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The Carter Center Assists the African Union

Strengthening Election Observation Capacity
After working closely on building consensus on the now widely-endorsed Declaration of Principles and Code of Conduct for International Election Observation for several years, The Carter Center and the African Union formalized their cooperation with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on July 29, 2008.  This partnership has created new opportunities for The Carter Center to work more closely with the preeminent regional inter-governmental institution in Africa.

The Democracy Program has begun to work with the Democracy and Elections Assistance Unit within the African Union Commission to improve institutional capacity in the area of election observation.  To that end, The Carter Center partnered with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the Electoral Institute for Southern Africa, and the African Union to hold a pilot election observer training seminar.  The seminar was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sept. 17-18, 2009, with 40 representatives from election management bodies, member governments, political parties, and civil society in attendance.

Participants of the pilot observer training conference included representatives from election management bodies, African Union member governments, political parties, and civil society from across eastern Africa.

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Using training materials developed by The Carter Center and its partners, conference facilitators covered a wide range of topics useful to potential election observers, including the history of democracy and elections in Africa, the history of international election observers, an introduction to international obligations for democratic elections, an overview of the principles and codes guiding African Union observers and observer missions, and a discussion of election observation methodology.

Carter Center Associate Director of Democracy Program David Pottie facilitates a session on the history of election observation.

With the success of the pilot observer training seminar, The Carter Center, the African Union, and their partners have plans to replicate the event in other regions of the continent.  Improving the ability of the African Union to monitor elections on the continent is a crucial step in achieving the democracy and good governance goals set forth by the governing charters of the African Union and its member states.

March 1-3, 2010, the Center participated in the second regional training of African Union international election observers held in Dakar, Senegal.  Part of the Center's assistance to the AU, in partnership with IFES and EISA, this three-day training was designed to provide future AU observers with an opportunity to reflect on the democratic experience in Africa, to deepen their understanding of election observation practices, and to learn specific techniques of election observation.

Approximately 40 participants in this training came from across West Africa with backgrounds in political parties, election commissions, government, and civil society organizations.  The Center hopes to continue this partnership with the AU though future training exercises elsewhere on the continent.

In partnership with Rights & Democracy Canada, the Carter Center's Human Rights Program is implementing a program designed to give African human rights defenders and organizations greater access to officials in the African Union and a more prominent role in advancing the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG). Viewed widely as a continental charter that affirms the nexus between human rights, elections, democracy, and governance, the ACDEG represents a significant legal and political tool that African civil society can use to hold African Union member states accountable and advance progress on key human rights issues.

The December 2009 meeting convened by The Carter Center and Rights & Democracy brought together African Union officials, NGO leaders, and other prominent figures in Africa's human rights community.  The meeting's goal was to create a road map giving Africa's human rights community both greater access to officials in the African Union and a more prominent role in advancing the ratification of the ACDEG.

To integrate the human rights community into the African Union's current campaign to ratify the ACDEG, The Carter Center held an experts consultative meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Dec. 3-4, 2009. With growing recognition in the international community of the convergence of democracy and human rights, the overall goal of the meeting was to create a "road map" for increasing the participation of the African human rights community into the popularization and ratification efforts of the ACDEG. The meeting incorporated the opinions and ideas of AU officials, NGO leaders and other prominent figures in the human rights community in Africa.  These recommendations have laid the foundation for a South-South Learning Exchange conference, which will bring together leaders from South America with leaders their African counterparts to discuss lessons learned on continental charters and their human rights impacts.

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