Panel Discussions - Monday, September 26, 2011
Elections and Stability in West Africa: The Way Forward
There is no single recipe for providing electoral assistance—this was a critical takeaway from a September 26th roundtable discussion at IPI on “Elections and Stability in West Africa: The Way Forward.”
Keeping this in mind, the workshop aimed to find best practices that could be applied across many cases, drawing on the recommendations to facilitate peaceful elections from the Praia Declaration, an outcome document from a regional conference in Praia, Cape Verde in May 2011 on Elections and Stability in West Africa, convened by the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).
The roundtable brought together approximately fifty participants, including UN staff, Permanent Representatives to the UN, as well as academics and civil society organizations working on elections.
The views shared by the speakers reflected a range of backgrounds, including Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and Head of UNOWA; Dr. Abdul Fatau Musah, Director for External Affairs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Dr. Christina Thorpe, the chairperson of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone; Professor Timothy Sisk from the University of Denver; and Mariama Bayard-Gamatie, former presidential candidate in Niger.
The participants spoke candidly about ways to improve international electoral assistance as a key to facilitating democracy, stability, and development, and as a tool of preventing violence. During the discussion, a number of themes emerged, including the need for national ownership of the electoral process; transparency and national consensus; strong and credible opposition parties; and the importance of independent and effective electoral management bodies. Strengthening human rights, security institutions, the independent media, and the role of women in the political process were identified as key components to successful elections.
Participants also emphasized the need for greater consideration of national contexts in electoral assistance efforts, and explored the possibility of linking electoral assistance to wider development and governance work. In addition, it was noted that the electoral assistance regime should have greater accountability and increased coordination to avoid duplication of efforts and wasted resources.
Participants analyzed the root causes of election-related violence in West Africa by looking at how elections can serve as the impetus for violence based on underlying tensions and can create new grievances if elections mobilize group identities that were not previously salient. The effects of politicians employing divisive tactics and patronage politics, increasing urbanization and demographic changes, and the acceptance and perceived credibility of election results were among the key factors thought to contribute to election violence. These risk factors highlight the need for innovative monitoring tools to prevent conflict during elections.
Both the Praia Declaration and the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance were recognized as key normative frameworks to guide electoral assistance in the region. However, despite regional initiatives taken toward their implementation, participants recognized that there is still much to do on the ground to make these norms a reality.
The discussion was held under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution.
The Global Observatory
Nelson Mandela: Man and Awesome Phenomenon
A former member of the South African Parliament reflects on Mandela's warmth and generosity.
Ordinary Fears, Extraordinary Man: The Legacy of Nelson Mandela
As a young South African diplomat during the apartheid-to-democracy transition, Cedric de Coning witnessed the humility and power of a flawed statesman.
Key Global Events to Watch in December
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.
Top 10 Issues to Watch in 2013: The Multilateral Arena
Ten key issues that are likely to impact global affairs in international peace, security, and development.
The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.
December 02, 2013
Latin America Focus of Fourth ''Being a Peacekeeper'' Event
On December 2-3, IPI brought together 24 representatives from eleven Latin American countries with senior officials from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to discuss the current state—as well as the future—of Latin American military and police contributions to UN peacekeeping operations.
November 28, 2013
Energy and Security in the Arctic: A New “Frozen” Conflict?
Is the Arctic a “region of cooperation,” or will competition for its potentially rich energy resources lead to conflict in the high north? This was the main question addressed during an expert workshop held in The Hague on November 28th by the International Peace Institute together with the International Gas Union and the Clingendael International Energy Programme.
November 22, 2013
Can Technology Play a Role in Drafting a Constitution?
The effects that new technologies can have on constitutional processes was the topic of this November 22nd IPI roundtable discussion. Approximately five new constitutions are written around the world every year, and their legitimacy is increasingly influenced by a new level of public participation in their drafting, not merely by a plebiscite on the final text. As rapidly advancing technology changes the way that governments and citizens interact, what role are new technologies playing in constitutions?