Since 2005, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has provided technical assistance to the former Department of Elections (DoE) and civil society in Sri Lanka to strengthen an inclusive democratic process. IFES currently has two programs in Sri Lanka carried out at the invitation of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (EC). The first – IFES’ U.S. Agency for International Development-funded “Improved Election Management Program” (IEMP) – shares international electoral standards, principles and good practices with the EC. IFES’ second program – the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded “Promotion of Women’s Electoral Representation”(POWER) program – aims to enhance women’s participation in local governance and address the persistent gender barriers that continue to inhibit women’s ability to contest for office.
Taken together, these two programs build on the EC’s capacity to promote a more inclusive and robust electoral process in Sri Lanka. IFES’ key activities include:
- Conducting an Electoral Integrity Assessment to identify and assess vulnerabilities in Sri Lanka’s electoral system to fraud, malpractice and systematic manipulation, and providing recommendations for measures that various stakeholders can adopt to mitigate these vulnerabilities (IEMP);
- Organizing strategic planning workshops and providing technical assistance to support the EC’s development of a comprehensive strategic plan that further strengthens the EC’s ability to operate as an independent manager of the electoral process (IEMP);
- Providing trainings to the EC, media, police, civil society and other electoral stakeholders. To date, IFES’ trainings have included modules on electoral administration; gender and elections; voter education; election technology; overseas voting; election dispute resolution; train the facilitator workshops; monitoring and evaluation for elections; political finance; and a “Leadership in Election Administration Program” that integrated an election crisis simulation (IEMP and POWER);
- Implementing a public awareness campaign that educates Sri Lankans about the new women’s quota and reverses the stigma against women as elected leaders (POWER);
- Conducting a Violence Against Women in Elections (VAWIE) assessment to identify the differential forms of electoral violence that women face in Sri Lanka. Findings from the study informed development of gender-sensitive election observation forms as well as a police manual on women’s electoral security, both of which were developed with the Centre for Monitoring Electoral Violence (POWER);
- Launching a nationwide #YouthVoteSL campaign with the EC to encourage young people to participate in elections and engage in legal reform efforts. As part of the #YouthVoteSL campaign, youth-led organizations produced civic engagement materials that reached over 134,000 users through Twitter and Facebook; formed district-level youth committees to conduct voter education outreach; and circulated a petition that garnered over 400,000 signatures to advocate for legal reforms to the enumeration process (IEMP); and
- Leading a nationwide She Leads SL program to strengthen campaign skills among women candidates ahead of the local government election. She Leads SL trained nearly 500 Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim women on how to contest for office, including building skills in fundraising, networking and coalition building, action planning and campaign messaging (POWER).