By Paul Ejime
The ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) is taking steps to encourage reduction of the cost of elections, and professional reporting of electoral processes through regional media training to improve the coverage of elections with integrity in the region.
“Elections are not only very expensive to run, but have also become a source of avoidable political conflicts in our region, so ECONEC is taking steps to address these challenges in a proactive manner,” said Prof Mahmood Yakubu, President of ECONEC governing board and Chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Nigeria.
He spoke while presiding over a meeting of ECONEC Secretariat staff in Abuja recently, which was also attended by other senior INEC officials.
The ECONEC strategy, discussed during the meeting, includes a planned launch of a Study on the Cost of Elections in West Africa. The findings would be used to sensitise and mobilise stakeholders on the need to scale down the spiralling cost of election administration; encourage pooling of resources by Election Management Bodies (EMBs), and strengthening transparency and prudent use of available resources.
ECONEC also plans a series of regional training workshops for the media to build a critical mass of journalists equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills for reporting elections according to internationally accepted standards. This is with a view to establishing guidelines for reporting elections to maximize the contributions of the media to democracy; eliminating hate speech and violence-inciting reporting, which are major triggers of conflict in the region.
The Abuja meeting also reviewed ECONEC’s activities in the out-going year, which included the establishment of the Network’s permanent Secretariat in Nigeria, with the support of INEC, and Needs Assessment and Solidarity missions to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, among others.
The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Liberia for the country’s first round presidential and legislative elections on 10th October included officials from the ECONEC secretariat, while Prof. Yakubu led the INEC observation team to that country. The presidential run-off is now scheduled for 26 December.
In the coming year, ECONEC plans more Needs Assessment and Solidarity missions to other member countries planning elections, and follow-up missions for the implementation of ECOWAS Election Observation missions’ reports/recommendations.
These activities are consistent with ECONEC’s mandate of providing support and advocate for its members, promotion of credible elections and good governance, and the encouragement of gradual harmonisation of electoral laws and best practices through experience-sharing, and peer-learning of good practices in electoral matters in the region.