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  1. Global Standards, Local Knowledge
  2. Engage with us
  3. Teach This Topic

Electoral assistance is based on the principle established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the will of the people, as expressed through periodic and genuine elections, shall be the basis of government authority. Electoral assistance also recognizes the principles of state sovereignty and national ownership of elections, and that there is no single model of democracy.

Global Standards, Local Knowledge

The main goal of United Nations electoral assistance is to support Member States in holding periodic, inclusive and transparent elections that are credible and popularly perceived as such and establishing nationally sustainable electoral processes. The provision of electoral assistance by the United Nations is a team effort involving a number of programmes, funds, agencies and departments under the mandate provided by the General Assembly.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs is designated by the Secretary-General as the UN Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Activities, with a leadership role in ensuring system-wide coherence and consistency and in strengthening the institutional memory and the development, dissemination and issuance of United Nations electoral assistance policies.

This includes undertaking electoral needs assessments, recommending parameters for all United Nations electoral assistance, advising on the design of projects, developing electoral policy, maintaining institutional memory, and providing technical guidance and support in the implementation of electoral projects. In peacekeeping or post-conflict environments, electoral assistance is generally provided through components of field missions under the aegis of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations DPKO or the DPA.

Military and police components of peacekeeping missions support national law enforcement agencies in providing security for electoral processes. UNDP provides electoral assistance to develop sustainable electoral management capacities, to foster inclusive participation in elections, particularly of women and youth and other underrepresented groups, and to coordinate donor support to electoral processes.

This includes seven countries where special political missions are deployed, and eight where peacekeeping missions are deployed. United Nations electoral assistance has been a crucial and successful component in peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and in establishing and deepening democratic governance. As democracy has spread, so has the role of elections as the means to establish legitimate government. The United Nations has been engaged in elections in all regions of the world, with assistance provided recently in the Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, Jordan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Iraq, to name just a few.

In Tunisia for example, the UN supported civil society in the October National Constituent Assembly elections and continues to provide technical assistance to the national authorities. In , the United Nations provided technical and logistical support to Malian authorities in the conduct of Presidential elections. In addition, the United Nations is currently in the the process of supporting electoral reform in Afghanistan.

Other partners are the many international non-governmental organizations working in the field of electoral assistance. These relationships provide opportunities for collaboration on electoral support activities as well as for sharing lessons and experiences. It is recognized that addressing the capacity of an electoral management body in isolation will not necessarily produce credible elections. There also needs to be a focus on the overall political environment in which the elections take place.

Engage with us

The United Nations therefore also makes efforts to build capacity outside the electoral authorities. This involves working with voters, the media, political parties and civil society, as well as other actors and institutions of democratic governance such as parliament and the judiciary. This is the basis for regular training for field and headquarters based staff. However, for civil society activists and organizations in a range of countries covering every continent, space is shrinking — or even closing. Governments have adopted restrictions that limit the ability of NGOs to work or to receive funding.

As the Secretary-General has said, the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society -- in which Government and civil society work together for common goals for a better future, and at the same time, civil society helps keep Government accountable. Since Secretary-General Kofi A. These have ranged from supporting civil society efforts for accountability and transparency to building capacity for strengthening good governance and the rule of law.

The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations in countries in both the transition and consolidation phases of democratisation. In this way, UNDEF plays a new, distinct and unique role, complementing and enhancing the UN's traditional work with Governments to strengthen democratic governance around the world.

It targets the demand side of democracy, rather than the supply side.

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This reflects the fact that today, one person out of five is between the ages of 15 and Young people have increasing powers to network, connecting on issues that matter — from injustice, discrimination and climate change to human rights and the need for human solidarity. The emphasis also reflects that was a turning point for the United Nations, as the international community agreed on new sustainable development goals and a new universal and meaningful climate agreement — commitments that those who are young today will have to live with and carry forward.

Grants average around USD, and applications are subject to a highly rigorous and competitive selection process.

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The Fund depends entirely on voluntary contributions from Member States. So far, it has been supported by over 40 Governments, who have contributed a cumulative amount of more than million dollars. The biggest donors are the United States and India. UNDEF is committed to transparency and knowledge sharing. In Ukraine, an UNDEF-funded project works to increase the transparency and accountability of local self-governance by introducing parliamentary procedures in the daily work of selected local Councils in all regions of the country, including the East.

