From November 15 to 17, 2023, representatives from GNDEM members Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana)/West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON, Civil Network Opora from Ukraine, and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) attended the annual Implementation Meeting of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation (DoP) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This year's meeting, hosted by the African Union (AU), focused on observer rights and protections, youth engagement in elections, observation in conflict environments, the electoral dimension of data protection and privacy, and effective public outreach and communications of international observation missions. GNDEM members spoke from the perspective and experiences of citizen election observers on three panels alongside international election observers, academics and other experts.
ANFREL participated on a panel on youth participation and representation in elections, in addition to representatives from the UN Electoral Assistance Division, African Union and Siasa Place, a youth engagement organization from Kenya. As young voters increasingly make up larger percentages of eligible voters in many regions of the world, civil society should be focusing on how to build meaningful inclusion of young people in peace and political processes and how to improve the underrepresentation of youth in government. The discussions touched on the barriers to participation of youth in elections and governance and how election observation provides an opportunity for youth involvement in democratic processes. The representative from ANFREL emphasized that citizen election observation, in particular, allows youth to more actively engage in elections and is often a meaningful experience for encouraging cross-generational democratic resilience.
CDD-Ghana participated in the session on “Challenges of Observers During Elections: How to Navigate a New Electoral Landscape,” which focused on declining freedoms of expression and other democratic norms that affect international and citizen observers. In particular, the panelists exchanged views on how observers can improve their coordination and collaboration in response to and in anticipation of attacks on both citizen and international observers, as well as the role of the DoP community in advocating for remedies to these attacks when they happen. Panelists also emphasized how the election observation community can build greater accountability to combat democratic erosion and impunity.
Notably, GNDEM organized and led a session at the DoP meeting on considerations for observation and observer security in conflict environments. Representatives from Ukraine’s Civil Network OPORA and ANFREL represented GNDEM on the panel and discussed the effect of violent conflict around elections and how they have planned for enhanced security for observers in these environments. In particular, they highlighted how citizen observers may face heightened security risks and, unlike international observers, have to plan for widespread recruitment and deployment of observers around “no-go” zones with limited resources. Both international and citizen observer representatives discussed in-depth how to better coordinate around elections in conflict environments, particularly to promote information sharing around security concerns, and avoid creating shortages or strains on security and logistical assets and resources.