NDI Afghanistan – BRIDGE for Elections Observers …30 Days before Polling Day


In preparation for the upcoming general elections in Afghanistan, The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) organized its first BRIDGE workshop (Observation Module) during the period 15 -18 August 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The main objective of the workshop was to provide a quality observation in Afghanistan during all stages of the September 2010 elections.

Since 2002, NDI has been providing support to the electoral and political process in Afghanistan via different programs. These programmes focus on Women in Politics, Sub-National Governance, and Political Parties. NDI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that has supported democratic institutions and practices in every region of the world for more than two decades. NDI works to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. The Institute has been conducting assistance programs in Afghanistan since 2002.  In the lead up to the 2010 elections, NDI conducted orientation seminars for over 1,700 registered candidates, organized campaign schools for more than 240 women candidates, worked with political parties on campaign methods, and provided technical assistance to the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), the country’s largest domestic election monitoring organization.

In addition under the Political Parties and Electoral support programme NDI supports and builds capacity to domestic observer organizations, such as the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA). Election observation has the potential to enhance the integrity of election processes, by deterring and exposing irregularities and fraud and by providing recommendations for improving electoral processes. It can promote public confidence, as warranted, promote electoral participation and mitigate the potential for election-related conflict. FEFA, with the support of NDI, has conducted the most extensive observation effort for the 2004, 2005 and 2009 elections.

NDI also conducted a number of programs to support the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections. These efforts focused on long and short-term election observation and assisting political parties, candidates and domestic election monitoring groups to participate effectively in the electoral process. For the same purpose, NDI conducted an international election observation mission that mobilized more than 110 international and Afghan observers, covering all of the country’s regions and the capital, to observe every aspect of the election process, including the campaign, balloting on election day and the post-election period.

To this end, and in continuation of NDI’s efforts in supporting the democratic process in Afghanistan, NDI has received an official request from the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) to observe the upcoming general elections. In preparation for this, NDI has organized a BRIDGE workshop from the Observation Module to develop the capacity of its long and short-term election observers, and FEFA observers, in observing the upcoming elections according to the international standards and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation which was formally adopted by United Nations on October 27, 2005 and is currently endorsed by 35 organizations – including NDI who is a foundation signatory – engaged in elections observation.

BRIDGE training materials were carefully and thoroughly customized to suit the local context in Afghanistan and to suit the immediate/urgent training needs of the participants during the operational period of the electoral process. For this purpose, facilitators have designed new set activities that are linked to the Afghan context, NDI observation methodology and based on the electoral legal framework in Afghanistan. This has resulted in a successful workshop that met the participant expectations and their immediate training needs.

Among key comments participants mentioned regarding BRIDGE is the distinguished BRIDGE interactive methodology, value of their own experience, and respect of their opinion.  All participants agreed that the principles, skills and knowledge they learned in the workshop will help them deliver better their duties. One of the participants commented: “We were thinking of only technical issues while performing our job, now we are going to consider the guiding principles that should underpin our attitude while interacting  with other stakeholder; our guiding principles will be transparency, integrity, impartiality, accuracy and objectivity” 

Another participant commented “I’ve been a trainer since years now, but now I realized I wasn’t a good trainer, and my training methodology was incorrect, from now on I will use BRIDGE training methodology!”

Participants also confirmed that the BRIDGE workshop and the friendly training environment have created bridges among them, and they will work as a team during the upcoming elections.

All participants thanked Mr. Andy M. A. Campbell, NDI Afghanistan Country Director, for organizing this workshop in Afghanistan and for giving them the opportunity to participate in this workshop. However, they have asked him to organize BRIDGE workshops frequently to the benefit of the electoral process in Afghanistan.

Below is a brief agenda for the workshop:

Day 1:

Why have elections? Linking elections to democratic governance and development; Standards/Criteria for evaluating elections – Principles of free and fair elections; Definition of elections observation, Reasons for having observers, Responsibilities of observers (National and International); Integrity of the process

Day 2:

Efficacy of elections observation missions and elections observers; Design a code of conduct for national and international observers; Electoral cycle/calendar and NDI observation calendar and what to observe during each stage of the process – Assessment guidelines for different stages of the electoral process; Afghanistan Regulatory framework for observers; Mainstreaming gender and minorities into electoral observation; NDI observation methodology and deployment plan.

Day 3:

Polling, complaints and counting procedures in Afghanistan, role and responsibilities of polling staff and candidate’s agents, and code of conduct for polling staff , candidate’s agents and media; Role play –  detecting polling irregularities; NDI observation/check lists ; Detecting  fraud and irregularities (pre elections, during elections and post elections).

Day 4

Afghanistan observers’ manual; Challenges observers face in the field and how to avoid/overcome them – contingency planning/risk management; How to facilitate a constructive relationship with the stakeholders (also, IEC responsibilities to observers and vice versa); Observer’s final report; Future tasks: training of SOTs, Facilitations skills and designing SOTs training agenda.


Facilitation Team:

The facilitation team consisted of:

1-      Wael Al-Faraj, International Lead/Expert Facilitator – Consultant

2-      Mohammad Yusuf Rasheed, Program Manager, NDI Afghanistan.

Mr. Mohammad Yusuf Rasheed has successfully co-facilitated in this workshop and thus successfully completed his accreditation and became a fully accredited BRIDGE facilitator. He is NDI’s first staff member to be accredited as a workshop facilitator, not just in Afghanistan, but anywhere in the world.

It is amazing how BRIDGE can influence people and change their attitude. BRIDGE does not only introduce technical skills to participants but, in my opinion, BIRDGE influences people motivation and attitude. I felt so much touched when the participants said at the end of the workshop “we promise you that you will hear good news about us and about the observation during the upcoming elections in Afghanistan”!!  


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