Message from President and CEO Tony Banbury: IFES’ Response to Coronavirus


Dear friends and colleagues,

Like organizations and communities around the world, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has been deeply impacted by the novel coronavirus crisis and has had to quickly and significantly adjust our way of working. The novel coronavirus presents an unprecedented global challenge that has already had far-reaching effects, and these effects will continue to grow and evolve.

While the challenges may now seem daunting, I know that IFES as an organization, and the communities we seek to serve, will get through this crisis, and that afterward IFES will be an even more capable and resilient organization.

From relatively early on in the crisis I have been quite concerned about the impact the novel coronavirus could have on society. My perspective is heavily influenced by my experience in the West Africa Ebola crisis. In September 2014, near the peak of the Ebola crisis, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General asked me to lead the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, the UN’s first and only emergency health mission, which I also conceived of and designed. Days later, I was on the ground in West Africa, where I remained until the epidemic was tamed. My experience in the Ebola crisis gives me heightened sensitivity to the risks posed by a pandemic disease, but also provides useful knowledge that I will continue to draw upon as IFES navigates the challenging times ahead.

From the beginning of the emergent crisis my first concern has been the health and well-being of our global staff and their families, as well as that of the consultants, partners and others who make up the broader IFES family. In response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, IFES has taken a number of actions large and small to adjust our daily operations, such as moving headquarters staff and affected field staff to full-time telework and halting all international IFES travel, except for temporary relocations. We have also sought to find ways to proactively support our implementing partners as they have had to adjust their own work arrangements.

Even while we look after the health and welfare of the IFES family, we are committed to continuing to serve the many communities around the world where we conduct our important work. Critically, IFES is able to draw on its own experiences in supporting elections in Liberia and Guinea during the 2014-15 Ebola crisis to be able to advise partners on how to protect democratic rights and secure electoral processes in the midst of this pandemic. I have been deeply impressed by the response to the novel coronavirus crisis by my IFES colleagues, who have daily demonstrated commitment, ingenuity, agility and courage. IFES expertise will be increasingly applied to meet the evolving needs of our partners as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus, including how to prepare for and conduct elections in the midst of a pandemic. Developing new tools, new perspectives and innovative approaches in this area will be a top priority for IFES moving forward.

As societies around the world respond to the novel coronavirus crisis, democratic institutions in many countries will come under strain and pressure. As IFES adjusts our work to the new context, our commitment to the protection and advancement of democracy, and to the credible and inclusive electoral processes that underpin democracy is unwavering. In other words we will remain committed to the IFES mission: Together we build democracies that deliver for all.

Best wishes to you, your families and your communities,

Tony Banbury
IFES President and CEO

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