(A-WEB Secretariat in Songdo, Republic of Korea)
From October 14th to the 17th representatives of over 140 election management bodies (EMBs) from Afghanistan to Zambia, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations attended two of the most important events this year for those interested in increasing electoral integrity. The opening of the Association of World Electoral Bodies (A-WEB) was held on October 14th, and the sixth meeting of the Global Election Organization Conference (GEO) took place from October 15th to 17th.
Monday saw the inaugural assembly of A-WEB. Two years in the making, A-WEB is a new international organization of ninety-four (so far) election management bodies and a number of non-governmental partner organizations. It is hosted by South Korea and has ambitions to be a major international hub of enhancing coordination and knowledge sharing amongst election organizations.
Monday afternoon saw video congratulations from the President of the Republic of Korea and the UN Secretary General Ban Kee Moon. The Chairman of the Korean Election Commission Lee In-Bok also spoke after he was appointed Secretary General.
A-WEB is being hosted in the new (and amazing) city of Songdo built on reclaimed land and still very much in the process of being built. We were given a tour of the A-WEB building on Monday morning, which overlooks Songdo Central Park.
A constant refrain heard from the heads of EMBs at GEO was encouragement for A-WEB's mission and the necessity for a strong and robust organization. While it seems at this stage to still be in the process of being formed, next year's meeting in the Dominican Republic should see a more developed organization with an established mission.
The short video below shows a bit about the ambitious goals behind the establishment of A-WEB.
The theme of this year's GEO conference was "Sustainable Electoral Processes, Strengthened Democracy." GEO conferences are held every two years (the last taking place in Botswana in 2011). Since its inception in 1999, it has grown rapidly from only a few dozen participants to over 300 this year. The goal is to share experiences, enhance networking opportunities, and encourage capacity building and the sharing of best practices. Also important was the knowledge fair and the presentations from international and non-governmental organizations from the UNDP to IFES, International Crisis Group, and International IDEA.
One presentation that I was excited to attend was a Wednesday morning session where representatives from International IDEA presented their new Electoral Risk Management Tool. International IDEA's ERM tool allows EMBs to consider election risk factors, customize the interface to the risk factors that are relevant to their case and then draw risk maps and implement preventative actions and conduct post-election analysis. It has already been piloted in Kenya and Bosnia-Herzegovina and plans are underway to implement it in upcoming elections in Namibia, Libya, and Nepal.
I present on EIP's Perceptions of Electoral Integrity database
On Thursday, I had the honor of presenting our PEI database on a panel chaired by Lee Jong-Woo, Vice-Chairperson of the Korean National Election Commission. Other presentations were made by Emeritus Professor Rafael Lopez Pintor from the University Autonomous Madrid and Avery Davis-Roberts from the Carter Center. I gave a preview of the goals of the Electoral Integrity Project, how it might encourage systematic understanding of electoral processes and the nature of electoral integrity and threats to it. I also presented empirical results from our pilot data that are described in a forthcoming (October 2013) article in the Journal of Democracy. There was extensive recordings of the event, and hopefully videos of the presentations will be made publicly available. If so, I will update this post with links.
All in all a productive and fascinating conference--one where I had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the people tasked with running elections around the world. Now for the flight back to Sydney!