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Newsletter 12

Electoral Observation and Electoral Assistance: Instruments to Consolidate Democracy?

International IDEA and the Belgian organization Field Diplomacy Initiative (FDI), organized in co-operation with the Belgian Parliament a conference with this title in Brussels on 24 March 1999. A hundred and twenty Belgian participants and parliamentarians with extensive experience engaged in intensive dialogue with speakers from International IDEA, the United Nations, the European Commission, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly, and ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) . The conference organizers were also honoured with the active participation by democracy activists from Nigeria and Indonesia. The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of Belgium, Mr LucVan Den Bossche, opened the meeting which was also attended by Mr Frank Swaelen, President of the Belgian Senate and Mr Bengt Säve-Söderbergh, Secretary-General, International IDEA. The aim of the conference was to make a state of the art assessment of 10 years of international involvement in electoral observation and electoral assistance and to discuss the needs and the possibilities for a more effective and rigorous involvement. As for the future, possibilities are to be assessed in order to strengthen the link between electoral observation and electoral assistance as well as to mutually reinforce capacity building in donor and receiver countries. Furthermore, the conference focused specifically on one of International IDEA's member states, i.e. Belgium. The aim was to enhance a process of mutual learning and further capacity building by bringing together international experts with Belgian policy makers, parliamentarians, academics, electoral observers and technical assistants. The initiative of the conference proved to be useful, as it stressed the necessity for more complementarity between bilateral, multilateral and donor policies, as well as for a continuous lessons-learned process. It was demonstrated in Brussels that the effectiveness of the international community's electoral observation and assistance policies go hand in hand with the dedication, professional and financial commitment and follow-up at the national and NGO level. Although it was generally agreed that progress has been made over the past years in terms of; co-ordination, long-term involvement, support of domestic observers, selection, training policy and technical assistance, participants pointed out, based on recent observation experiences, that there is a need for continuous follow-up and improvement of observation and assistance policies. There is also a need for a systematic lessons-learned appraisal and the consolidation of institutional memory. These processes can be stimulated through meetings as this one in Brussels, where both international and national policy makers as well as field experts can exchange views and experiences. The hope was expressed that such meetings should take place more often, for the sake of effective democratization policies, as for the sake of sustainable democratization.

Newsletter 12

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