New guide highlights best practices in electoral security

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Best practices to prevent, manage or mediate electoral violence and conflict have been compiled into a new guide published by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Electoral violence is a development issue of critical significance,” said Patrick Quirk, co-author of the guide at the USAID launch. “It occurs in one in five elections, across all regions and in countries of strategic importance to the United States.”

Quirk, elections and conflict mitigation expert at Creative Associates International, applauded USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG Center) for its leadership in this area.

A “best practice” is defined as a process, program or method that produces results superior to others as measured against a set of objectives, the guide said. The 50-page document outlines best practices in electoral security programming for each phase of the electoral cycle, organized by thematic area, policy, practice or program activity by state and non-state stakeholders.

David Yang, Director of USAID’s DRG Center, introduced the Best Practices in Electoral Security to about 50 experts and practitioners at a May 23 event in Washington, D.C.

The guide “builds and supports the evidence base of our work,” Yang told the audience.

Best Practices in Electoral Security draws on evidence from across the globe and looks specifically at Guatemala, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Burundi, where the co-authors performed assessments to inform the Guide. “These country cases present a diversity of electoral conflict profiles in perpetrators, victims, motives, tactics, locations, timing and intensity,” the guide said.

The Best Practices in Electoral Security guide revealed that, despite variations among countries, some common themes emerged. Among them:

  • Multi-faceted training for security forces, provided in the pre-election phase, can enhance their ability to positively contribute to electoral conflict management.
  • Coordination mechanisms among state stakeholders are essential to create a secure electoral environment, particularly on election day.
  • Clearly defined plans and procedures for election results management can help dampen incentives for violence in the post-election phase.
  • Grassroots electoral peace building initiatives can help prevent, manage, and mediate conflict throughout the entire electoral cycle.

The Best Practices in Electoral Security complements a July 2010 technical guidance handbook called the Electoral Security Framework. Produced for USAID by Creative Associates International, it was released in July 2010.

“This best practices guide is intended to be a companion publication to USAID’s Electoral Security Framework Handbook,” said Jeffrey Fischer, an elections expert at Creative Associates and co-author of the guide. “Combined, these publications provide policy-makers and practitioners with methodologies to predict and profile electoral conflict and to adopt measures to prevent it.”

Where the Framework provides a methodology practitioners can use to develop a profile of electoral conflict in an upcoming poll, the Guide provides best practices organized by phase of the electoral cycle that stakeholders can employ to address that conflict profile.

Versions of both reports are available online at no cost from Creative Associates International and USAID.

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