Global conference underlines verified and trusted information is key for peaceful and fair elections

November 10, 2023
woman with a speaker

UNDP and the EU are combatting the spread of false narratives during elections through iVerify, a fact-checking initiative which became the first public digital good. It has been successfully applied during the elections in Zambia, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

UNDP Sierra Leone

Electoral Management Bodies, civil society and academia from over fifty countries gathered in Brussels to discuss the role of information integrity and digital technology in ensuring peaceful and inclusive elections.

The global conference was organized in the framework of the ‘Sustaining Peace during Electoral Processes’ (SELECT) programme, a joint initiative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, aimed to prevent or mitigate election-related violence.

“Together with the European Union, we are creating and supporting a conducive environment for inclusive and peaceful elections. Our electoral partnership emphasizes respect for human rights and gender equality and pays particular attention to the threats to electoral integrity and credibility, such as information pollution,” said Camilla Brückner, Director of the UN/UNDP office in Brussels.

In 2024, more voters are expected to cast their ballot than in any year before. Over 2 billion people will vote in more than 65 elections worldwide, which provides an unprecedented opportunity for inclusive and participatory governance. At the same time, as elections inherently lay bare differences within a society, many countries and territories face an increased risk of conflict and violence. The past decade has seen a significant increase in election-related disputes. Between 2010-2015, elections have triggered violence and tensions and prolonged periods of deadlock, in at least fifteen countries.

“I welcome this Global Conference as electoral processes are particularly susceptible to disinformation. The use of social media and technology in amplifying disinformation and exacerbating violence are well known and documented, but there is less discussion on their role in preventing electoral violence”, said Jesper Pedersen, Head of Unit at the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments.

The era of digitalisation has transformed elections in every country. The unlimited reach and access of social media, the rise of artificial intelligence, and the increased use of technology represent critical factors in electoral processes. It is the relationship between elected representatives and citizens, which depending on the decisions and judgement of the various actors involved in elections, may strengthen or undermine the electoral processes. 

The information pollution which includes misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, poses a significant threat to democracies worldwide. It has the potential to disrupt peace and security, with the most vulnerable often being disproportionately affected. 

“While electoral processes stand as a cornerstone of democratic governance, they face the daunting task of facilitating genuine choice in an era marred by polarization. Recognizing this challenge, UNDP, in alliance with its UN and other partners, has been boosting its support to information integrity as a component of its electoral assistance work. Our programmatic responses are diverse, including digital tools for fact-checking and social listening, and support to electoral institutions and independent media, as well as public resilience to information pollution”, said Sarah Lister, Head of Governance at UNDP. 

To combat the spread of false narratives during elections, UNDP and the EU are using iVerify, an automated fact-checking initiative which became the first public digital good. It has been successfully applied during the elections in Zambia, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

UNDP and the European Union are two of the largest electoral assistance providers globally, with the partnership being coordinated through a Joint Task Force in Brussels. Since 2006, the EU and UNDP have worked together in over 200 electoral assistance projects in more than 100 countries, amounting to over 1.3 billion Euros.