Peaceful elections facilitate development and enhance investor confidence in the economy for positive growth. To sustain such progress, UNDP, ahead of Elections 2016 in Ghana, supported several initiatives that sought to boost public confidence and participation in elections, and increase trust in political parties and election results. The following were a few:
1. Strengthening a transparent and inclusive electoral process
Since 1992 when Ghana turned into constitutional democracy, UNDP has positioned itself as a trusted and impartial partner in leading the UN’s effort to support Ghana to further consolidate the gains of her democratic stature. Under its electoral cycle support, UNDP has made significant contributions by building the capacities of the Electoral Commission and other national electoral stakeholders responsible for the credibility and the inclusiveness of the electoral process.
In preparation for the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, UNDP supported the Electoral Commission to identify critical capacity gaps constraining its effective functioning and to develop a responsive strategic plan. This support helped bolster the EC’s commitment to undertake many reforms to reposition the institution to enhance the integrity of electoral processes and the ultimate acceptability of electoral outcome.
UNDP also supported the Electoral Commission’s determination to enhance transparency in electoral results transmission and collation by abolishing its “Strong Room”, which had been used for the coordination of elections results with controversies. In its stead, the EC introduced a National Collation Center (NCC) to coordinate results from the various constituencies. The transmitted and verified results were made accessible to all, including officials from the EC, political party representatives, the media and other stakeholders to receive the results collectively. With funding support from the Government of Canada, UNDP assisted the EC to implement the key electoral reform of establishing a more transparent and inclusive result collation process at both the national and local level.
For the NCC and each of the 275 Constituency Collation Centers, a projector and screen were procured to provide real-time access to results to the public as they were being collated at the local level.
Furthermore, UNDP facilitated the Electoral Commission’s endeavor to enhance the transparency of the electoral process and improve information sharing. This support enabled the EC to establish a direct channel of communication with presidential candidates by organizing a closed door dialogue on the rules of engagement with presidential candidates and their running mates to ensure a clear understanding of the election process, key changes in the law, what they could expect on Election day, the role of agents, transmission of results and security provisions. Additionally, for the wider public, UNDP supported the EC to educate the voters through a publicity campaign that involved the erection of two billboards for each region and the dissemination of twenty-nine thousand posters.
The EC identified at least eighty-one constituencies as hotspots with the probability of election related violence. Thus UNDP, with funding support from the Canadian Government, and in collaboration with the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), and Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre (KAIPTC) provided specialized intensive security training for elections officials working in the identified hotspot constituencies. This support contributed to reinforcing the security measures implemented, which ultimately ensured that the December 7th elections were peacefully and successfully conducted.
2. Building capacity for peaceful elections
The relative peace in Ghana has particularly fostered national development. Peaceful elections over the years have engendered a boost in investor confidence for positive growth. Peacebuilding is a vital ingredient in forestalling electoral and political violence. This is another area where UNDP’s support has been significant.
UNDP has been assisting actors in the national peace architecture, specifically the National Peace Council (NPC) to drive the peace agenda in the country. UNDP with support from other development partners including the EU and USAID strengthened the capacity of actors in the national peace architecture to prevent and manage electoral and political violence for consolidated peace in Ghana.
In fact, UNDP supported the National Peace Council to facilitate a dialogue session with peace stakeholders including governance institutions, media and civil society to evaluate their roles in previous elections and learn lessons for Elections 2016.
In addition, as in previous elections, UNDP in 2016, has been building the capacity of board members of the National Peace Council and all Regional Peace Councils in mediation and the detection of early warning to adequately intervene and prevent any form of electoral and political violence. A manual is being developed to guide and standardize the training of actors in the peace architecture to mediate political and electoral violence.
In July 2016, UNDP with funding from USAID supported the launching of the National Election Early Warning and Response Group (NEEWARG) and Regional Election Early Warning and Response Groups (REEWARGs) in all ten regions, with the objective to developing strategies to mitigate threats to the peaceful conduct of the 2016 elections. Since their inauguration, the groups met periodically to review early warning and response mechanisms relating to the 2016 election.
