections experts, practitioners and members of electoral commissions  have participated in creating the Lexicon.

The Lexicon is designed for use by election administration professionals and other stakeholders in the electoral process including members of the national legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government, civil society organizations, observer groups, political parties, the media, universities and any groups with an interest in elections and democracy building. It seeks to foster a common understanding of electoral terms and allow for their precise and correct use in discussions, negotiations and drafting of documents, including legal texts. The aim is facilitate communication and the exchange of information on electoral issues and practices.

“This lexicon will help reduce the ‘democratic rift’ by helping to harmonise Arabic electoral lexicology,” noted Dr Chafic Sarsar, President of the Tunisian Independent Electoral Commission (ISIE). “It will bring obvious benefits to the democratic transition by enriching the political culture and reducing the distortion between what is said and what is meant. It will facilitate the debate among specialists in the region.”

Definitions in the Lexicon were sourced from well-known electoral databases and reflect international practices and standards. The project built on a number of Arabic glossaries and sources such as UN Term in an effort to provide the most accepted Arabic language use in a field that is at times very technical and remains relatively new in the region. In order to achieve the highest level of accuracy, the draft was systematically reviewed by election practitioners in each of the eight countries who provided input on their understanding of the terms and definitions as well as local language variations. The draft was further reviewed, discussed and debated in workshops with election experts and authorities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia.

“The lexicon is a building block in the development of a new regional professional body of people in the election field,” underlined international electoral expert, Rafael Lopes Pintor.

The Lexicon was created with the aid of an innovative collaborative writing tool customized to suit the needs of this project. This web-based software allowed the authors, reviewers, translators and editors to simultaneously input their contributions to successive drafts from their various countries.

Contact information

Fadi Awad, Project Coordinator in Egypt and the Arab region
e-mail: fadi.awad@undp.org    Tel: + 20 01006313146

Philippa Neave, Senior Advisor
e-mail: Philippa.neave@undp.org    Tel: + 33 6 08 40 39 45, Egypt Tel: +20 012 77723621

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