International Election Observation and Campaign Finance

Publication Date: 
22 Jan 2009

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Introduction

The Carter Center has been articulating criteria for the assessment of elections based on international public law, building on related efforts by leading groups in the election observation community. Campaign finance is one area requiring further work. IFES' Political Finance team has extensive experience developing assessment tools, building enforcement capacity and supporting civil society organizations in partner countries. To capitalize on a potential synergy, IFES and the Carter Center partnered to convene a range of experts and discuss the following questions posed by Marcin Walecki, IFES Senior Advisor for Political Finance, and David Carroll, Director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program:

What can international election monitors do to assess and strengthen campaign finance in emerging democracies? How can they complement the work of domestic monitors? Finally, since monitoring implies standards, what global best practices exist in the regulation of political finance?

These questions framed a two-day workshop at IFES' headquarters in Washington, DC. The workshop, which took place from January 22-23, 2009, was made possible by funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund to IFES for the Global Standards in Political Finance project. Representatives came from six overlapping communities: regulators, international election monitors, campaign finance reformers, intergovernmental organizations, international democracy assistance NGOs and civil society actors.

With respect to global standards in regulation, delegates agreed on prioritizing reforms according to country needs. No country's political finance system conforms to the ideal – one that simultaneously guarantees transparency, equality and equity – but some contexts require more basic changes than others.

Participants agreed on an expansive role for domestic regulators and watchdogs. They acknowledged that the bulk of international monitoring missions will remain short-term. Because the entire electoral cycle requires regulation, however, long-term monitoring is necessary. Domestic actors are therefore best equipped to meet this need.

The following document summarizes points of consensus emerging from the conference, including policy instruments and monitoring strategies that the democracy community has agreed on, as well as what it has agreed to further develop.