ECOWAS Commits to Impartial Poll Observation, Deepening Democracy



THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is working with development partners to improve the integrity of its Long-Term Election Observation Missions, LTEOMs, as an effective tool for conflict prevention and deepening of democracy in the region, a senior official of the ECOWAS Commission has said.

“Elections, and by extension, their observation, can contribute to the strengthening of democracy just as flawed electoral processes can derail the democratisation process of any nation,” Babacar Mbaye, ECOWAS special representative in Cote d’Ivoire, said in Abidjan, on Monday, February 27, at the opening of a two-day workshop on the review of the impact of ECOWAS LTEOMs.

Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel Alain de Souza, the special representative told the gathering of electoral experts and representatives of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC, and development partners that rigorous and impartial election observation was critical to delivering fair and credible elections for the entrenchment of democratic principles in the region.

After 10 successful Long-Term Election observation missions to 10 member states and in furtherance of the ECOWAS Commission’s commitment to constantly improving the integrity of its election observation missions, he said, there was the need to review the process.

Represented by Jerome Wanyou, the ECOWAS special representative therefore tasked the experts to “identify what has worked, what has not, the challenges,” and come up with “concrete recommendations on how to make things better.”

He explained that “Preliminary Declarations of ECOWAS Election Observation Missions are generally accepted by local and international stakeholders as true and objective reflections of electoral processes in West Africa,” but “like every other human endeavour this exercise has not been flawless,” hence the continuous efforts to improve the integrity of the process.

The ECOWAS Commission in 2014 included Long-term election observation mission to complement its regular short-term approach, with the first ever 45-day Long-Term Election Observation Mission deployed to the post-transition General elections in Guinea Bissau.

Apart from providing a more qualitative and comprehensive assessment, the Long-Term Mission is also a significantly more expensive venture. While the short-term observers concentrated on activities on election days, the Long-term missions have the opportunity to undertake more analytical observation of the critical phases of the electoral processes leading up to, during and after election days.

The ECOWAS special representative thanked development partners, particularly the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), GIZ, which has since 2014, supported the deployment of some  ECOWAS LTEOMs to 10 Member States.

In her remarks, Phidelia Amey, GIZ representative, also underscored the importance of Long-term election observation mission as a mechanism for conflict prevention.

She urged the experts to tease out in their recommendations, the lessons learnt, challenges, as well as the impact of the tool and possibility of mobilization of funds for sustainability.

Welcoming the participants, Francis Oke, head, ECOWAS Electoral Observation Division, under the Department of Political, Affairs, Peace and Security, underlined the importance of the self-assessment workshop as part of efforts to fine-tune the Long-term election observation mechanism.

The workshop organised by the ECOWAS EAD with support of development partners, particularly the GIZ, will among other objectives, assess the relevance of the ECOWAS Guide for Long-Term Election Observers, LTOs; evaluate their contributions in engaging stakeholders at various levels, and raise interest in electoral processes of Member States.

Participants will also analyse the role of LTEOMs in identifying potential electoral disputes with the aim of triggering Preventive Diplomacy initiatives by ECOWAS authorities to prevent degeneration into full-blown pre- or post-election conflicts.

Participants include experts who have served on previous ECOWAS LTEOMs, ECONEC, staff of the Political Affairs Directorate, including the EAD, as well as representatives of GIZ and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, EISA.

Pursuant to the provisions of relevant regional instruments, especially the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, ECOWAS has supported and observed major elections in its Member States as part of efforts to strengthen democratic practice in the region.

— Feb 27, 2017 @ 11:50 GMT


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