On 24 February 2021, ECES Co-Founder and Executive Director Fabio Bargiacchi took part in the 4th Expert Working Group (EWG) session held by International IDEA on ‘Design, reform and renewal: how to support locally-owned electoral change processes’.

EWG 4 was envisaged to discuss with relevant, international experts the importance of design that suits the context and processes that bring stakeholders onside in Electoral Assistance (EA).

As emerging from International IDEA’s Study on the matter, ‘Local Ownership’ and ‘Context Awareness’ are the two principles most highly valued for electoral assistance effectiveness. On the one hand, local ownership guarantees that elections really belong to the people of a country and that EA involves a broad array of actors in carrying forward what provided through aid. On the other hand, context-awareness is paramount when seeking to avoid that unfavorable dynamics on the ground undermine the long-term sustainability of successes achieved in the short-term.

ECES Co-Founder and Executive Director Fabio Bargiacchi contributed to the discussion with some key takeaways from our hands-on experience in Ethiopia through our projects  European Response to Electoral Cycle Support in Ethiopia (EURECS Ethiopia) and Prevention, mitigation and management of election-related conflicts and potential violence (PEV-Ethiopia).

He highlighted ECES’ capacity to build relationships and uphold local ownership in a notoriously difficult context of change of regime and democratic transition. In particular, he mentioned some crucial steps taken by international donors together with EA providers as well as local government and electoral management bodies (EMBs), stating that they have resulted in constructive synergies on the ground.

“Thanks to this dashboard for electoral support, we had the possibility to put down our collective contribution in order to envisage the best steps for Ethiopia, regardless of the different stakeholders, in order to get to a situation where elections are conflict-free, and results are accepted.”

He also pointed out other related issues ECES and other actors are dealing with, such as the issue of local vs international expertise and the matter of budgetary and human resources (HR) transparency.

Other relevant points popped up during the meeting in relation to participants’ experience in EA missions all over the world:

  • the issue of perception of local populations when dealing with electoral systems in specific contexts;
  • politicisation and the challenge to get political parties’ ownership on board;
  • striking the right balance between what society wants and political actors’ priorities;
  • the issue of bureaucratic-formal ownership vs substantive ownership;
  • divisions within EMBs;
  • the relevance of the cultural sensitivity aspect of our approaches.

This event was the last session of a series of four EWG each tackling a specific aspect of electoral processes: 
EWG #1 - Supporting Elections for the Long Haul: What works, where next? (Feb 15)
EWG #2 - The Political Dimension of Electoral Work. (Feb 19)
EWG #3 - Polling 2030: Investments needed now to support elections of the future. (Feb 22)
EWG #4 - Design, Reform and Renewal: How to support locally owned electoral change processes. (Feb 24) 

ECES is proud to have been involved in this process and shared its contribution at the service of the international community to the crucial debate on democracy support and electoral assistance!