The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched its pilot regional short and long term election observation training in Pretoria, South Africa from 1 to12 May 2018. The training follows the development of the first comprehensive regional curriculum on election observation in 2017. The curriculum is based on the region’s electoral experiences and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which were adopted by Member States in July 2015.
The training presented a key milestone in the region’s election observation training, as for the first time, a platform for the training of long term observers was provided. The revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Principles introduce the electoral cycle approach which involves the use of long term observation techniques by the SADC Electoral Observation Missions (SEOMs). The long term approach will enable SADC observers to have a more holistic approach for assessing pre-election, election and post-election periods of national elections held in SADC countries. It will also create opportunities for strengthening the link between election observation and conflict prevention, as among others, long term observers will integrate an early warning lens and conflict analysis approach in their work.
The training modules focused on the role of short and long term observers and covered a range of topics which included conflict analysis, assessing legal and constitutional frameworks; gender and electoral processes in the SADC region, report writing, and the use of information technology in election observation.
The training came at a very critical electoral period in the region as this year alone; four national elections will take place in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Swaziland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the course of 2019, six national elections will be held in Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius, and Malawi. Observers who participated in the training are expected to play an essential role in supporting the SEOMs that will be deployed to these Member States holding elections in 2018 and 2019.
Over forty participants drawn from varied backgrounds, including experts in gender, security, conflict resolution, political and electoral affairs, as well as members of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC), participated in the training. The SADC Secretariat’s Electoral Support Unit partnered with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) to facilitate the training. Sponsorship for the event was provided by the European Union (EU) delegation to Botswana and SADC, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).