BRIDGE Training Workshop in Cairo

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While requests from developing democracies for electoral training assistance have been increasing, the training delivered has often been conducted by outside agencies in a reactive and uncoordinated fashion with no common curriculum available.

In response to this need International (IDEA), the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the United Nations Election Assistance Division (UN EAD) United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) have developed a comprehensive capacity-building training curriculum for electoral administrators called Building Resources In Democracy, Governance, and Elections (BRIDGE). The curriculum covers all aspect of elections and uses an activity-based adult learning methodology to build capacity and enhance professionalism. The training is global in scope and seeks to use comparative examples to illustrate options and best practice.

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.

These issues prove to be central to the ongoing debate in Egypt regarding the electoral reform process. Since 2005, Egyptian voters have been called several times to cast ballots in different elections. These include parliamentary, presidential, Shura elections as well as a referendum to approve amendments to the constitution allowing for the establishment of an EMB and paving the way for changing its existing electoral system.

Project Objectives

With the aim of contributing to the electoral reform process in Egypt, IFES and UNDP in partnership with the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) agreed to join effort to organise a series of BRIDGE training workshops for selected participants representing various election stakeholders in the country. The overall project objective was to enhance participants’ understanding of the principles that underpin the electoral process, and share with them comparative experiences from the region and other parts of the world to allow them to assess their own local experience and draw best practices and lessons learned.

This joint project between IFES, UNDP and NCHR is implemented over 2008-2009 with the following outputs and activities designed to develop appropriate course structures and appropriate adaptations of BRIDGE course materials for various stakeholder groups, and sign protocols for their participation. Deliver BRIDGE training to:

  • NCHR monitoring unit staff on 2 BRIDGE modules.
  • High Elections Commissioners and staff;
  • Judges & Ministry of Interior;
  • Media and journalists;
  • Training for 20-24 persons to become Bridge Facilitators;

UNDP and NCHR are also talking steps to do the following:

a) Strengthening election monitoring unit at the NCHR.

  • Training for NCHR monitoring unit staff on 2 BRIDGE modules.
  • Training for NCHR-registered field observers in Sohag.
  • Workshops to establish criteria for enrolling election monitoring NGOs.
  • Develop a data base of (a) NGOs eligible to monitor elections (b) NCHR-registered field observers.

b) Develop election-related documents for NCHR to disseminate:

  • Election processes (New Egyptian system and other countries for comparison).
  • How to conduct free and fair elections.
  • How to report elections fairly.
  • Voting and vote counting under Egyptian and international standards
  • Simple pamphlet on Electoral Rights for the general public.

The third BRIDGE training workshop, the second for the MoI, within the project was held from February 28- March 4, 2009 at the Ministry of Interior premises in Cairo. The training course was designed to cover three main topics.

  • Electoral Systems
  • Voter Registration
  • Pre-elections Activities

The Training Topics and Workshop Agenda

The training workshop followed a BRIDGE workshop model of 5-day training workshop. The training topics were carefully chosen with special attention to Egypt specific context.

The following table illustrates the workshop framework:

DAY1: Introduction and Election Management and International principles of free and fair election

DAY2 & 3: Electoral Systems, the choices and their consequences with some comparative experiences especially from the region. Issues of representation, especially women representation.

DAY4: Principles of voter registration, different types of voter registers, and issues to consider in voter registration process.

DAY 5: Electoral cycle, electoral planning and preparation for the electoral event.

Choosing and Producing The Training Materials

BRIDGE version 2 curriculum consists of 23 modules. The Arabic translation process of these modules is in ongoing and will be concluded hopefully by the end of 2009. For that reason, a combination of version 1 (already translated) and version 2 materials was used in this training.

In addition to these materials, the facilitators produced new materials for new activities as well as new background materials covering some of the course topics.

