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 (UNEAD) United Nations Development Programme (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 capacity, 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 independent 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 parliamentary, presidential, Shura elections (upper house) as well as a referendum to approve amendments to the constitution allowing for the establishment of an independent 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 organize 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 UNDP, IFES and NCHR is implemented over 2008-2009 with the following outputs and activities:
a) Strengthening election monitoring unit at the NCHR
b) Develop appropriate workshop structures and appropriate adaptations of BRIDGE workshop materials for various stakeholder groups, and sign protocols for their participation. Deliver BRIDGE training to:-
C) Develop election-related documents for NCHR to disseminate:
This BRIDGE training workshop, the second for the researchers of the Egyptian Parliament, within the project was held from July 5-9, 2009 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo. The workshop is the second of three training workshop plan for the researchers of the Egyptian Parliament in 2009. The training course was designed to cover two BRIDGE modules:
The Training Topics and Workshop Agenda
The training topics of this workshop showed a mix of new and old topics to the BRIDGE project in Egypt. While Electoral Systems was almost a steady topic in previous workshops, the Legal Framework topic was new and delivered for the first time in Egypt and in the region. This fact required special preparation and attention in designing the training agenda as well as choosing the training materials.
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:- International principles of free and fair election, Introduction to the Legal framework, and the levels of legal framework in Egypt.
DAY2:- Legal Framework in different levels and through different aspects of the electoral processes: Voter Registration, Polling and Counting, Codes of conducts, and access to electoral process.
Day 3:- Definition of Electoral Systems, their main families, and main variables. The plurality majority family has been explored with special focus on FPTP and AV systems.
DAY4:- Proportional Representation, Mixed systems and systems comparison.
DAY5:- Electoral Systems in Egypt, System reform, women representation, and important tools for election practitioners: Aswatna and ACE.
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.
The production of the workshop materials started enough time before the workshop and concentrated mainly on the translation of the BRIDGE Legal Framework module into Arabic. Planning for this task also took in consideration the time needed for the proof reading of the translated text in accordance with the agreed BRIDGE terminology.
New materials have also been considered for the Electoral Systems topic as well, resulting in a comprehensive participant’s folder rich of training and background materials.
In addition to these materials, the facilitators produced new materials for new activities as well as new background materials covering some of the workshop topics.
The materials in the participants folders were supplemented most effectively with copies of:
Other valuable resources and references made available to the participants included excerpts of IDEA handbook on “Electoral Systems Design” in Arabic.
Thirty participants representing different departments within the Egyptian Parliament participated in the 5-day training workshop. Three participants were representing the NCHR, one of which was attending as a step for the final accreditation for BRIDGE facilitator.
The selection of participants was agreed upon with the head of the Research and Training Department of the Parliament early this year. Sixty percent of the thirty participants were women and the rest were men. This might be an indication of growing attention of NCHR and PA to the need of getting more women engaged in their election activities.
Three BRIDGE facilitators participated in the design and delivery of the workshop:
Emad brought comparative experience and drew from his 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- international consultants, and staff of international assistance providers- and country experience-Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt. All facilitators showed high level of facilitation skills.
Evaluation and Conclusions
This is the first time the legal framework module has been conducted in Egypt. This experience shows that this module provides a good introduction to understanding other aspects of the electoral processes including electoral design and electoral operations. Although the time was very short for this topic- 2 days- the mix with 3-day electoral systems proved to achieve the intended objectives.
Daily and final evaluations of the workshop 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. Significant key to noticeable success of the relationships between the BRIDGE partners and the NCHR is the sense of partnership and cooperation. It gives an example of how such a partnership can impact on BRIDGE involvement in the electoral assistance in the region.
Most participants provided positive feedback of this workshop. 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: How could the training workshop be improved?
Below are some recommendations to the partners: