EC-SL, Partners Meet on Election Risk Management

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Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (EC-SL) in partnership with the International Institution for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) with support from the European Union (EU) and GIZ has held 3-day (19-21 September) training on Election Risk Management in Sierra Leone.

Objectively, the training is held to set up a risk management tool mechanism for the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone.

ECSL staff, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), the Office of National Security (ONS) and officials of the International IDEA and the Electoral Commission of Botswana are participants

Abubakarr M. Koroma, Commissioner EC-SL North, who chaired the opening session of the program, said the purpose of that training is to indicate risk management issues, defining risk as a chance of something that happens that has negative effects. He said risk in electoral process offers the potential to heighten negative impacts.

So he said electoral risks all over the world are inevitable and not inherent in the actual process; they can be internal and external depending on the imbalance. He said election is not an event but a process involving key activities including voter registration, nomination and campaigns.

He said the ECSL with the assistance of International IDEA is taking steps viz a viz, capacity to manage risks to ensure that the forthcoming presidential parliamentary and local councils elections are held fairly and freely.

He said they aim at building out an electoral risk management developments to identify risks and explore ways of mitigating it and open event  for such risks before during and after the conduct of elections. Therefore he concluded that the training will raise awareness on equalities and about effective collaboration among EC-SL, stakeholders and organisations.

Mohamed K. Konneh, Chairperson of EC-SL started his statement by advancing appreciation to International IDEA for their wisdom and efforts they have put together into realisation of projects and risk management.

On challenges, Konneh said they could relate to legal, operational, technical, political, security and other aspects of electoral processes, adding that recurrent of voter registration exercise is apt in the context of risk management, especially relating to security, technical and technical challenges. 

He said the Commission is grateful that they are there that day to add value to their electoral processes. He said the training objectives that are set have been met as they relate to enhance participation, understanding of the electoral risk analysis, mitigation methods and to support documents designed to enhance understanding of the electoral and structural risk factors, as well as possible actions that can be taken to prevent and mitigate election related issues.

He said it is their responsibility to get it right and at the end they all will be proud of contributions towards a national development. He concluded by being appreciative to international partners and said they all have gotten democratic projects in the country. So he looked forward to more positive collaborations with all partners and stakeholders.

Serena Bertaina, Team Lead, Governance and Relations with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), EU Delegation – Sierra Leone, said the launch of electoral risk management tool is another important step towards strengthening electoral processes for maximum performance. Bertaina said as a co-founder of risk management hub, they are pleased to be able to contribute to the strategic priorities of EC-SL as set for the electoral cycle.

She said national ownership is a fundamental prerequisite even more so when it comes to matters pertaining to lead operations, peace and security, saying that we are not discussing electoral risk management plans in a vacuum, for they have the opportunity to reaffirm their shared ambitions to create the condition for further deepening of Sierra Leone’s  democratic convention, to achieve flawless electoral process, to promote stability and therefore the set foundation for people cantered developments.

She said challenges are many and they relate to operations, finance, political security and many more. Among these she mentioned are risks that may impair the effective participation of women, young people, first time voters and the risks related to violence, conflict and trust in the electoral process.

She said however the strategic framework will only be achieved as much as they can be coordinated and implemented by all stakeholders together, and it success required trust and action by all elected stakeholders, not just about delivering a strong strategic framework, but ultimately  about all parties working collaboratively and effectively towards promoting inclusive and peaceful election.

Olufunto Akinduro, Regional Thematic Lead on Elections at International IDEA, Addis Ababa, said the goal of them at International IDEA is to promote democracy as a human aspiration across the world, through three thematic areas: electoral processes, constitutional building processes and political participation and inclusion.

She said they have developed their institutional strategy and looking more into issues of digitalisation in terms of use of technology and democracy and on climate change, which they think are quite critical.

She said it has been an interesting journey for them to come to that point wherein they are now launching the electoral risk management hub in Sierra Leone. So she noted that they are very pleased that EC-SL has chosen to set up a procedure, the process for anticipating, identifying and addressing emerging risks in the electoral process.

She also noted that the inability to address such risks is where they have seen the end results getting towards either violence or inevitable postponement of elections or rejection of results.

So she said they are keen to work with EC-SL to ensure that the 2023 elections is efficiently held and has the capacity to identify and recognise risks and to identify relevant partners that can work with them.

She further noted that the most important part of the process is actually the inter agency cooperation, because elections do not happen in a vacuum and the Commission cannot do it all by themselves. So she said that is the essence of bringing different partners together to support the EC-SL in the process.

Patrick Johnson, German Embassy representative, said risk is no less for electoral processes, all over the world are fraught with diverse risks, but especially now (approaching elections) complexities are currently surrendered certainly and much is at stake at this crucial point.

He noted that Sierra Leone has been on a good way to be regarded as a stable emergent democracy and free, fair, peaceful and inclusive electoral process would indeed further determine his claim.