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 (IDEA), the Australian Elections 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 activities-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, 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.
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 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.
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 is 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 training to:-
– NCHR monitoring unit staff on 2 BRIDGE modules.
– High Election 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 fourth BRIDGE training workshop, the third for the MoI, within the project was held from May 10 -14, 2009 at the Ministry of Interior premises in Cairo. The training course was designed to cover three main topics.
The Training Topics and Workshop Agenda
The Training workshop followed the BRIDGE workshop model of 5 day training workshop. The training topics were carefully chosen with emphasis to the Egyptian context.
Choosing and Producing The Training Materials
The materials in the participants’ folder included background material related to the different topics of the workshop divided over 5 sections, each section representing one training day.
The materials in the participants’ folders were supplemented with copies of:
Twenty four participants representing different departments within the MoI participated in the 5-day training course.
The selection of participants was agreed upon with the 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. Most of the participants are directly involved in the management of different elections in Egypt. 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 member Dr. Ahmed Refaat’s participation in the course opening ceremony along with officials from the MOI.
The Facilitation Team
Three facilitators participated in the workshop. Ossama Kamel,Wael Al-Farag and Hassan Hussein – IFES.
Wael and Ossama brought comparative experience and drew from their direct involvement in elections in different parts of the world. Hassan brought his knowledge of the Egyptian context. All facilitators showed high level of facilitation skills.
Evaluation and Conclusions
Daily and final workshop evaluations were very positive. Many participants requested the prolongation of the training period as well as holding more similar workshops. 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. The training venue was very spacious, thus providing an ideal space for practical exercises, icebreakers and energizers.
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, 2011 and 2012.
The following are some excerpts from the participants’ final evaluation of the workshop:
Some answers to the question: How did you benefit from this training?
Some answers to the question: Who are the other stakeholders that could benefit from this training?
Some answers to the question: Do you have any other comments (your suggestions to have this training improved and developed)?