Democratic Republic of the Congo
The International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) has implemented various programs supporting free, fair and credible elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1996, when IFES deployed a joint pre-election assessment mission to analyze the technical and political state of preparations for the May 1997 elections in the DRC, then called Zaire. IFES launched its first formal project in country from 1998 to 2003, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). IFES developed the Campaign for Peace, Democracy and Development, a civic education program from 1999-2002. The centerpiece of the campaign was an easily portable picture-box toolkit (boîte à images) that used locally produced images to effectively communicate the concepts of peace, democracy and development to diverse audiences, including those who did not read or write. IFES supported two national workshops on the creation of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and a High Authority for the Media, which were both subsequently established. Once the DRC Government of Transition passed the IEC Organic Law on June 5, 2004, bringing the IEC into formal existence, IFES provided technical expertise to the new body to promote its political independence.
In 2007, IFES worked with civil society organizations in the DRC on an anti-corruption project that trained civil society groups and government institutions to investigate corruption and provided forums in which citizens and politicians could discuss serious issues to improve transparency and expose public trust violations. From 2009-11, IFES’ USAID-funded Voter Opinion and Involvement Through Civic Education (VOICE) project aimed to help fulfill the Congolese government’s commitment to a process of decentralization and to reverse the country’s legacy of poor governance, corruption, and geographic inequality by bringing greater accountability and inclusion at the local level. Over the course of the DRC VOICE program, IFES issued a total of 370 small grants to 280 civil society organizations to carry out face-to-face civic education using the boîte à images, reaching over ten million citizens.
Since 2016, IFES and its partners from the Consortium for Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute (IRI), have conducted a series of technical assessment missions on voter registration and election preparedness to support credible, transparent, and inclusive election processes in the DRC. Alongside its CEPPS partner IRI, IFES is working to provide technical assistance to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) under the current “USAID/DRC Funded Electoral Integrity Activity.” Under this program IFES is working to increase access to the voter register for Congolese citizens by providing technical support in implementing a text messaging platform that voters can use to check their polling station location and registration status. IFES is also providing technical assistance to the CENI on strengthening the chain of custody in tabulation and results transmission. Following the 2018-19 elections, IFES will support the CENI to lead electoral legal reform and build its capacity to conduct elections, especially during politically sensitive periods.