The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) begun implementation of the “Improved Election Management Program” (IEMP) in Sri Lanka in September 2015, in partnership with the Election Commission (EC) of Sri Lanka to share international standards, principles and best practices. Key activities under the IEMP include:
- Conducting an Electoral Integrity Assessment to identify and assess vulnerabilities in Sri Lanka’s electoral system to fraud, malpractice and systematic manipulation, and providing recommendations for measures that various institutions and groups can take to mitigate these vulnerabilities;
- Organizing strategic planning workshops and providing technical assistance to support the EC’s development of a comprehensive strategic plan that strengthens its ability to operate as an independent manager of the electoral process and establishes electoral priorities in the lead up to national elections in 2020;
- Providing trainings to the EC and other electoral stakeholders to increase their knowledge of electoral administration, inclusion of women, persons with disabilities and other minorities in the electoral process, and development of a comprehensive voter education strategy; and
- Working with women’s and disability-rights advocates to develop recommendations for Sri Lanka’s Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms to promote inclusion of disadvantaged groups as part of the constitutional reform process.
Additionally, in October 2016, IFES launched its DFAT-funded “Promotion of Women’s Electoral Representation” (POWER) program, which aims to enhance women’s participation in local governance and address the persistent gender barriers that continue to inhibit women’s ability to contest for office. Working with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, IFES’ key POWER activities include:
- Implementing a nationwide public awareness campaign on the importance of including women as elected leaders as well as on key provisions in the new quota;
- Conducting gender sensitivity trainings to educate political party representatives about the provisions in the quota and promoting male party leaders’ role in championing women candidates;
- In partnership with the Institute of Local Governance, implementing a nationwide She Leads Sri Lanka program to engage a new cadre of women leaders;
- Organizing election-specific gender training for police to raise awareness about the differential security challenges that men and women face in voting in and contesting elections as well as journalists and media producers to encourage more balanced coverage of women as competitive candidates and effective decision makers; and
- Training observer groups to address violence against women in elections.
IFES’ past activities in Sri Lanka included supporting the Department of Elections to establish the Automated Electoral Rolls Systems in 2007, which digitized the manual voter registration process after a tsunami destroyed all the records in a district election office; equipping the minority population – including Tamils, religious minorities and internally displaced people – with the tools and knowledge to claim their democratic rights and exercise their responsibilities as citizens; and building the capacity of Muslim women’s organizations to promote Muslim women’s rights to engage as active, public participants in Sri Lanka’s democratic process.