BRIDGE Program Launched in Pakistan

Pakistan has held sporadic provincial and general elections since 1947 and 1970, respectively. Nine general elections have been held, but electoral cycles have often been truncated by periods of military rule. The Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is the independent electoral management body (EMB) responsible for both national and local elections. The most recent elections were held on February 18, 2008.

This past June, the ECP and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), with a generous fund from USAID, launched the first phase of the latest version of the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) program. BRIDGE is a workshop developed to improve the skills, knowledge and confidence of election professionals and key stakeholders in the electoral process. This new version of the program includes a series of introductory modules for commission staff. It promises to be one of the most comprehensive implementations of BRIDGE since the launch of the Version 2 curriculum in 2007. The program will not only revolutionise the way that the commission does training, but will also develop a critical mass of Pakistani facilitators able to implement the curriculum in the future without outside support.

The BRIDGE program comes at a vital time as the ECP re-vitalizes the once-dormant Federal Election Academy (FEA), responsible for internal training and professional development within the commission. The program was initiated with an assessment mission led by Hermann Thiel, IFES Chief of Party in Jordan. During the assessment mission, a demonstration was conducted for senior ECP staff. After explaining the curriculum and methodology, the ECP decided to adopt BRIDGE and begin with the Introductory Modules.

The Introductory Modules took place over five days for three groups of ECP officers and district and assistant commissioners. A customized agenda was designed by the ECP and IFES for each day, covering: international standards and principles, electoral management structures, voter registration, electoral technology, and planning.

Facilitation of the workshops was done by Hermann Thiel, Skye Christensen, and Sibongile Zimemo, supported by electoral experts, Mauricio Claudio Lopez-Rivera, Qazi Saleem, Ronan McDermott, Ben Goldsmith, Peter Erben, and Ole Holtved.

The next step will prioritize the development of national facilitators. This will be a facilitator-training module (TtF) for a group of carefully selected participants from the ECP. This select group will be trained by Skye Christensen, Wael Al-Farag and Emad Yousef.

Following the TtF, the third phase of the program consists of a series of technical and broad-based modules. ECP facilitators will facilitate these modules in cooperation with international facilitators and experts, as required. Through this process the ECP and IFES will mentor and accredit all promising facilitators to ensure a dynamic cadre of experts qualified to carry the program forward.

Please visit www.ifes.org, www.ifespakistan.org and www.ecp.gov.pk for more information about the institutions involved and www.bridge-project.org for more information on the BRIDGE program. IFES program in Pakistan are made possible with the support of USAID.

By Skye Christensen, Electoral Knowledge Facilitator

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