MoU Strengthens Cooperation on Accessible Elections in the Dominican Republic
On July 20, 2017, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Central Electoral Board (Junta Central Electoral [JCE]) of the Dominican Republic signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to confirm future cooperation of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in electoral processes. This event was attended by the JCE President Julio Cesar Castaños Guzmán, JCE Director of Communications Laura Castellanos, and JCE Coordinator for International Relations Joel Lantigua.
The MOU established a legal framework to develop joint activities that seek to strengthen the capacity of electoral authorities and representatives of civil society organizations in the Dominican Republic. These joint efforts aim to encourage the political participation of individuals with disabilities in political and electoral processes and foster the design of a course on leadership activities for persons with disabilities.
During the ceremony, IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney stated, “This renewal of our friendship is particularly special to IFES because of the leadership and partnership in making it possible for the people with disabilities to more fully participate in the electoral process. The Dominican Republic was in many ways the proving ground for many of the breakthroughs that have now become practice around the world.”
The signing of the MOU further builds upon the strong relationship between IFES and the JCE. This relationship began nearly two decades ago, when IFES went an observation delegation to provide international oversight in 1994. Since then, IFES and the JCE have worked to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the political process, and a previous MOU was signed in 2012.
JCE President Castaños gave thanks that his 90-year old mother could vote for the first time in the previous 2016 elections. He mentioned his mother lives with a physical disability that prevents her from walking and finished his speech by saying, “In her name, she extends thanks.”
In closing, Mr. Sweeney added, “[IFES and the JCE] are committed to this cause, we are committed to working together, and this is a great opportunity to refresh and deepen that partnership. This is a partnership that will have great impacts for both democracy globally and one-billion people who are suffering and have been discriminated against because of physical and mental disabilities. We are going to break those barriers, together.”