The post-Cold War decades have seen an increased international community role in providing technical assistance to help build credible and sustainable national electoral processes and procedures, thereby strengthening the integrity of elections and democratic governance. This activity has engaged a diverse array of actors, including UN agencies, NGOs, bilateral donors, and regional organizations. Hence, since 1991, the United Nations estimates that the majority of countries (more than 100 nations) have requested and received UN electoral assistance. Technical assistance by the UN Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights covers many areas such as electoral administration and planning, review of electoral laws and regulations, electoral dispute resolution, boundary delimitation, voter registration, election budgeting, logistics, procurement of election materials, use of technologies, training of election officials, voter and civic education, voting and counting operations, election security, and the coordination of international donor assistance. The UNDP alone manages election projects in some thirty to forty countries every year, with electoral assistance accounted for approximately 18 percent of total UNDP expenditure in democratic governance between 2005 and 2008. Related initiatives involving the institutional capacity building of electoral management bodies, electoral observation, and knowledge sharing has also risen among many other international agencies, notably the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International IDEA, the Carter Center, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and OAS, as well as among bilateral donors.
The engagement of the international community in electoral assistance is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which affirm that the will of the people is the basis of government authority, and that every eligible citizen has the right to take part in the government of her or his country. Credible, regular, and inclusive elections are seen to confer the essential political legitimacy that underpins stable states and provides the mandates for governments to tackle the tough challenges of sustainable development. In their strategic plan, the ultimate UNDP goal is to “deepen democracy and accelerate sustainable human development by giving all people the ability to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.”
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