The PIANZEA Network jointly organised a Pacific Electoral Networks meeting with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Fijian Elections Office from 9-11 May.
The PENS meeting was the first opportunity to bring the Commonwealth Electoral Network and the PIANZEA networks together. The event was opened by the Fijian Minister for Elections, Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum; Chairman of the Commonwealth Electoral Network, Mr Issack Hassan; Director, Political Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, Mr Simon Gimson; and First Assistant Commissioner, AEC, Mr Kevin Kitson.
The meeting united representatives from 16 Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the Pacific to discuss challenges to electoral integrity from the perspective of EMBs. Discussions focused on the central nature of EMB independence and impartiality and the need to build EMB capacity across the electoral cycle. Participants noted challenges in the Pacific where resources for independent institutions are constrained, EMBs operate on minimal staffing levels and electoral institutions are often not established on a permanent or independent basis.
Discussions also focused on the need for transparency and inclusion in the electoral process including for women, people with disabilities and rural/remote voters. Participants discussed the opportunities for EMBs to take a lead role in ensuring electoral services are widely accessible, as well as promoting employment, leadership and training practices that emphasise the leadership potential of people from marginalised communities.
The meeting also focused on the role and importance of electoral observation in establishing standards for electoral integrity and the role EMBs played in these efforts. The critical role of EMBs in leading observation missions and in addressing recommendations from observer groups was discussed. An outcomes statement for the conference is attached.
The conference was enriched by the participation of several international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International IDEA, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Melanesian Spearhead Group.