Training Critical to Democratic Development
by Janine Duffy*
Through its training programs, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) strengthens the knowledge and skills of current and future leaders, focusing on professionalizing election administration and empowering citizens. IFES specializes in developing customized curricula and training programs to meet the needs of these stakeholders, who play a vital role in building healthy, resilient democracies.
In 2001, IFES led the development of the Basic Election Administration Training program in Nigeria, the first African training curriculum on elections. The program was subsequently used in Uganda and Yemen and integrated into the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) curriculum, the foremost elections training program in the world. IFES Regional Europe Office Director and Senior Political Finance Adviser Magnus Ohman was the lead writer of the BRIDGE module on political finance and has presented in countries like Afghanistan, Lebanon and Ukraine. He is struck by “how there’s always a great interest in these issues: having accountable political leaders, fighting corruption in the political process. It is key on the agenda among everyday people, and not least among young people, in effectively all countries.”
Training must also be a priority for everyone else involved in the electoral process, such as judges, civil society leaders, election observers and journalists, and can be particularly impactful for marginalized populations. For elections adviser and former IFES Chief of Party Alan Wall, “it’s been really assuring in places like Kosovo and Timor-Leste to see the work that we’ve done with people with disabilities in [training] them as election monitors and observing political campaigns, which has been for some of them the first work they’ve ever done in their lives. And it’s given them an awful lot of satisfaction to be able to do this, and for many of them, it’s been an entry to be able to get permanent work in the future.”
As the needs of election stakeholders change, IFES is committed to ensuring its training programs address emerging challenges like cybersecurity and disinformation. In Indonesia, IFES developed technology modules and a cyber-hygiene curriculum that has been used in dozens of trainings across the country. According to IFES Country Director Admira Salim, “People look at us as a mature democracy [and think Indonesia doesn’t] need our assistance anymore. However, they are facing these next-generation challenges. IFES brings its expertise on these specific issues to the Indonesian context and works alongside civil society organizations and election management bodies” to combat these challenges.
*Janine Duffy is a communications officer at IFES.