LINKS used the opportunity provided by the special Human Dimension Meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to propose some practical recommendations for improving the work of the organisation in the field of elections and election monitoring. The meeting was convened by the Irish Chairmanship of the OSCE, together with its Office for Democractic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR has been implementing election monitoring in the OSCE region stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostock for more than two decades and its work is highly regarded. However in recent years it has come under increasing criticism from different quarters.
The OSCE Human Dimension Meetings are different from other OSCE events in that they are open to non governmental organisations from the 56 member states who join the diplomats representing their respective governments in discussions on the issues related to the human dimension of the OSCE remit. These issues relate primarily to human rights and basic freedoms, as well as democratic practises and accountability. However the meetings are now significantly more low key than they were in the 1990s when they lasted several days and preceded immediately the Heads of State summits. NGOs these days also do not have alloted time for their contributions, and need to squeeze in between representatives of 56 governments trying to voice their official positions. Regardless the Human Dimension Meetings remain useful forums, where civil society and governments can interact on fairly equal level.
LINKS Director addressed the meeting on the second day of the event. In his intervention Dennis Sammut praised the work of ODIHR.
“ODIHR has for more than twenty years done sterling work that has helped many countries in the OSCE region make a difficult transition from one party rule to pluralistic democracy. The process is not complete in the OSCE area, and some countries are more advanced than others. The work of ODIHR should therefore continue to be supported…… It is clear, both from the discussions held here yesterday and today, but also from looking at how the process has evolved over twenty years, it is time to rethink fully some aspects of how this is done in order to make it more appropriate for the reality of today. This needs to be done without compromising on either the principles that underpin election monitoring, or indeed the objectives…..”
LINKS proposed eight practical measures to improve the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring efforts:
- Accept the principle that the best election monitoring is that done by the citizens of the country where the election is being held but ONLY if pre conditions exist, such as independent judiciary, empowered NGOs, open and active media and respect for the rule of law. In other circumstances international monitoring remains crucial.
- Recognise that OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring in itself adds legitimacy to an election process. In the case of countries that have consistently ignored ODIHR recommendations, and violated OSCE norms on elections, the invitation to monitor elections should be refused.
- In case an invitation to monitor an election is accepted, ODIHR should be free to determine the size and nature of the mission.
- Explain more clearly the role of the ODIHR EOM to the public where the election is being held in order to manage expectations and avoid misperceptions.
- In the forthcoming elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia focus on the big picture rather than simply on process.
- ODIHR should stop participating in the “day after” press conferences that have become superficial events in highly charged environments and where the process is now dominated by the politicians from the delegations of the parliamentary assemblies.
- Do not attempt to issue a preliminary report the day after the election. Allow one week to pass in order to be able to digest the facts.
- Do not allow more than a month to pass before issuing the final report.
The intervention of LINKS at the Human Dimension Meeting is available here.
Photo: Ms Radmila Sekerinska, Former Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia making the key note speech at the OSCE Supplementary Human Diminsion Conference in Vienna on 12 July 2012. (Picture courtesy of the Press Service of the OSCE).