Field Team, IFES Chief of Party
Beverly G. Hagerdon, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Sri Lanka Chief of Party, has 18 years of experience working in the election field, including in the following countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, the Maldives, Pakistan, Jordan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, South Africa and Indonesia. She has also served as IFES Chief of Party in the Maldives, the Philippines and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this Q&A, she discusses her most memorable moments working for IFES, positive trends in global democracy and IFES’ work to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality.
What are some of your most memorable moments working for IFES?
My most memorable moments working for IFES have happened during trips to the field. I recall driving around the entire country of Bosnia and Herzegovina to hold meetings with Municipal Election Commissions with my driver Ernes and interpreter Zvjezdana and seeing so many interesting places. Visiting some of the remote areas in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines, including Basilan and Tawi Tawi, were also memorable due to the natural beauty of the places and friendly people. Travelling by ferry and speed boat in the Maldives to reach various atolls to conduct focus group discussions and democracy workshops was also a unique experience.
At the end of the day, it is the memories you share with your local team and the lessons they have taught that carry you forward in your career. I have photos in my office in Sri Lanka of my IFES staff from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Philippines and the Maldives – and they all remind me of the impact IFES has had over the past 30 years, both on the programmatic as well as the individual level. I am deeply indebted to them.
With experience working in democracy and governance programming in several regions, what positive trends have you seen in democracy worldwide?
The application of technology to electoral processes has increased exponentially over the past two decades in which I have been involved in elections. Working with the Philippines Commission on Elections and closely witnessing their successful transition from a manual to an automated counting and results transmission system was an amazing experience. Lessons learned from the implementation of the Help America Vote Act in the United States helped to inform the design of the Philippine system, while lessons learned from the implementation of the Philippine system are helping to inform other election management bodies who are considering new technologies to resolve long-standing issues in their own electoral processes.
How does IFES work to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality?
I was fortunate to work on the Maldives Women and Youth program during its final year of implementation in 2015. Conducting a qualitative study on women and public life helped to inform a very successful public information campaign called “Vaane” (or “Can” in English). This experience clearly demonstrated to me the value of evidence-based programming as the positive, targeted messaging of this social media campaign resonated with Maldivians in the midst of an increasingly negative political environment. I’m very gratified to see how the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has picked up this campaign and carried it forward after the closing of the IFES Maldives office, demonstrating a sustainability that is not always easy to achieve in democracy and governance work.
What challenges do you foresee to promoting democratic and human rights in South and Southeast Asia in the years ahead?
Corruption, poor leadership, continued discrimination against minorities and the rise of religious extremism in this region pose some of the biggest threats to democratic and human rights in South and Southeast Asia.
As a global leader in democracy promotion, how can IFES help countries in the region address these challenges?
A more holistic approach to democracy promotion that includes a stronger collaboration with other donors and implementing partners working on anti-corruption, rule of law and educational programming is one way to help countries in the region address these challenges. Longer-term approaches are also needed, especially in areas of gender work as well as civic education. Focusing on the youth and providing more space for their voices to be heard in their respective countries must become a larger priority as well.