IFES Q&A with Kosovo Country Director Nermin Nisic
Nermin Nisic, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Kosovo country director, has nearly two decades of democracy and governance experience. Most recently, he was IFES’ chief of party in Georgia, and has also worked on projects in Afghanistan, Yemen, Kazakhstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is currently leading a team of professionals working to strengthen electoral processes in Kosovo by providing technical support and advice to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Kosovo and the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) to deliver credible and inclusive elections. In this Q&A, Nisic discusses IFES’ current project in Kosovo, major challenges to democratic progress in Europe and Eurasia, and how IFES can help address these challenges.
IFES Kosovo is starting a new project that builds on considerable structural and strategic support it has provided the CEC and ECAP in the past. Can you talk about the steps IFES will take to keep developing sustainable interventions under the new program?
IFES continues employing a holistic approach to working with the CEC and ECAP under our current U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project, which started in 2016 to ensure more credible and inclusive electoral processes in Kosovo. Looking toward upcoming local and Assembly of Kosovo elections, we are supporting the CEC and ECAP to efficiently and independently deliver democratic elections, using a wide range of tools and approaches specifically tailored to make our interventions sustainable. Both the CEC and ECAP have made significant progress over time and we are working to keep this momentum going.
Could you touch on how IFES Kosovo incorporates inclusion efforts in its programming?
We continue to build on the successes of previous IFES’ projects in Kosovo when it comes to inclusion and political processes. Over the last few years, IFES’ efforts resulted in increased awareness about issues related to gender parity in election staffing and election accessibility for persons with disabilities. We incorporate various inclusion approaches including women’s empowerment through leadership trainings, policy development, and the inclusion of traditionally marginalized communities in electoral processes and training. It is important to add that Kosovo has the youngest demographics in Europe and youth civic engagement in both political and non-political processes is critical.
IFES Kosovo has pioneered work in election technology. What are some best practices to sustainably develop election technology products?
IFES supported both the CEC and ECAP in development of a series of IT tools to automate some critical election management processes as well as to increase the transparency of the electoral process. In building these election technology tools, we worked together to ensure that these interventions responded to specific, identified problems; are cost effective; include development, operations, maintenance and upgrades; provided proper training; and that in-house skill-base is maintained. Recent mayoral by-elections in one of Kosovo municipalities put these systems to the test and they passed with success.
With vast experience working throughout Europe and Eurasia, what democratic trends and challenges do you see in the region?
Declining citizen trust in political institutions, low participation of traditionally vulnerable populations, a decline of focus on human rights and democracy have characterized trends in the region in recent years. The rise of authoritarian, populist leaders; nationalism; corruption; and the violation of human rights are among many challenges undermining the integrity of the democratic processes in this part of the world.
As a global leader in democracy promotion, how can IFES help countries in the region address these challenges?
Utilizing 30 years of experience in democracy development and working together with partners and donors, IFES should continue addressing these challenges by supporting institutions to deliver democratic elections, improving access to the political process for marginalized groups, increasing civic awareness and participation and addressing fundamental human rights issues. Continuing to be innovative is the key to be able to respond to the challenges democracy is facing today.