Lagos, March 26, 2017 (TNE): A three-day international workshop on 10 years of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance in West Africa and the fifth biennial General Assembly meeting of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) is to open in Cotonou, Benin Republic on Monday, March 27.
The main objective of the workshop is to carry out a critical assessment of how electoral processes and administration have evolved in West Africa over the past decade.
This will involve a review of various thematic areas including the legal framework and participation of women, youth, minorities and persons with disability; Voter registration; human resource planning and mobilisation of finance, according to a statement.
It is being organised by the ECOWAS Commission with support from development partners, particularly the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The international gathering is under the theme “Ten Years of ECOWAS Electoral Experiences and Promotion of Democracy: Challenges and Lessons Learned.”
ECOWAS has systematically assisted its member states holding elections including with technical support and the deployment of short-term poll observers, in accordance with the relevant regional protocols and instruments.
To formalise this electoral assistance mechanism as part of efforts to improve electoral integrity and deepen democracy in the region, the ECOWAS Commission in 2006 set up an Election Assistance Division (EAD) within its Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department.
From 2014, in response to the global trend and as further demonstration of its commitment to strengthening democratic practice in West Africa, the Commission with the support of development
partners, started the deployment of long-term election observers to member states holding critical elections.
This is to complement the work of short-term observer missions, which concentrate mainly on
Election Day activities, according to the statement.
Other key areas of assessment are Electoral logistics, Results collation and transmission, adaptation of technology, ECOWAS intervention in the electoral processes and review of political parties’ contributions.
Others are interrogation of the nexus between electoral process and the deepening of democracy, and establishing convergence electoral procedural processes to be promoted for harmonisation as common ECOWAS standard electoral practice.
Participants at the workshop expected to be opened by the Foreign Minister of the host country, will include Chair and Vice-Chair of Electoral Commissions of ECOWAS member States, President of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and members of ECOWAS Parliament.
Also expected are representatives of partner international organisations including OSIWA, GIZ, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES), West African Network for Peace building (WANEP), African Union (AU), and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
Other attendees are electoral experts, members of staff of the ECOWAS Election Assistance Division and the ECONEC Secretariat.
On the margin of the workshop, ECONEC, which has been in existence since 2008, will hold its fifth biennial General Assembly meeting to elect a new Steering Committee and to adopt a work plan for the newly constituted Executive Board, the statement added. (TNE)