UNDP with funding support from USAID assisted similar interventions with political parties, traditional and religious authorities, National Commission for Civic Education, National Media Commission and some civil society organizations to enhance peace education, strengthen early warning and institutional capacity in peacebuilding, promote issue-based dialogue and further enhance capacity of the media in election reporting. Furthermore, peace messages including a “Keeping an eye on the bigger picture” video commercial was broadcast on several TV stations by UNDP in collaboration with the National Media Commission and the National Peace Council.
USAID also funded UNDP’s support to the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) to hold five dialogue series on democratic devolution to critically examine Ghana’s “winner-takes-all” political system and offer alternatives of opening up spaces for power at the local level. These dialogues was used as a means of reducing election related tension.
Through its Joint Party Support and Strengthening (J-PASS) project, UNDP has also been working closely with the Electoral Commission to strengthen the political party regulatory framework. Specifically, UNDP is supporting the efforts of the Commission to set up and operationalize an office for its political parties’ regulatory unit.
3. Promoting active participation of women and youth
Ahead of the general elections, UNDP supported initiatives to promote women’s active participation both as voters and candidates, and encouraged the political participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Training and awareness programmes have been organized to strengthen the capacity of women and the youth to actively participate in the elections. To bolster the 29 female candidates who won in 2012, UNDP undertook a gender campaign, “#MoreWomenInParliament” to raise awareness on the importance of encouraging more women to participate in political activities and governance as well as to increase the visibility of capable women ahead of the 2016 General Elections in Ghana.
From short videos and dramas broadcast on TV stations and streamed online, social media flyers, car stickers and brooches, several affirmative calls were made on the public to highlight the value of having more women in parliament. The Gender campaign was run in collaboration with Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED) and the women groups of the political parties especially those participating in the (J-PASS) project.
4. Establishing the Women’s Situation Room
UNDP also facilitated the establishment of a Women's Situation Room (WSR) in Ghana with technical support from The Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) and with funding from the Government of Norway, the Government of Canada, UNOWAS, and UN Women. The WSR mobilized women and youth for their active participation in peaceful democratic electoral processes. The WSR-Ghana is owned by Ghanaian women and led by five Ghanaian CSOs namely; Abantu for Development, Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED), The Women’s Manifesto Coalition, Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations and YWCA.
It was an initiative to support the expertise and experience of women and youth networks to rally, harness, lead peace initiatives and actions that create a conducive environment for the 2016 election processes. WSR Ghana engaged with key electoral stakeholders such as the Police, the National Peace Council, Religious and traditional leaders, the media, youths, Ministers of state, Development Partners and Civil Society Organizations.
A Contact Group of Eminent Ghanaian Women were selected based on a criteria agreed upon by the women groups. Additionally, three Eminent African Women were invited by conveners of Ghana’s WSR to support the National Eminent Women in managing the Physical Situation Room. The Room had a toll free number as an early warning and response mechanism where the Eminent women guided by political and legal analysis, advocated for peace using mediation.
The WSR in Ghana also organized a 10,000 women march for peace across all 10 regions in Ghana with women from communities, women’s groups, youth, women leaders of the various political parties participating and sending a message to the Ghanaian public that they want peace, before, during and after the elections. WSR has also organized inter-party youth and women dialogues to advocate for their commitment to peace.
Under this initiative, 120 focal persons were recruited across the country to cover all the identified hotspots and report on early warning signals. 10 Regional Hubs were established with Women and Youth Coordinators and their deputies to mobilize and engage local women, youth and communities to participate in the process for peaceful elections.
5. Peace dialogues and constituency engagements on election 2016
As part of efforts to ensure peaceful and credible polls in Ghana, UNDP with funding from USAID supported the National and all Regional Peace Councils to hold peace dialogues and constituency engagements with political party representatives across the country. The nationwide engagements, which were also supported by the Electoral Commission (EC) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) took place between October and November 2016, and involved all 275 constituencies.
UNDP officers joined key focal points of the Peace Council, NCCE and EC in most places for the dialogue sessions.
This blog has been originally published on 3 January 2017.