The ability for people to participate in elections free from the fear of harm is essential to inclusive, credible elections, and protected by the right to human security and universal suffrage. When conducted well, elections are a mechanism for peaceful resolution of the fundamental dispute over who should govern. However, sitting at this important nexus of power and influence, the electoral process also contains trigger points that can spark violence. Violence undermines the right of all stakeholders (including voters, political actors, electoral officials, elected officials, security actors, and media) to participate freely in elections, and can discredit the entire electoral process and outcome. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) takes a human-centered, rights-based approach to election security, conflict resolution, mitigation, and prevention. Rooted in international instruments and standards, which protect the right of all people to participate in the electoral process in a peaceful and safe environment and aligned with IFES' mission to support citizens' rights to participate in free and fair elections, this holistic approach covers all phases and activities of the electoral process.
IFES defines electoral violence as any harm or threat of harm to any person or property involved in the election process, or the process itself, during the election period. Over the last three decades, IFES has developed a number of electoral security tools to monitor, map, and assess violence and risks of violence; build the capacity of diverse electoral actors to mitigate violence; reduce tensions; and maximize conditions for peaceful elections. IFES’ election conflict and security programming takes into account the unique needs of the more vulnerable groups such as women and marginalized communities, and this conflict sensitive approach to election support extends across all IFES programming. Using these tools, IFES has developed context-specific electoral assistance strategies to enable hundreds of election management bodies, civil society organizations, political parties, community leaders and security agencies to better manage the risk presented by electoral violence. Specific IFES tools and approaches to address electoral security include:
- Electoral Violence Education and Resolution (EVER), deployed to reduce election violence through monitoring and reporting;
- People Against Violence in Elections (PAVE), a series of trainings designed to help participants identify root causes of electoral violence, develop skills to foster dialogue and cooperation on nonpartisan projects between opposing groups and diffuse tension where possible, promote social harmony and a nonviolent political culture, become “peace ambassadors” who prevent, detect, deter and/or mitigate electoral violence;
- PAVE Youth, an off-shoot of the PAVE program targeting youth as voters, civic/voter educators, and peace ambassadors;
- Violence Against Women in Election Framework (VAWIE) framework, which helps electoral stakeholders address violence against women throughout the electoral cycle using a full set of mutually reinforcing tools; and
- Enabling a Peaceful Environment to Administer Credible Elections (E-PEACE), an electoral security trainings for election officials and law enforcement officers, encouraging collaboration and shared responsibility for electoral security between all stakeholders and upholding human-rights principles in electoral security; this includes a how-to-establish a Joint Electoral Security Operations Center module.