Free, fair and credible elections in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) remain a prerequisite to democratisation, members of the SADC Electoral Support Network (SADC-ESN) have reaffirmed.
The group, represented in all 15 SADC countries, has also agreed on the need to strengthen the capacity of regional and domestic observer groups so that they are able to effectively respond to challenges bedevilling electoral processes in the region.
“There can be no democratisation without credible elections being consistently used as a non-negotiable benchmark,” said Rindai Chipfunde Vava, whose organisation, the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) hosts the SADC-ESN.
She added: “Our aim is to insist on elections that adhere to local, regional and international instruments and best practice. To do this, however, we are aware that we need to have in place vibrant domestic and regional observer groups whose institutional and technical capacities are of benefit to the regional democratisation agenda.”
Over two days, SADC-ESN members have reviewed the state of domestic observation in the region, outlining internal and external challenges that need to be addressed and identifying opportunities which exist for the network.
SADC-ESN Chairperson, Steve Duwa, said the decision to focus on domestic observer groups which make up the network was borne out of the realisation that electoral observation in the region was increasingly becoming a contested terrain, posing significant threats to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
“The dynamic nature of elections, as well as their commonalities from country to country require that we as observer groups constantly review ourselves so as to keep abreast with the ever-changing trends,” he said, stressing the need for continuous sharing of collective experiences, information and best practice across the region in order to improve the capacities of domestic observer groups.
He added: “It is important that we work together and share strategies on how best to remain relevant and up top date so as to continue adding value to the democratisation of our individual countries and the region as whole.”
Siphosami Malunga, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), which supported the SADC-ESN meeting said it remained relevant for democratic actors such as regional and domestic to continuously question the democratisation process in their countries.
“We need to ask where we are in terms of democratisation. Without such knowledge, many of our efforts, such as those towards elections observation, will be futile,” he said.
Issued by: SADC Electoral Support Network
The SADC Electoral Support Network seeks to coordinate the efforts of election observation by domestic observer groups in the SADC region.ShareThis