IFES Taps International Electoral Talent

Publication Date: 
7 Feb 2008

News Type:

With the enthusiastic approval from his Board of Directors, IFES CEO and President Jean-Pierre Kingsley announced the creation of the IFES Executive Advisory Council.  This is an exclusive group of internationally-renowned and experienced senior practitioners recognized for their seasoned contributions in the field of electoral cycle assistance and democratic governance. 

The chairman of IFES’ new Executive Advisory Council, or EAC, describes the group of electoral specialists as a ‘powerhouse of senior talent.’ Carina Perelli, former director of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, chaired the council’s inaugural session in Washington February 4-5.

IFES has a bounty, a treasure of experience in this group,” she said.

Council members include: Jean-Claude Colliard, official delegate of France for Venice Commission/Council of Europe and former member of the Constitutional Council of France; Denis Kadima, executive director of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa; Rafael Lopez-Pintor, electoral specialist and IFES’ chief of party in Nicaragua; Nguyen Huu Dong, electoral specialist with the United Nations Development Programme, Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann, former high representative for the elections in Ivory Coast and former director of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; Carlos Valenzuela, United Nations electoral specialist; and Sam Younger, chairman of the United Kingdom Electoral Commission.

The council is the latest of several important steps IFES is taking to keep pace with changing trends in international democracy promotion. Members will meet several times a year to advise IFES’ president, identify new trends in the democracy field and provide feedback about projects and performance, as well as strategic advice on high-level assessments, missions and partnerships.

Because the field of democratic development is relatively new, much of the knowledge, expertise and institutional memories that its practitioners gained in the last quarter century are still ‘inside people’s heads,’ said Ms. Perelli. IFES’ new council provides an opportunity to unlock that information and use it as intellectual capital to address challenges such as the recent flawed elections in Kenya and the compatibility of Islam and democracy.

Mr. Younger said he believes that this is an exciting time for IFES. With new leadership, the organization becoming more international and broadening its work to include programming that spans the entire electoral cycle, while remaining true to its original mission.

Helping the institution achieve its strategic goals appeals to Mr. Younger, who once held top leadership positions at the BBC World Service Trust and the British Red Cross.  This participation may also be helpful in his role at the UK Electoral Commission which is seeking new international partnerships and expanding its own institutional experience.

Mr. Nguyen said one of the trends he has noticed in his work is that while the United Nations was traditionally structured to prevent conflicts between countries, more conflicts are occurring between factions within a country. As an established nonpartisan organization, IFES can play a critical role in conflict prevention and by helping develop more credible electoral processes. 

“Elections are the way to stop or reduce that kind of conflict,” he said.

For Mr. Nguyen, being a member of the EAC provides a chance to pass on his experiences to a new generation of democracy practitioners. In between the EAC meetings, he talked animatedly about his experiences with members of IFES’ program staff. He likened it to a master craftsman who teaches his apprentices his art.  

He said his impression of IFES is that it was not a place where you study things, but a place where you actually do things thoughtfully.

“It’s one of the most difficult things to transmit, your practical experience,” he said.

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