The launch took place at International IDEA’s office in New York. Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs of the United Nations, Angela Kane, emphasized the importance of such tools as BRIDGE with a growing demand for democratization and electoral assistance globally. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, President of IFES, talked of the possibility to make electoral administration an accredited international profession.
In addition to supporting EMBs, the course is aimed at increasing awareness of other stakeholders such as political parties, domestic observers, civil society organizations, journalists, parliamentarians, judges and security forces. Everyone plays a role in what is in effect the largest logistical exercise undertaken by any state in peace time.
BRIDGE 2 has an increased diversity of writers and case studies from all regions which enriches the comparative element and will continue to evolve as more people participate and contribute to this global project. The next phase is regionalization through customization and translation into major languages. BRIDGE can be adapted to suit the context and needs of a country or region and encourages ownership of the course to ensure sustainability. In initial development, there is a Spanish version for Latin America, a French version for francophone Africa, an Arabic version for the Middle East, a Portuguese version for the lusophone world and various country programmes like Armenia, Nepal and Indonesia.
With increasing challenges such as close call elections, dispute resolution and the acceptance of results, regulation on media access and party finance, the political environment and security, the growing use of technology, issues of inclusion and participation and the constant need for reform, the credibility of electoral processes has never been more tested and if not robust could have damaging political implications. BRIDGE aims to contribute to a better understanding of the multidisciplinary and interdependent approach needed to tackle many of these issues surrounding electoral processes.
To compare, other long-standing professions, such as doctors and lawyers, have an agreed and recognized ethical code. Electoral Officials hold incredible responsibility and therefore need to be trained consistently, certified regionally if not internationally and take a professional pride in their field of expertise and strive to further its potential through research and innovation.
Covering the entire electoral cycle, BRIDGE is ideal for the in-between election period when participants have time to reflect and take stock of recommendations, consolidate best practice and reform weaker aspects, enhance their own capacity and strengthen their institution or organization.
BRIDGE has come a long way since its inception but there is a long way to go yet. BRIDGE is only one tool for capacity development but coupled with appropriate targeted assistance which mentors rather than substitutes, peer networking through ACE and other regional fora, international observation and work exchange programmes, post-election reviews, progressive reform and effective strategic planning, together provide an ambitious direction to where elections should be in 10 years. With a democracy backlash, disillusion with elected leaders, controversial results and increasing frustration by marginalised groups, electoral stakeholders need all the tools and resources available to chart their way through potentially volatile political processes.