Heads of institutions responsible for managing elections in ECOWAS Member States have agreed to set up the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, as a way of improving the integrity of elections in the sub-region, said an ECOWAS Commission statement.
Heads of institutions responsible for managing elections in ECOWAS Member States have agreed to set up the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, as a way of improving the integrity of elections in the sub-region.
The network will also ensure the promotion of transparent and credible elections, help to entrench a democratic culture and contribute to the emergence of independent and impartial electoral management bodies in Member States.
The decision to form the body was made at the end of a two-day meeting, in Conakry, Guinea, of the Heads of Electoral Management bodies in the sub-region.
The proposal for the creation of the network emanated from a joint workshop, held in September 2005 by ECOWAS and the Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG).
The mandate of the network also includes the promotion of public confidence in the electoral process through transparent and credible electoral procedures as well as the utilisation of electoral officials with integrity, probity and a strong sense of public service.
According to its eight-page statute, the network will also serve as a platform for cooperation in improving electoral laws and practices, the exchange of experiences and best practices as well as pooling and sharing electoral resources to ensure cost-effectiveness.
The operations of the network, which has three organs including a General Assembly and a Coordinating Committee, will be coordinated from a Secretariat located at the ECOWAS Electoral Unit.
The meeting also endorsed two documents, including the 34-page ECOWAS handbook on election observation that will serve as a guide for the proper assessment of genuine democratic elections in Member States.
The first section of the handbook places election observation within the mandate of ECOWAS while the other sections comprise practical guidelines for observation missions and sample observation forms.
Also approved by the meeting was the code of conduct to guide observers and ensure their conduct is consistent with internationally accepted norms, including their comportment in polling stations, elements to be assessed, their entitlements and media handling.
Both documents were prepared by electoral experts during a meeting held in Accra, Ghana, in October 2006.
About 60 participants, including academics, electoral experts and civil society representatives, attended the meeting, which was organised in collaboration with the European Union and the Open Society Initiatives for West Africa (OSIWA).