Electoral commissions from across the Pacific, plus Australia and New Zealand, are gathering in Fiji for three days to enhance awareness of international election observation principles and globally recognised standards for credible elections.
The senior electoral representatives will be supported by three regional electoral networks - the Commonwealth Electoral Network, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators (P.I.A.N.Z.E.A), and the Fijian Elections Office - as they seek to identify institutional, political and capacity constraints, to ensure elections in Pacific countries are on par with the international community.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo said: “The Commonwealth has significant expertise in assisting our member countries to achieve fair, impartial, and transparent elections. This regional meeting provides a forum to engage in peer exchanges, which will nurture attempts to find solutions for the most demanding electoral challenges facing countries today.
“Working hand in hand with election management bodies, and with national governments at their request, the Commonwealth Secretariat offers Pacific countries tools to achieve world class electoral standards”, she said.
Commonwealth election bodies facilitate impartial electoral processes and assist Pacific countries with severe logistical issues. The remoteness and topography of some small island states, coupled with capacity and resource constraints means that they have unique needs, which will benefit from cross-country collaboration and assistance.
Participants will be challenged into thinking critically about internationally-recognised electoral standards through an agenda of skills development and support for the Pacific Electoral Management Bodies.
Delegates will analyse lessons learned from past Commonwealth election observation missions and a particular emphasis will be to understand what actions were taken to follow up on the advice of observer group recommendations. Delegates will also explore methods used to improve womens’ participation in the electoral process.
Election officials will identify the specific needs of Pacific region election management bodies and this will inform future Commonwealth electoral training programmes.
In addition, the Commonwealth Secretariat is to brief Commonwealth Election Management Bodies on preparations for the 2016 Commonwealth Electoral Network Biennial Conference in June 2016. Outcomes agreed in Fiji will inform debates at the biennial meeting.
The Commonwealth Electoral Network makes recommendations to improve electoral procedures throughout its 53-member countries. This helps nations to achieve electoral reform, improving government credibility and inclusivity of their electoral processes.
P.I.A.N.Z.E.A is a close association of Pacific electoral administrators who, in the Pacific spirit, collectively encourage the free flow of electoral information among member countries and provide assistance where possible.
First Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission, Kevin Kitson, said: “The Australian Electoral Commission and the PIANZEA Secretariat supports strong collaboration between P.I.A.N.Z.E.A and the Commonwealth Electoral Network. We look forward to working closely together to strengthen electoral integrity and support election management capacity in our region.”
The Fijian Elections Office (F.E.O), the independent electoral management body based in Suva, Fiji, seeks to conduct free and fair elections in a professional, just and transparent framework.
Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, commented: “The Fijian Elections Office (F.E.O) welcomes this first collaboration between P.I.A.N.Z.E.A and the Commonwealth Electoral Network in setting up a platform for vibrant discussions on electoral integrity in the Pacific region.”
Simon Gimson, Director of Political Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat said, “Our Commonwealth goal is to raise the quality of elections, and we are doing that through our global network of national election management bodies. At this meeting, we are working in partnership with the Pacific’s own network – P.I.A.N.Z.E.A - and the Fiji Elections Office in particular to bring together senior representatives of electoral management bodies from across the region.
“By sharing Commonwealth and regional best practices and knowledge, we can improve the integrity of elections, ensuring that our Parliaments reflect the people they represent. Lessons learned from this Pacific meeting of electoral leaders and experts will be shared with our pan-Commonwealth network and add value at its biennial meeting in June”, he said.
The Commonwealth Secretariat supports the Commonwealth Electoral Network, which was created in 2010 to facilitate experience sharing, create peer support mechanisms and promote good practice in the field of election management.