In recent years, a number of Arab countries have undertaken significant steps to strengthen their institutional development, which allowed them to reach important structural reforms and procedural improvements in the administration of their electoral processes. Significant indicators of this progress include the rise of autonomous election management commissions, electoral law reforms to improve participation of women, and - in notable cases the conduct of competitive and credible elections. However, thus far, these reforms have remained purely isolated domestic experiments, with a very limited exposure both within the Arab world itself and at wider international level, which in most cases have taken individual countries as far as their internal capacities, experiences and resources allowed.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) is widely recognized as the most successful electoral authority in the Middle East. The CEC enjoys an unparalleled reputation amongst Palestinian institutions for competence and neutrality. It has implemented two national-level elections under difficult circumstances and despite the application of substantial pressure, including violence and threats of violence. The CEC’s supervision of both elections has been recognized by international observers as exemplary, not only by regional, but also by broader international standards. The peaceful transfer of power after last January’s parliamentary elections owes much to the effectiveness and integrity with which the elections were administered and the trust and respect the CEC commands from all stakeholders.The CEC restructured and reformed after PLC elections in 2006. It continued to build on the successes of the last two elections in order to become a sustainable, permanent institution. Part of this effort is development of in-house continuous education and capacity building system for which BRIDGE project is an excellent tool. IFES and Palestinian CEC are working together on implementing BRIDGE as continuous education system by developing and implementing its foundations, including:
This joint project between IFES and CEC aims at delivering a series of BRIDGE workshops covering several modules that both parties esteem their relevance to the CEC staff. These modules are:
The first workshop took place in Ramallah from April 6 – 10, 2008. It covered the Voter Registration and electoral Systems modules. Dr. Hanna Nasir, CEC’s Chairman opened the training and attended few sessions.
The training workshop followed an ‘ABRIDGE’ model of 5-day training workshop. The training topics were carefully chosen with special attention to Palestine specific context.
The material used for this workshop was mainly based on the Bridge version 2 modules of voter registration and electoral systems. Both modules were translated to Arabic either entirely or in part. Suhair Abdeen and Khalil Hallaq (workshop facilitators from the CEC) played a very crucial role in preparing and adapting the material.
In addition to the Bridge materials, the facilitators produced new materials for new activities as well as background materials covering some of the course topics. The participants folder included as well the following attachments:
Twenty three participants representing CEC’s headquarters and regional offices participated in the 5 day training course.Five of the twenty three participants were women. Four participants came from Gaza’s regional office. Their participation was made possible thanks to the efforts of Cara Stern and Fuad Salman of USAID WB/G Mission and Vladimir Pran, IFES WB/Gaza Country Director.
The Facilitation Team
Both Suhair and Khalil were outstanding; they were prepared to work for long hours and week-ends in preparation of the workshop. They proved to be a dedicated, professional and harmonious team.Both showed high level of facilitation skills. Suhair Abdeen was fully accredited at the end of this workshop. She proved to be an excellent facilitator and will be with Khalil Hallaq an important pillar for BRIDGE within the CEC.
Daily and final workshop evaluations were extremely positive. Most of the participants confirmed their benefit from this training and demanded more similar trainings for a bigger audience within the CEC. The following is an excerpt from the participants feedback on the training: