United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator (Guyana), Ms Mikiko Tanaka, has commended the CARICOM Region for making “important progress” in the conduct of periodic and genuine elections.
She expressed those sentiments while also lauding the important role the CARICOM Secretariat played in consolidating democratic processes through the conduct of election observation missions.
The UN representative said “for sure” there are many lessons the Region could share with the rest of the world. She was at the time speaking at the commencement of the second Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) Workshop on Electoral Observation and Round Table Discussion on Gender and Elections which began on Monday, 3 December, at the Ramada Princess Hotel.
Participants include senior electoral officials and experts from CARICOM, as well as regional organisations such as the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union (AU) and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is being facilitated through the collaborative efforts of the CARICOM Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD).
Ms. Tanaka said CARICOM Election Observation Missions have assisted Member States not only in promoting transparency and increasing public confidence in electoral processes, but also in mediation and good offices support to contentious electoral issues when necessary.
It was critical to take all necessary steps to maintain and strengthen confidence in international electoral support and election observation, she added, noting that impartiality, professionalism and integrity were key guiding principles in building that confidence.
The increasing role of civil society and domestic observers in safeguarding genuine elections and in enhancing the credibility of electoral processes were also important she said. She also emphasised the need for supporting women’s political participation, which she said “is of key importance in ensuring peaceful and inclusive electoral processes, and more stable and democratic societies.”
Advisor within the Directorate of Foreign and Community Relations, Ms Valerie Alleyne Odle, in her remarks on behalf of the Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General of the Directorate, noted that the Secretariat acknowledged the important role of women in all aspects of the election process, including their participation in observation.
This was demonstrated by the 116 women out of 315 officials who were members of the 47 CARICOM Election Observation Missions undertaken to date. Thirteen of them held the positions of chief and deputy chief of mission, she pointed out.
She said election observation was viewed as an essential element of CARICOM’s effort to promote and maintain its democratic and good governance values. The Missions’ recommendations, when implemented, were useful in building the capacity of electoral offices, she added.
CARICOM Electoral Observation Missions began in 2000 to Suriname and Haiti. Missions are usually fielded at the request of Member States and Associate Members. However, in April 2017, the Community fielded an observation mission to Curacao, a candidate for Associate Membership.
Ms. Odle said, though small in terms of size, CARICOM Observer Missions comprised “extremely qualified and experienced” members drawn from the cadre of Chief Election Officers or Election Commissions within Member States.
More significantly, she added, members of the team were familiar with the political environment of the Caribbean, its traditions, culture and characteristics. That immersion placed them in an advantageous position to monitor and evaluate electoral processes to ensure conformity with both domestic and international standards, the Director said.
But in spite of those attributions, she said CARICOM was committed to enhancing the capacity of specialists in the field, hence the convening of the workshop which was being facilitated by the international Co-coordinator of the BRIDGE Project, Mr Ross Attrill; and Mrs Aleida Ferreyra, Electoral Policy Specialist of BRIDGE/UNDP.
The first workshop was held in Georgetown in March 2016 for officials who served as chiefs and deputy chiefs in CARICOM Election Observations Missions. It was highly commended by the participants, and they requested similar training for other election officials.
The Coordinator for Strategic Partnership, UNEAD, Mr. Mansour Sadeghi, who moved the vote of thanks at the opening ceremony, described the CARICOM-UN electoral observation partnership as one of the most efficient in the field.