Voters at a polling station in Tanzania on October 25, 2015. Credit: Monika Emch
Democratic elections are a fundamental way to peacefully resolve political competition. However, they are also high-stakes games where power is won and lost that can result in conflict and descend into violence. Although such violence affects all citizens, it has a particularly sinister impact on women. Since January alone, the world has seen politically active women stripped publically by police on their way to political and election events, decapitated and stabbed. Their vehicles have been damaged and their campaign materials destroyed. They are denigrated as “eye candy” and accused of having made sex tapes. Election officials and observers have faced violence in their work, and women voters are dismissed by the very parties seeking their votes with sexist language and jokes, or are banned from voting at all.
This year, at its annual Democracy Award Dinner to be held on Tuesday, November 10, in Washington, D.C., NDI will honor Tunisia’s democratic transition through the lense of four Tunisians who represent its government, parliament and civil society. The Democracy Award, NDI’s highest honor, is presented annually to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to democracy and human rights.
Tunisians Yassine Brahim, Rafik Halouani, Wafa Makhlouf and Sayida Ounissi have been, among others, at the forefront of efforts to advance the democratic transition in their country, reflecting a new generation of democratic leaders. It is leaders from civil society, political parties and government, like those honored with this year’s Democracy Award, who are turning the promise of the Tunisian revolution into real improvement in the daily lives of citizens and make democracy succeed.
Plenary session of the LGBTI Political Leaders Conference.
“After Tegucigalpa, we will be a social movement,” declared Wilson Castañeda, the director LGBTI rights organization Caribe Afirmativo at the opening of the second annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Political Leaders Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean. The gathering, held in the Honduran capital on October 2 and 3, brought together more than 300 LGBTI political leaders, activists and allies from across the region. Over two days of panels and workshops, participants discussed progress, challenges and best practices for increasing LGBTI communities’ political participation.
Every two years, the country chair of the Open Government Partnership hosts the OGP Global Summit, the largest gathering of open government practitioners from all over the world.
NDI will be joining leaders from NGOs, the private sector, academia, government, civil society, technologists, and other advocates at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit. The three-day conference, which will be held this week in Mexico City, will convene sessions on a variety of topics, including creating and implementing action plans, engagement with the legislative branch, civil society and parliamentary partnerships, standards and frameworks for parliamentary transparency, Latin America regional updates and efforts on openness, and open election data principles.
Acción Ciudadana prepares observer kits and other materials for the second round quick count on October 25 in Guatemala. Credit: Acción Ciudadana
Today, 10 countries will hold elections around the world. From local contests to national races, runoff elections to constitutional referendums, no other day this year will have more elections. Civil society, primarily through nonpartisan citizen observers, has been actively monitoring these elections, helping to mitigate violence, deter fraud, impartially assess the processes and, when warranted, enhance public confidence. NDI is helping to build the capacity of citizen election observers in five of the 10 countries with elections on October 25:
Website design blueprint for redesigned NDItech blog.
On the NDItech team, one of our goals is to share what we learn and highlight the accomplishments of our partners. Our blog -- NDItech.org -- is our primary platform to accomplish that, but it is also a testing ground for improving the accessibility of online platforms across the Institute.
Citizen election observer explains data collection methods to NDI staff in Monrovia, Liberia.
Each week, NDI’s Citizen Participation team provides a resource to assist NDI staff in meeting the objectives of their programs. This past month’s resources discussed how to encourage greater electoral participation in fragile states, young people’s priorities, the relationship between eliminating extreme poverty and citizen participation and alternative approaches to assisting civic movements. These resources highlight the role that citizen participation and inclusive governance play as drivers of social and political development, particularly when it comes to fragile states and vulnerable communities.
An interethnic group of actors trained by NDI in conflict transformation shares war stories from audience members at a Playback Theater performance in Prizren, Kosovo. Credit: Arta Qorri
A young Kosovar Serbian actress sinks to her knees and, stricken with grief, expresses her longing for an uncle who is still “missing” 16 years after Kosovo’s ethnic conflict ended in 1999. The Kosovar Albanian man sitting to her left on stage watches mesmerized. It is his story that the actress is telling, and though he is unable to understand her words, spoken in Serbian, he tells the audience after the performance that she has captured the essence of his grief and pain. Through theater, the actors are retelling the history of violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo in a new way that encourages empathy and healing. At the end of the evening, which is full of audience stories re-enacted, another audience member stands up and asks the interethnic theater group in front of her, “Where have you been for the last 16 years?”
Protesters gather peacefully in Central Plaza in Guatemala City, demanding changes to the political system and the resignation of now ex-President Perez Molina. Credit: Ricardo Marroquin
In recent years, Guatemala has made headlines with bleak statistics illustrating the range of challenges it faces: the country suffers from the fifth highest homicide rate in the world, drug trafficking and narco money have penetrated society, child malnutrition is the worst in the hemisphere, and the state institutions responsible for providing services to Guatemalan citizens are notoriously weak and corrupt. Although those challenges still exist, Guatemala is now stepping back from the brink toward a much brighter future, brought about by citizens demanding more from their elected leaders.
To achieve a world “in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social, and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed,” will require political action — leadership, commitment and accountability. The U.N.’s “Transforming Our World” sustainable development framework, which will be adopted by the General Assembly in the coming days, is the latest call to action. We will all be judged on what we do over the next 15 years to make that ambition into an empowered reality for women and girls. Sustainable development goal 5 to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” expands significantly on the Millennium Development Goals by detailing in a single goal a full range of issues and actions that will drive success. However, in the proposed indicators, which anchor accountability for the new global framework, critical metrics for women’s participation in political life and public decision-making are missing.