Democratic Republic of Congo
The International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) has implemented various programs supporting free, fair and credible elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1991, when IFES deployed a pre-election assessment mission prior to observing the 1992 legislative and presidential elections. Following another pre-election assessment in 1995, in anticipation of the 1997 presidential elections, IFES launched its first formal project in country from 1998 to 2003, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under which IFES provided technical support in election administration as well as civic and voter education. Before the formal commencement of the peace process and after a request from Congolese civil society groups for a local civic education campaign, IFES developed the Campaign for Peace, Democracy and Development, a civic education program from 1999-2002. The centerpiece of the Campaign was an easily portable picture-box toolkit (boîte à images) that used locally-produced images to effectively communicate the concepts of peace, democracy and development to diverse audiences, including those that did not read or write.
Beginning in 2003, IFES was well positioned to support DRC’s democratic transition. IFES engaged civil society actors in the design of democratic institutions and supported participation of key actors during peace talks in South Africa. Furthermore, IFES supported two national workshops with Congolese civil society groups related to the creation of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and a High Authority for the Media, both subsequently established. Once the DRC Government of Transition passed the IEC Organic Law on June 5, 2004, bringing into formal existence the Independent Electoral Commission, IFES provided technical expertise to the new body to promote its political independence.
In 2007, IFES worked with civil society organizations in the DRC on an anti-corruption project which trained civil society groups and government institutions to investigate corruption, and provided forums in which citizens and politicians could discuss serious issues to improve transparency and expose public trust violations. From 2009-2011, IFES’ USAID-funded Voter Opinion and Involvement through Civic Education (VOICE) project aimed to help fulfill the Congolese government’s commitment to a process of decentralization, to reverse the country’s legacy of poor governance, corruption, and geographic inequality by bringing greater accountability and inclusion at the local level. Over the course of the DRC VOICE program, IFES issued a total of 370 small grants to 280 civil society organizations to carry out face-to-face civic education using the boîte à images, reaching over ten million citizens.
Since 2016, IFES and its partners from the Consortium for Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, have conducted a series of technical assessment missions on voter registration and election preparedness to support credible, transparent, and inclusive election processes in the DRC.
IFES’ key areas of work in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been:
- Civic and voter education
- Inclusion of traditional marginalized groups in electoral processes
- Anti-corruption and transparency
- Media messaging
- Supporting civil society
- Technical assessments