The Fijian Elections Office (FEO) and the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators (PIANZIA) network jointly hosted and organised a four-day BRIDGE workshop, 5-8 May 2015, at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva Fiji. The workshops were made possible by the generous support of the Australian Aid Program. The workshop, combining elements of the introduction to the Electoral Administration and the Strategic and Financial Planning BRIDGE modules, was officially opened by the Australian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Ms. Margaret Twomey. In her speech, Ms Twomey said that this workshop will provide an opportunity to learn and share electoral knowledge across the Pacific region.
The Fijian Minister Responsible for Elections, His Excellency Mr. Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum made the keynote speech, followed by the PIANZIA Secretariat and Acting Director of International Services Section, Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Mr. Jiv Sekhon. The closing remarks and a vote of thanks were delivered by the Fijian Supervisor of Elections, Mr Mohammed Saneem.
The workshop was for 20 Fijian delegates-19 FEO staff and a representative from the Fiji Parliament Office- together with 5 PIANZEA delegates, representing the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI). The main aim of this workshop was for participants to learn the fundamentals of elections and to build networks in the PIANZEA region with a sharing of ideas towards improving the election process.
Facilitators for this workshop were Asenaca Kolinivala (FEO), Vake Blake (Tonga), Michelle Aisake (Cook Islands), Gary tavoa (Vanuatu) and Brian Latham (AEC). Expert commentary and administration support was provided by Jiv Sekhorn and the Fijian Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Mr Michael Clancy.
The workshop content covered a wide range of topics, including Electoral Ethics and Principles, criteria for Free and Fair Elections, Legal Framework, Access to Electoral Processes, Electoral Systems, Boundary Delimitation, Electoral Management Bodies, Working with Stakeholders, Civic Education and Voter Information, Introduction to Planning, Funding, Risk Management, Monitoring and Evaluation and Sustainability.
There was a great deal of focused discussion throughout the workshop and much sharing of expertise, experiences and ideas. As most of the FEO staff were new to the election experience, the infromation shared in this workshop by the PIANZEA delegates effectively complemented practical knowledge gained from thr recent Fijian General Election held in September 2014.
Participant feedback throughout the four days was very positive and participation was lively and focused. New associations were made, networks were developed and strengthened, with team bonding as a bonus learning experience for the FEO team, including positive local media coverage of this workshop.
Mr Mohammed Saneem issued the certificates of attendance at the workshop closing ceremony. He also gave some encouraging words with regards to future BRIDGE activities for the FEO. At the conclusion of the ceremony a moving song of farewell to the facilitators and PIANZEA delegates was delivered by an ensemble from the FEO.
The Fijian Elections Office is thanked for their wonderful hospitality and support, especially during the preparation period to the workshop. Best wishes are extended for the continued work required for the conduct of future free and fair Fiji general elections.