Promoting Democracy in 2014: IFES’ Year in Review

Publication Date: 
18 Dec 2014

News Type:

As 2014 comes to a close, the challenges and opportunities facing democracy around the globe remain immense. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) continues to play an important role in elections and democracy worldwide. Our programming supports citizens’ fundamental human right to participate in free and fair elections and have a say in how they are governed. In 2014, IFES worked to support credible and inclusive elections from Indonesia – one of the world’s largest democracies – to Tunisia – where a closely watched democratic transition is occurring – and in many other countries.

Indonesia’s successful 2014 election cycle was one major highlight of the year. Ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, a national survey conducted with IFES support found that Indonesians were confident in the General Elections Commission (KPU) and planned to vote in the upcoming polls. Following legislative elections in April, Indonesians returned to the polls on July 9 to elect their next President. As part of IFES’ efforts to ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups, the IFES-supported Association of Southeast Asian Nations General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) conducted a disability access monitoring mission during the presidential election.

Although Pakistan did not have national elections in 2014, IFES was very active in working with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) this year. Indeed, at IFES we believe support for elections is an exhaustive process that requires programming throughout all phases of the electoral cycle. Along those lines, IFES supported the ECP in developing its Second Five-Year Strategic Plan (2014-2018). IFES also worked closely with the ECP to shape electoral reform and education initiatives to ensure that the 2018 general elections are more accessible for person with disabilities.

As Ukraine continues to confront a variety of economic and security challenges, IFES supported the credible conduct of critical parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014. Given the dynamic situation on the ground, IFES conducted three public opinion surveys to gauge public sentiment on a range of political, societal and electoral issues. IFES has conducted 23 nationwide public opinion surveys in Ukraine since 1994. We also produced a widely used video tutorial for domestic and international observers for the May 25 presidential election. President Sweeney visited Ukraine during the presidential election and shared his thoughts from the country during this historic vote.

This year was a particularly important moment for democracy in Tunisia, with elections for parliament and President marking an end of the first phase of the country’s democratic transition. IFES has taken a comprehensive approach to supporting elections in Tunisia. In 2014, IFES assisted in various activities such as training judges responsible for campaign finance regulation and on the opening of a Media Center for the Independent High Authority for Elections.

In August, IFES released two unique and noteworthy publications. Elections Worth Dying For? A Selection of Case Studies from Africa examines the roots of violence within election processes in Africa from a variety of perspectives. Using recent case studies written by leading specialists in electoral processes in Africa, IFES shows how electoral violence and prevention efforts fit within the context of the entire electoral cycle. Political Finance and Gender Equality was developed on the premise that there is an important connection between political finance and gender equality that has not been explored in-depth. After an examination of political finance regulation and its impact on the chances of women and men to effectively run for elected office, the paper reviews the effect of varying electoral systems on gender equality in politics and political finance.   

IFES also released two publications regarding inclusion and empowerment in the electoral process in 2014. Published in partnership with the National Democratic Institute, Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes provides governments, civil society and the donor community the requisite tools and knowledge to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in elections and political processes. This publication has been has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, French, Russian, Nepali, Urdu, and Serbo-Croatian, with Uzbek and Bahasa Indonesia translations available soon. Gender Equality & Election Management Bodies: A Best Practices Guide aims to provide election management bodies (EMBs) with a resource to develop an integrated approach to gender in electoral administration. This booklet – first piloted in Nepal and undergoing translation into several other languages – identifies key actions that can be taken by EMBs at each stage of the cycle to ensure that women's needs are taken into account and policies and programs are designed and implemented accordingly.

IFES also held several important events in Washington during 2014. In October, IFES awarded the 2014 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards to Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado in recognition of their commitment to freedom and democracy during a special ceremony in Washington. IFES recently expressed concern over Machado’s indictment on conspiracy charges and we continue to monitor developments in Venezuela closely. In November, IFES held its 12th U.S. Election Program (USEP), hosting 150 participants from 55 countries for a fruitful exchange of ideas and expertise on election management. For those unable to attend, we posted videos and photos from this flagship event. During a special ceremony at the USEP, IFES awarded Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairwoman of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, with the annual Joseph C. Baxter Award for excellence in electoral administration. IFES also held a ceremony in March 2014 for the 2013 Joseph C. Baxter Award winner, Dr. Jørgen Elklit, acknowledging his contributions to the field of electoral integrity and transparency.

At IFES HQ, we hosted the former Chief Electoral Commissioner of India, Dr. SY Quraishi, for a discussion of his book An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election. Elsewhere, IFES participated as an observer to the 7th Conference of States Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from June 10-12 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

This year was also an important year of change for IFES as an organization, as longtime IFES Board of Directors Chairman Peter G. Kelly and Vice Chairman William J. Hybl stepped down from their leadership positions. Donald R. Sweitzer is now IFES Board Chairman and Judy A. Black is the new Vice Chairwoman. Our bipartisan Board continues to provide IFES with the support it needs to conduct its mission. Earlier this year, Board Director Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) sat down to record a podcast on the importance of elections.

IFES continues to have an active online presence. This year we launched two new Twitter accounts focusing on technology and gender. In our monthly newsletter, IFES Voice, we featured various IFES alumni who have gone on to do important work, such as Stephenie Foster, a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, and Angela Peltzer, who helps manage the Department of Labor's Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking's (OCFT) grant portfolio in Asia.

IFES had a busy and productive year. For more on our activities in 2014 and beyond, please visit IFES.org. We would like to thank all of our supporters for their efforts to promote sustainable democracy this year. We look forward to working with our partners and supporters in 2015, as IFES continues to advance its vitally important mission of giving people a voice in the way they are governed.