By Paul Ejime
The ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) has held its second governing board meeting in Abuja presided over by its President Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to agree on the accelerated implementation of the body’s activities and action plan, ahead of a three-day International Conference opening on Monday, on the Opportunities and Challenges in the use of Technology in Elections.
At the meeting on Saturday, the five-member board also discussed funding for the Network set up in 2008 to promote credible elections in the sub-region, and also recommended more Needs Assessment and Follow-up Missions to ECONEC members which have held or are planning elections.
Prof. Yakubu, Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), has led ECONEC delegations on Needs Assessment and Solidarity Missions to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, since he assumed the ECONEC board leadership in March 2017.
The Missions have been followed by advocacy for support to ECONEC members, which resulted in IT support to the National Elections Commission of Liberia during that country’s recent elections and a recent donation of logistics items by the Nigerian government to NEC Sierra Leone.
Also, members of the ECOWAS Election Observation Missions to the elections in Liberia and Sierra Leone included ECONEC secretariat staff.
The Board also approved that an ECONEC Extra-ordinary General Assembly should be held before the end of the Abuja International Conference.
The International Conference of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) from more than 30 countries from ECONEC; Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADSC), and the Electoral Commissions of Tanzania and Kenya, is jointly organised by INEC, ECONEC and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), with financial support from the European Union.
Experiences from Western and Southern Africa on whether technology is an enabler or a barrier to electoral trust or integrity will be shared at the conference, which will feature 11 thematic sessions including an Overview of recent trends, Lessons Learnt, Issues and Challenges; Civil/Voter Registration; Voting, Result Collation and Transmission; Access to Information and Training/Capacity Building; and Public Outreach, Enlightenment and Election Observation.
Others are Promoting Inclusivity in the Electoral Process (Women, Youth, People with Disability (PWD), Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and the Diaspora); Constitutional and Legal Frameworks in ECONEC and ECF-SADC Region; Cost of Elections: Experiences from ECONEC and ECF SADC; The Future of Electoral Technology and The Cost, Impact, Sustainability and Ownership of Technology.
The Report of a Study Commissioned by ECONEC on the Cost of Elections will also be presented to the Conference, which will also witness the launch of a book on “A decade of electoral assistance in West Africa, 2006-2016,” published by the Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.