On November 5 and 6, 2019, representatives from GNDEM members convened in Brussels, Belgium for the Seventh Implementation Meeting of the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations (DoGP). This year, the European Commission Director-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) co-hosted the meeting alongside GNDEM. All regional network members attended this year’s meeting, representing 13 countries.
This year’s meeting focused on challenges observers face - including closing political space in some parts of the world, ways to improve credible observation, and tactics for building effective global advocacy and solidarity amongst GNDEM members. In the wake of the recent deaths of two election observers in Mozambique and Afghanistan, respectively, and increasing challenges to observation, participants discussed GNDEM’s approach for responding to threats directed at observers. The group recognized the importance of publishing solidarity statements and also brainstormed about complementary actions that could be taken to provide more concrete protections to observers operating in insecure political environments. The GNDEM Coordinating Committee also discussed possibilities for building a stronger global advocacy network, and invited Crisis Action to share lessons learned and best practices from their experience in forming coalitions for advocacy.
With this year’s meeting taking place in Brussels, participants had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS), DEVCO, and Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR). These meetings were a great opportunity to share GNDEM, members’ work, and the Declaration of Global Principles with a broader audience. GNDEM representatives found this a useful experience to build relationships and engage with international organizations active in the international election observation space that could provide future support to citizen observation.
To close out the meeting, Patrick Costello from the EEAS, Thomas Millar from DEVCO, Pat Merloe from NDI, and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nacho Sánchez Amor of the EU Parliament presented on a panel at the European Parliament on the importance of citizen election observation in promoting electoral integrity. In his opening remarks, MEP Sánchez Amor remarked that the work of citizen election observers is crucial for establishing credibility of observation missions, as they are able to observe the process before and after election day. As Thomas Millar discussed, citizen observers have a strong understanding of pre-election environments and can respond quickly incidents when they arise. Thus, forming strong partnerships between domestic election observation groups and international observers can strengthen the credibility and integrity of election observation work around the world. Patrick Costello acknowledged that GNDEM is crucial to this development of strong partnerships between international and citizen election observers as the DoGP allows international institutions like the EU to distinguish the organizations that conduct credible observation. Additionally, Pat Merloe spoke to the fact that GNDEM is an ideal space for empowering citizen observers to advance methodologies and share resources to improve electoral integrity.