On the heels of a contentious election in the United States and an ongoing debate over the validity of mail-in voting, the likelihood of voter fraud amidst the pandemic, and concerns over civil unrest, many comparisions are being made to elections in developing countries, where these concerns are all too familiar. Many of these issues revolve around a real or perceived lack of transparency from local governments and concerns around who is best positioned to benefit from systematic election irregularities. The international development community serves an important role in ensuring the legitimacy of elections worldwide; third party observers and Election Observation Missions are one way to protect and uphold free and fair elections and the virtues of democracy. But what exactly are Electoral Observation Missions?
In short, Electoral Observation Missions (EOMs) aim to strengthen democratization, good governance, and conflict prevention through independent monitoring and oversight of elections. More specifically, electoral observation missions contribute to the reduction of the possibility of fraud and manipulation attempts that could undermine an electoral process; the improvement of the legal framework and conduct of future elections, as well as public confidence in institutions; and informing the appropriate parties on the conduct of elections.
With decades of experience overseeing and implementing governance projects, DT Global is one of four services providers selected by the Foreign Policy Instrument of the European Union (the FPI) under the Framework Contract for Electoral Observation Missions. Under this framework contract, DT Global bids to work with EU Observation Missions and support electoral processes worldwide.
Over the last four years, DT Global has been selected to oversee EOM projects in Honduras, Angola, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Peru. When undertaking the EOMs, DT Global’s team of experts help to support the EU in the selected partner country with logistics, security, and financial issues. To ensure fair and unimpeachable elections, DT Global’s experts help support deployments of EU observers and enable them to travel the country in partnership with the electoral and political authorities, ensuring with their presence that all citizens are able to vote freely and have their voices heard.
In order to enable the EU EOMs to operate safely in such complex environments, the execution of the administrative, logistical, security, and financial arrangements of the missions must be conducted in a timely, cost-effective, and high quality manner. DT Globals role includes the opening and closing down of EU EOM operations; the engagement of EU EOM members and Service Provider's staff; procurement of equipment and services; the implementation of accounting and petty cash systems; arranging efficient communication systems, and; capacity building for local election staff and government officials.
It is also DT Global’s responsibility to guarantee the security and safety of EU EOM participants. All EU political analysts, consultants, observers, national staff, and special delegations from the European Parliament must be able to perform their duties and draft their reports with safety. These representatives are key to monitoring free and fair elections, and ensuring their safety is paramount to their ability to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Overseeing elections is a difficult process. Activities must be completed within a very short time frame, with the missions starting and concluding in less than 3 months, requiring the deployment of over 100 election monitors throughout a country in just a few short weeks. COVID 19 has presented a unique set of global challenges to democracy and election observation in particular.
To keep the pandemic under control, governments from every corner of the globe recently enacted and enforced emergency measures to impose lockdowns, as well as travel restrictions worldwide. These new policies were executed in real time as our team was working to close out the EOM following the recent elections in Peru, while simultaneously dealing with the fallout and additional safety concerns associated with a quickly emerging global pandemic. DT Global acted quickly, repatriating several team members to their countries of origin and e-organizing the completion of the Return Visit (where the Final Report is presented to the local authorities and press, and EOM materials and equipment are donated to local institutions), using virtual and online tools to bring the mission to a safe conclusion.
It is expected that COVID 19 will continue to affect EOMs for the foreseeable future, and DT Global’s Framework Contract Unit (where our election monitoring work is based) is taking our lessons learned and developing a specific methodology to monitor COVID 19 threats in EOM countries in real time. Our unique methodology – based on our decades of experience with global elections coupled with lessons learned over the past eight months of living alongside the pandemic – will allow for greater flexibility in terms of contracting arrangements and accelerate deployment in cases of shortened deployment timelines.
EU Electoral Observation Missions are, and will continue to be, a challenging, rewarding project for DT Global and we look forward to working closely with the EU and other clients to share our lessons learned and recommendations for other partners working to ensure that all citizens are able to safely and freely vote – even amidst a global pandemic.