Under the project, representatives of 24 local authorities, one for each region of Ukraine, attend a School of Democratic Rules and Procedures. Participants work for the adoption of amendments to the regulations of the relevant local authorities to introduce parliamentary procedures and democratic rules - enabling Councils to broadcast their sessions on the Internet.

By bringing together representatives from all the regions of Ukraine, the School of Democratic Rules and Procedures also advances the concept of holding organized inclusive and peaceful political debate. The project is implemented by West Ukrainian Resource Centre. It is doing so by providing them with basic legal identity documents, prerequisites for democratic participation which many of them have lacked in the past; strengthening their knowledge and capacity to participate in democratic processes and exercise their rights; and improving access to basic legal documents and rights for all, through evidence-based advocacy aimed at institutional change.

Implemented by Fundacion Microjusticia Bolivia MJB , the project is also setting up a network of rural facilitators to act as focal points for establishing outlets for legal advice, and run legal campaigns on how to obtain the necessary documentation. Also importantly, the project encourages debate between traditional leaders and government officials by organising networking meetings and a forum.

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an UNDEF-funded project works to uphold economic, social and cultural rights of local communities and traditional miners in relation to the exploitation of mineral resources. The project conducts advocacy for legal reform; dissemination and explanation of legal texts; awareness-raising on rights and obligations among community leaders, judiciary, mine administration officials; support for rights violation victims; organizing of traditional mine diggers; and monitoring of human rights related to the exploitation of natural resources.

Democracy needs women in order to be truly democratic, and women need democracy if they are to change the systems and laws that preclude them, and preclude them, and preclude societies as a whole, from attaining equality. Despite these normative advances, and as universal as these goals are, they nevertheless remain elusive for many women.

International IDEA

Progress has been too slow in increasing numbers of women in representative. In , just 22 per cent of national parliamentarians were women, a slow increase from Just 17 per cent of government ministers were women, and many of these hold social policy portfolios such as education and the family. Women are also poorly represented in local decision-making bodies, whether as mayors or local council members. In post-conflict settings the lack of access for women to democratic institutions and democratic process is most evident. Security Council resolution calls on Member States to increase the representation of women at all decision making levels.

Ensure voter registration processes enable women to exercise their democratic right. Consider implementing measures to address the factors violence against women, gender-biased media reporting, non-transparent political party practices, lack of campaign financing preventing women from participating in politics by working with Electoral Management Bodies and political parties. Women share priorities that cut across any differences they may have — these shared priorities may be about their right to hold office or their access to improved health care and child care.

It is important for women to coordinate, create coalitions, work together and ensure common messages during times of change. Support skills and capacity development for both candidates and elected leaders.

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This support involves both training in terms of skills parliamentary debate and language, advocacy as well as content skills on gender mainstreaming, international gender equality commitments and strategies that can be of use. UN Women played a convening role for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Assembly and the United Nations system to support gender and human rights mainstreaming within the legal reform.

The mission results included the submission of gender equality constitutional provisions related to the rights of women and children; parity in representation in national and local assemblies; development of an agreed road map with partners; and strengthened capacities of media representatives on gender-responsive media coverage.

The network provides advice and mentorship to newly elected women and candidates in preparation for the elections. UN Women played a convening role and provided local expertise to support the review and harmonization with CEDAW of draft laws being debated in the Parliament i. The task force drafted a proposed law on democratic parity.


UN Women is bringing this political dialogue to the municipal level and will support training for women candidates prior to municipal elections. This resulted in increased support for gender equality demands in the constitution review process. From April , over women assembled in Dodoma, the seat of the Constituent Assembly, to demand the adoption of the 12 gender issues achieved in the second draft constitution.

One of the results from the Open Days was the global call for increased political empowerment for women and engagement at all levels of decision-making. Today, the UN is banking on a different constituency to advance its mission on nearly every front: young people. In our time, young people hold the key to almost all the challenges facing the UN: from fighting extremism to resolving frozen conflicts and preventing new ones; from giving effect to sustainable development goals to implementing a new universal and meaningful climate agreement; from advancing and defending human rights to ensuring inclusive and participatory governance.

This youth generation is the largest the world has ever known. More than half the global population is under 25 years old. They have opportunities and skills for communicating, acting, networking and influencing that would have been unimaginable to the founders of the UN seven decades ago.