Election Management Bodies Conference in Georgia Focuses on Electoral Integrity
From February 17-18, 2016, the Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) and the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies hosted the sixth Annual Meeting of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) at Lopota Lake in Kakheti, Georgia, with organizational support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The event focused on the critical theme of “Electoral Integrity” and brought together Chairpersons, members and staff of over two dozen EMBs, and intergovernmental and international organizations from across the globe. The conference provided an opportunity for elections professionals and experts from different backgrounds and electoral contexts to discuss their own experiences and best practices for the deterrence and mitigation of election fraud, malpractice and systematic manipulation.
In his opening remarks, IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney noted IFES’ nearly 30 years of experience strengthening the effectiveness of EMBs, including the integrity of electoral processes. He also remarked on the substantial efforts by the Georgian CEC in “developing and demonstrating the mechanisms for assuring an inclusive, transparent electoral cycle.”
IFES plays a key technical and advisory role in the CEC’s ongoing work in the area of electoral integrity through its project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Through expert assistance and using the IFES-developed conceptual framework distinguishing between manipulation, fraud, and malpractice, the CEC developed an Election Integrity Management Plan (EIMP), currently in the final stages of refinement. CEC Chair Tamar Zhvania described this process and IFES’ role, saying, “The integrity plan is being elaborated with the utmost support of IFES … I believe that the activities in support of election integrity make an EMB stronger.”
The process began with IFES conducting an Electoral Integrity Assessment (EIA) in Georgia in 2014, which looked at 16 key categories of electoral cycle processes. The in-depth report provided a foundation for the development of the CEC’s EIMP, including risk mitigation strategies and other tools to provide a comprehensive view of the entire election cycle and approaches to address pressure points. Senior IFES Consultant Catherine Barnes presented on the EIA methodology at the conference, noting the openness and commitment displayed by the Georgia CEC – from the initial IFES assessment to the finalization of the EIMP – were critical to the process. The IFES EIA methodology has also been applied in other country contexts and electoral environments, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Sri Lanka.