PIANZEA (the Pacific Island, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators’ Network) has been in operation for some 15 years. In Wellington New Zealand during the week 24 – 28 September 2012, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and the New Zealand Electoral Commission (NZEC) co-hosted an AusAID funded two day PIANZEA Network meeting immediately followed by a three day BRIDGE event which was a combination of the Civic Education and Voter Information Modules.
For several years now, BRIDGE has been used during PIANZEA gatherings, not only to raise awareness and increase knowledge and skills, but to allow member states to come together, sharing their stories and experiences and building their relationships and capacities. It has also been used, on the advice of PIANZEA members as a central tool in capacity building and development programs across the Pacific for the last 10 years.
The selection of the Modules and content for this event was based on the knowledge that many of the PIANZEA members have had a long term interest in developing and implementing Voter Education programs and that this was a chance for them to explore the potential standards and principles that underpin good Voter Education programs and to look at examples of the development and implementation of such programs from around the PIANZEA region and beyond. The module was co-facilitated by Tina Noka from the Vanuatu Women’s Affairs Department and Ross Attrill from the Australian Electoral Commission.
Participants from the electoral management bodies of 16 PIANZEA members and associates including Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, The Kingdom of Tonga, Niue, Nauru, Tuvalu. Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, The Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, East Timor, New Zealand and Australia attended. Not only were they given the opportunity to explore the content, they were also treated to a two hour demonstration of a Voter Education program that is currently being piloted in Vanuatu. The program is funded by AusAID and was born out of 20 Ni Vanuatu Voter Registration officers participating in a similar BRIDGE combination module in Port Vila. They used the stimulus of the module to develop, design, write and implement their Voter Education program (a home grown product) in various contexts across Vanuatu. This severed as a potential model for using BRIDGE as a stimulus for similar programs in the network and clearly illustrated that BRIDGE is not only a capacity building tool but leads to action oriented outcomes which benefit participants and their stakeholders.
And I can’t finish this article without mentioning the great hospitality of the management and staff of the NZEC. Thanks again to all of you.