An initiative to support Commonwealth countries to hold credible and inclusive elections has received an additional £900,000 from the Australian government.
This will be the third successive round of support Australia has provided to the Commonwealth Election Professionals (CEP) Initiative and its predecessor project, the Junior Election Professionals (JEP) Initiative.
The latest funding, amounting to £900,000, will ensure a seamless transition to the next stage of the initiative, Phase Three, which will run from January 2021 to June 2025.
The Commonwealth Secretariat launched the initiative through the Commonwealth Electoral Network in June 2013 with funds from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General welcomed Australia’s generous contribution and said: "We are delighted with Australia's continued and steadfast support in funding the third phase of the project, which provides opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and skills, peer support and the sharing of emerging good practice between election professionals and their election management bodies across the Commonwealth.
"This, the third round of funding from Australia, is more timely, critical and relevant than ever due to the current pandemic that continues to present and bring to the fore challenges to our democratic institutions. We thank them for making this much needed contribution which will help ensure Commonwealth member countries hold credible and inclusive elections”.
During the first two project phases - JEP and CEP II - training was given to around 220 election professionals from 45 Commonwealth Election Management Bodies (EMBs), and five further non-Commonwealth EMBs in the Pacific region. Participating election professionals explore key electoral issues such as voter registration, boundary delimitation or managing social media around elections.
Australian High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis stated that his government is pleased to continue its support to the Commonwealth Election Professionals and said: “Given the challenges facing the world, Australia believes it important to offer its support to a project that is fully committed to strengthening democratic values and institutions across the Commonwealth. We are looking forward to seeing the impact of the next phase of the project”.
This CEP Phase III will include measures such as holding virtual meetings to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on project implementation.
Since the pandemic, the CEP Initiative has demonstrated its continuing relevance and impact, pivoting from in-person training events to virtual meetings. It has identified a viable and cost-effective mechanism to provide virtual support to a community of 120 election officials from 50 Election Management Bodies.
Online events have enabled CEP alumni to re-connect, share experiences and emerging good practice in a safe and structured way.
Ninety per cent of participants have reported that the initiative increased their skills, knowledge and effectiveness as electoral administrators.
One of the beneficiaries of the initiative, Llofraun Thompson from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, said: “The Commonwealth Electoral Professional Programme has been beneficial in providing a platform across which electoral professionals may share best practices and innovations for improved electoral service. CEP-Americas, being part of an international cadre of electoral professionals, has enabled the formation of professional partnerships and linkages between regional and external practitioners, whose wealth of interaction has informed and guided the formulation of successful approaches toward electoral practice in its broader sense”.