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- What is the role of a Commonwealth Observer Group?
The observation of elections is one way in which the Commonwealth Secretariat works to strengthen democracy. Observer Groups are asked to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole and to make a judgement whether or not the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which the country has committed itself, making reference to national election-related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international commitments. Each Group's report also contains practical recommendations to help improve electoral arrangements for the future.
- Can anyone be an election Observer?
Observers are invited to participate by the Secretary-General. They tend to be eminent persons in their field but are invited in their individual capacity. Teams will reflect a mixed range of profiles, including current or former election commissioners, members of parliament, members of the judiciary, civil society and human rights activists and media specialists.
- Does the Secretariat observe all elections in member countries?
No. The Secretariat only observes an election if they receive a request from a government, if the conditions generally provide for credible elections and if the pre-election Assessment Visit concludes that the presence of Commonwealth observers is welcomed by all political parties and civil society and if the conditions exist for the conduct of a full and comprehensive observation.
- Where can I find the Commonwealth election reports?
Commonwealth Election Observer Group reports can be found at: http://www.thecommonwealth.org/Document/39079/152078/election_observer_group_reports/
- What is the role of a Commonwealth Expert Team?
A Commonwealth Expert Team is similar to an Observer Group but will be smaller in size and will not issue public statements on the process. Its mandate is more limited, focusing on the preparations for the election, the Election Day processes and the general environment. It does however still issue a final report at the end with recommendations for possible strengthening of the electoral process.
- What is the specific role of ‘democracy experts’ who are sent to member countries?
At the request of member countries, we send experts who promote democracy and strengthen democratic processes and institutions.
Some visits are relatively short. For instance, a media expert may visit for a fortnight to help ensure that in the pre-election period the contesting parties all get their fair share of impartial media coverage. A voter registration expert may advise an election body for a week on best practice in the use of Voter ID cards.
Other assignments are much longer: one Commonwealth expert provided election advice to a Commonwealth election management body for a full 18 months leading up to an election. This tailored provision of experts is a growing area of work and we foresee even greater use of this facility by member countries in the future.
- Does the Commonwealth have any military forces?
- What is the role of Special Envoys?
A Special Envoy is a special representative of the Secretary-General. He/she is not an employee of the Commonwealth Secretariat, but an eminent Commonwealth person, often a former Head of State or Government, or a former senior Minister. The role of Special Envoys is primarily to open doors, remove bottlenecks and generally foster greater democratic space by facilitating political dialogue among political actors and civil society. In particular, Special Envoys aid in the development and implementation of political agreements in situations of crisis or potential conflict.
- What is meant by ‘good offices’?
The term ‘good offices’ refers to the conflict prevention and resolution work carried out in Commonwealth countries. The Secretariat’s ongoing engagement with member countries helps identify early indicators of conflict and, if conflict emerges or may be imminent, the Secretary-General’s good offices can be deployed – directly or through Special Envoys or staff – to work with all stakeholders and support ways to prevent or resolve it. In the longer term, such engagements also look at ways in which the root causes and symptoms of the conflict can be addressed.
Click here to view Commonwealth Observer Group reports and learn more about election observation
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