Customised BRIDGE workshop on Electoral Systems and Constitutional Rights, Suva, Fiji 17 -19 April

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The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in conjunction with the European Union (EU), and as part of the C3-Fiji Project, conducted a 3-day customised BRIDGE workshop on Electoral Systems and Constitutional Rights for Fiji-based CSOs in Suva, Fiji, on 17 – 19 April 2018.

The C3 (Citizens-Constitution-Consolidation) Project - Fiji, titled ‘Upholding Citizen’s Constitutional Rights for Democratic Consolidation in Fiji’ operates from February 2018 to January 2020 with an outcome of ‘an enhanced capacity of civil society organisations to increase citizen’s understanding of their constitutional rights and to facilitate engagement with government and elected representatives.’

International IDEA has a role to ‘facilitate mutual working relationships amongst these stakeholders and provide knowledge resources on elections and democracy.’ This BRIDGE training workshop was the inaugural event to this end, involving the four project CSO partner organisations – Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF), Dialogue Fiji (DF), Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding (PCP) and Media Watch group (MWG) - together with other Fiji-based CSOs and CBOs involved in the Project.

The workshop followed the official launch of the C3 Project by the EU Ambassador to Fiji, Mr Julian Wilson, on the morning of Tuesday 17 April at the Tanoa Plaza Hotel. Also officiating at the launch were Ms Leena Rikkila Tamang (Asia and the Pacific Regional Director, IDEA), Mr Adhy Aman (Fiji Country Programme Manager, IDEA), and representing the C3 CSO co-implementers, Mrs Florence Swamy (PCP, Fiji).

The aim of the workshop was to inform and educate participants about the principles of electoral system design and operation and the fundamental precepts of constitutional rights and the rights-based approach. Topics covered from the BRIDGE curriculum included defining electoral systems (Version 3), the underlying principles and different types of electoral systems, the electoral cycle, electoral law (both domestic and international, including international obligations and covenants), access and political rights, electoral observation and electoral complaints, disputes and resolutions. Using BRIDGE methodology, the Fijian situation was examined and discussed for each topic covered, with content customised accordingly.

The workshop was facilitated by Brian Latham (consultant, Australia), Hamidan Bibi (consultant, Fiji) and Ana Mataiciwa (Fijian Elections Office, Fiji).

Evaluation from the 20-25 participants was overall very positive, with all areas covered being well-received in terms of interest, understanding and the BRIDGE methodology. There appeared to be a greater appreciation of the role of the FEO in the full electoral process and an understanding that the FEO has to work within the electoral law. Some miss-held perceptions were also corrected through group discussion and individual responses.

There were numerous requests for further/extended workshops, to be more engaged with the FEO, further educating CSOs particularly on the finer details of the Fijian Electoral system, especially examining the process of transferring votes into seats. There was a general feeling amongst the group that the knowledge learned in the workshop could be successfully translated to other NGO groups and individuals to better inform recipients, to further break down any level of ignorance currently existing.

Caroline Valette (EU) joined the workshop for much of the final day, contributing valuably with her expertise and experience and awarding participants with their BRIDGE Certificate of Completion.

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