The materials in the participants’ folders were supplemented most effectively with copies of:

  • The Egyptian Constitution,
  • Electoral Law of Egypt
  • UN human rights and elections document,
  • IDEA’s publication: "Building Democracy in Egypt"
  • Egyptian State Information Service (SIS) Voter’s guide for Parliamentary Elections 2005,
  • Egyptian High Elections Commission’s guidelines for voting and counting procedures for 2007 Shura Council elections.
  • Palestinian Central Elections Commission’s manual for voting and counting procedures for 2006 parliamentary elections.
  • Yemeni Elections Commission’s manual for voting and counting procedures for 2006 presidential elections.

Other valuable resources and references made available to the participants included IDEA handbook on “Electoral Systems Design” in Arabic.

The participants

Twenty four participants representing different departments involved in elections within the MoI participated in the 5-day training course. 

Group Photo: BRIDGE Workshop

The selection of participants was agreed upon with a representative of the MOI, and a set of criteria was applied to guarantee the participation of officers representing different departments, governorates and administrative levels within the MOI.

Due to the nature of the MOI staff, all 24 participants were men. The NCHR’s support for the event was evidenced by the NCHR’s Deputy Chairperson Dr. Ahmed Kamal Abu Almagd participation in the course opening ceremony as well as Dr. Ahmed Refaat in the closing ceremony.

The Facilitation Team

Four facilitators participated in the workshop:

  1. Emad Yousef
  2. Ossama Kamel
  3. Wael Al-Farag
  4. Hassan Hussein- IFES

Emad and Wael brought comparative experience and drew from their direct involvement in elections in different parts of the world. Ossama and Hassan brought their knowledge of the Egyptian context.

The team was a good mix of experience, background with international consultants, and staff of international assistance providers- and country experience from Iraq,Jordan,Palestine and Egypt.

All facilitators showed high level of facilitation skills. The decision to fully accredit Hassan- semi-accredited facilitator- was based on, and justified by, his excellent and outstanding performance.

Evaluation and Conclusions

Daily and final workshop evaluations were extremely positive. It was mentioned by many participants that this training was at a high level and outstanding. Among other things participants appreciated were the training methodology, facilitation style and skills, and creating an environment of dialogue and experience sharing especially in a comparative context.

We highlight this because it offers an opportunity to build on the success achieved for other BRIDGE training in Egypt and in the region.

Key to any successful engagement in this regard is the sense of partnership and cooperation between the BRIDGE project partners and the NCHR. It gives an example of how such a partnership can impact on our involvement in the electoral assistance in the region.

The participants provided a positive feedback of this workshop. The MOI is asking for more BRIDGE workshops to be delivered over the course of 2009 in preparation for the upcoming electoral events in 2010.

The following are some excerpts from the participant’ final evaluation of the workshop:

Some answers to the question: How did you benefit from this training?

"I have acquired new comprehensive information and experiences in the field of elections and how to improve the way we run elections. And learning new methods in the field of advanced teaching."

"Being exposed to the different methods of voting and how to choose what suits our specific social and political situations and apply it in Egypt."

"I have benefited from all what was presented during the sessions which added a lot to my knowledge especially the information on elections from other countries".

Some answers to the question: How could the training workshop be improved?

"Extending the training period to be at least two weeks".

"Increasing the number of training workshops held in this field to know the most recent advanced systems in the world".

"Extending the training time".

"I suggest having this training continuously and to have it held in other Arab and foreign countries".

"Extend the training out of the training venue and conduct study visits to entities involved in election activities in their premises i.e. visiting a registration office, parliament, etc".

Recommendations

Below are some recommendations to the project partners:

  • In any coming BRIDGE training in an Arab country a right mix of facilitators can add value especially in bringing comparative experience to the training. We felt that experience of other Arab countries was of particular interest for the participants.
  • Based on the cooperation shown in the last two workshops, agenda and topics to be covered should be identified jointly by the project partners.
  • Project partners in direct consultation with MoI, could consider organising BRIDGE workshops that involve together MoI officials with other electoral stakeholders, i.e. High Election Commission.
  • To promote experience sharing among EMBs in the region, project partners could assess the feasibility of involving the MoI staff in some regional BRIDGE workshops in Egypt or other Arab countries.

 

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