World First: Combining of BRIDGE and BEAT in Yemen

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The facilitation team were Ross Attrill (Australia – Australian Electoral Commission), Rushdi Nackerdien (South Africa – Manager Voting and Training, Independent Electoral Commission), Wael Al-Faraj (Iraq- Logistics Officer, UN Assistance Mission to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq), Emad Yousef (Jordan,IDEA Coordinator of Arab World Program) and Bushra Ahmed Al-Shari (UNDP Yemen). The facilitation team was ably assisted by the outstanding translation team at IFES, Rabab Al-Medhwali, Fatima Al-Wadi and Nabila Al-Mutawakel and by our excellent interpreters Mohammed Abbas and Bassim . The program was also enhanced by the participation of guest speakers from numerous Yemen based disability organisations, Yemen based Observer organisations, Mr Basel Abbas, BBC freelance journalist, Taiakkal Al-Karman from Women Journalists without chains and Dr Mohamed Al-Sayani (Member of the SCER and Chairman of the Sector of Planning and Logistics).

Course Facilitators
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Participants from the SCER Professional Development Program in Yemen, June 2006

The team quickly formed strong professional and productive relationships with all of the participants and these were maintained throughout the program. Rushdi Nackerdien brought considerable experience as a facilitator and as an electoral administrator. Emad Yousef and Wael Al-Faraj are exceptionally talent facilitators and, as native Arabic speakers, will no doubt play a key role in electoral capacity building programs in the region. Bushra Ahmed Al-Shariá again proved herself to be a talented and conscientious facilitator who should be encouraged to conduct and develop training in Yemen as often as is practicable given her workloads. I would also hope that Bushra could be released to conduct programs in other countries in the region.

Emad, Wael and Bushra will be invaluable human resources both for Yemen and the Middle East region. Vanessa Johansen, an Australian national who completed her BRIDGE TTF in Melbourne in 2005, was studying Arabic and made herself available to the team, in order to complete her BRIDGE accreditation. Vanessa’s professional and conscientious contribution to the program made it easy for me to recommend her full accreditation as a BRIDGE facilitator. As her Arabic improves, I’m sure that she too will become an invaluable resource for the region.  

Those responsible for the selection of the participants are to be congratulated. They were selected from across the different departments of the SCER and hold positions, which will make it possible for them to advocate for such professional development for the SCER in the future. It was obvious to all the facilitators that the last workshop had really helped to create a sense of the team. They are all responsible for the training of trainers during elections, referenda and voter registration. This allowed the facilitation team to engage them in a dialogue that enabled them to think about using the methodology of the program in the development of future SCER training programs. As a group, the participants were committed, passionate and hard working. I was impressed by their energetic and intelligent contributions. On the first day the participants constructed a code of conduct for themselves, which for the most part they all adhered to. 

Evaluation forms at the end of each day and the informal feedback we received while engaging participants in conversation in breaks, indicated that they felt that both the content and methodology of the program were appropriate, relevant and engaging.

This workshop was, by any measure a great success. The participant evaluations were universally glowing; the facilitation team again provided an extremely high level of tuition and service to participants and the level of the contributions by the participants were of the highest quality. But let me make the following observations:

The methodology and content of such a course can be utilised with great success in the Arab world. Given the interest shown in this course by electoral administrators in Iraq, Palestine and Kuwait, I believe there will a great deal of demand for similar programs in the region. 

Secondly, the way in which the participants engaged with the material and the high standard of their discussion and written work indicates that such programs have the potential to impact positively on their work as electoral administrators.

We concluded workshop 2 by asking the participants how they believed the course would impact on the content and methodology of their operational training sessions in the lead up to the September 2006 Presidential and Local elections. We were pleased to hear that they intended to include such techniques as:

  • Group work
  • Hands-on activities
  • Better, more methodical facilitators notes
  • Icebreakers and energizers

The facilitators also asked each of the participants to list three ways they would use the program to improve their work practices over the next six months. These lists were then sealed in self-addressed envelopes and given to IFES staff, in order that they be delivered to the participants in six months time.

All in all, there were many great signs for the future conducting of BRIDGE courses in the region. Congratulations to all concerned.

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